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 Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng.

Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng

This year’s Parliamentary Review reflects on a tumultuous and extraordinary year, globally and nationally. As well as being an MP, I am a keen student of history, and I am conscious that 2020 would mark the end of an era. It will be remembered as the year in which we concluded Brexit negotiations and finally left the European Union. Above all, it will be remembered as the year of Covid-19.

In our fight against the pandemic, I am delighted that our vaccination programme is beginning to turn the tide – and I pay tribute to the British businesses, scientists and all those who have helped us to achieve this. But the virus has dealt enormous damage, and we now have a duty to rebuild our economy.

We must ensure that businesses are protected. We have made more than £350 billion available to that end, with grants, business rates relief and our furlough scheme supporting more than 11 million people and jobs in every corner of the country, maintaining livelihoods while easing the pressure on employers. The next step is to work with business to build back better and greener, putting the net zero carbon challenge at the heart of our recovery. This is a complex undertaking, but one which I hope will be recognised as a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Through the prime minister’s ten point plan for a green industrial revolution, we can level up every region of the UK, supporting 250,000 green jobs while we accelerate our progress towards net zero carbon emissions.

With our commitment to raise R&D spending to 2.4% of GDP and the