A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Advantis's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Advantis is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles

Highlighting best practice
Mark Webb, CEO
Based in Stoke-on-Trent, Advantis is a leading UK debt
collection agency (DCA) that was established in 2004,
offering contingency collections and trace and collect
services to over 40 blue-chip clients in the public sector, as well
as the water, energy, telecoms, financial services and insurance
industries. Recovering both consumer and business debts,
Advantis works with numerous distinguished clients including HM
Revenue & Customs, British Gas, the DVLA, Thames Water, the
Department for Work and Pensions, Vodafone, the Student Loans
Company and BT. Their work with HMRC includes recovery of
a range of heads of duty including corporation tax, VAT, self-
assessment, tax credits and PAYE. Describing the company in
greater detail is Mark Webb, their CEO.
As an innovative and scalable business, Advantis has secured an excellent
reputation for: consistently strong collections performance; high-quality service
standards for clients and customers alike; and an exemplary compliance record.
This has led to strong growth with clients across a wide range of industry sectors.
In 2017, new business grew 35 per cent from the previous year to £2 billion.
By helping 15 million customers resolve their debts, Advantis has recovered
£500million for their clients with £125 million of this being achieved in 2017.
We have in our company 280 employees, of which 190 are in the collections
contact centre. We pride ourselves on the quality of our people and are committed
to delivering service excellence and maintaining the highest standards for clients.
Regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and a member of the Credit
Services Association (CSA), we operate fully within the applicable rules laid out by
the FCA for business conduct and debt collection and with the CSA code of practice.
The rapid evolution of the debt collection sector
The debt collection industry has seen significant change over the past few years.
The change of regulatory body from the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) to the FCA
in 2014 has driven a major shift in the approach to, and the objective of, debt
collection. Of course, recovering outstanding sums of money from debtors is still
the raison d’être of any DCA; however, the change of regulator has, quite rightly,
put the fair treatment of customers into sharp focus, hastening the industry to
put customers at the heart of business practices. Identifying and assisting those in
severe financial distress and most in need of help is as important for many clients as
collecting the debt.
Conduct risk and quality assurance, although rarely heard of in DCA circles only
10 years ago, are now the cornerstones of successful DCAs committed to raising
standards of both customer treatment and client service delivery.
»CEO: Mark Webb
»Established in 2004
»Based in Stoke-on-Trent
»Services: Contingent debt
collection agency
»No. of employees: 280
»FCA-authorised debt collection
agency assisting public and
private sector clients
»Serviced £9 billion of client
assets across 15 million
customer accounts
ȣ125 million recovered for
clients in 2017
ȣ60 million of estimated
remaining collections (ERC)
»Compound annual growth
rate of 19.48 per cent over the
last three years
The adoption of new practices focused
on customer outcomes alongside
core collections activities has not
come without challenges. Continually
increasing costs, competitive
procurement processes pushing down
prices and consumers and businesses
finding it more difficult to repay their
commitments combine to put margins
under great pressure.
This is not all bad, however. The
standards in the industry have increased
considerably, which is good for all
parties. Innovation is no longer just the
key to success; it is vital for survival in
a rapidly changing marketplace and
continues to drive positive change.
Innovation in a market where
USPs are hard to find
In many ways, the playing field has
been levelled by the introduction of
a rules-based regulator. All DCAs
are expected to carry out the same
activities, using the same tools to reach
the same outcomes with a population
of more debt-savvy consumers.
This may be considered a barrier to
innovation, but what is certain is that it
is more vital than ever not to stand still.
For Advantis, the use of big data, new
technologies and an improved customer
experience are the driving factors that
lead to continuous improvement and
our vision for the future. Below are just
a few of the additions we have already
1. The principal objective for Advantis
is to contact the customers with whom
our clients have failed to engage. Once
contact is established, the next step is
to find a resolution for the outstanding
debt, whether that be payment in full,
a payment arrangement or to collect
vital information about the customer’s
circumstances to relay back to the
originating creditor. Customer contact
is key; it is where the business’s income
comes from and the main source
of its costs. Implementing efficient
and cost-effective communication
channels is therefore at the forefront
of innovation.
To be more accessible to customers,
we’ve launched a customer self-
service portal on our website in 2017.
This allows customers to register and
manage their account online at a time
that suits them. This enables customers
to update their contact and personal
details, raise queries, review their
balance, complete an affordability
assessment and set up affordable
payment arrangements to clear
their debt without the need for any
embarrassing telephone conversations.
2. Where customer contact is more
traditional (e.g., telephone conversations
or written correspondence) it is vital
that the customer experience is positive
and results in the best outcome for all
parties. To ensure that this is always
the case, conduct oversight and quality
assurance is a major focus for us and the
clients we work on behalf of. The levels
of client oversight conducted can be a
significant cost burden, so to facilitate
this in a cost-effective way, we provide
our clients with access to remote audit
customer accounts and calls from their
own offices.
3. Clients have a growing desire to
understand what is happening with the
portfolios placed with an outsourcer
and to understand at a glance how
they are performing. Regular meetings
to discuss performance are still
important, but often clients want to
have greater visibility of this more
regularly. To allow clients to monitor
performance, we provide them with
an online key performance indicator
dashboard. The dashboard can be
tailored to each client’s requirements
and enables them to review important
performance statistics such as
collections, inventory and placements –
any time, wherever they are.
Advantis senior
management team
By helping
resolve their
debts, Advantis
has recovered
£500 million for
their clients
As part of its commitment to
quality, Advantis has obtained
recognised independent
accreditation in several areas,
»BS EN ISO 9001:2008 –
Quality Management System
»BS ISO/IEC 27001:2013
– Information Security
Management System
»BS EN ISO 14001:2004 –
Environmental Management
»BS EN ISO 22301:2012
– Business Continuity
»OHSAS 18001:2007 –
Occupational Health and
Safety Management
»PCI DSS level 3.2 compliant
»CSA Collector Accreditation
Initiative certified

This article was sponsored by Advantis. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from The Rt Hon Theresa May MP.

The Rt Hon Theresa May MP's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By The Rt Hon Theresa May MP

This foreword from the then Prime Minister appeared in the 2018/19 Parliamentary Review.

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review. For Her Majesty’s Government, our task in the year ahead is clear: to achieve the best Brexit deal for Britain and to carry on our work to build a more prosperous and united country – one that truly works for everyone. 

The right Brexit deal will not be sufficient on its own to secure a more prosperous future for Britain. We also need to ensure that our economy is ready for what tomorrow will bring. Our Modern Industrial Strategy is our plan to do that. It means Government stepping up to secure the foundations of our productivity: providing an education system that delivers the skills our economy needs, improving school standards and transforming technical education; delivering infrastructure for growth; ensuring people have the homes they need in the places they want to live. It is all about taking action for the long-term that will pay dividends in the future.

But it also goes beyond that. Government, the private sector and academia working together as strategic partners achieve far more than we could separately. That is why we have set an ambitious goal of lifting UK public and private research and development investment to 2.4 per cent of GDP by 2027. It is why we are developing four Grand Challenges, the big drivers of social and economic change in the world today: harnessing artificial intelligence and the data revolution; leading in changes to the future of mobility; meeting the challenges of our ageing society; and driving ahead the revolution in clean growth. By focusing our efforts on making the most of these areas of enormous potential, we can develop new exports, grow new industries and create more good jobs in every part of our country.

Years of hard work and sacrifice from the British people have got our deficit down by over three quarters. We are building on this success by taking a balanced approach to public spending. We are continuing to deal with our debts, so that our economy can remain strong and we can protect people’s jobs, and at the same time we are investing in vital public services, like our NHS. We have set out plans to increase NHS funding annually by an average by 3.4 percent in real terms: that is £394 million a week more. In return, the NHS will produce a ten-year plan, led by doctors and nurses, to eliminate waste and improve patient care.

I believe that Britain can look to the future with confidence. We are leaving the EU and setting a new course for prosperity as a global trading nation. We have a Modern Industrial Strategy that is strengthening the foundations of our economy and helping us to seize the opportunities of the future. We are investing in the public services we all rely on and helping them to grow and improve. Building on our country’s great strengths – our world-class universities and researchers, our excellent services sector, our cutting edge manufacturers, our vibrant creative industries, our dedicated public servants – we can look towards a new decade that is ripe with possibility. The government I lead is doing all it can to make that brighter future a reality for everyone in our country. 

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review 
The Rt Hon Theresa May MP
Prime Minister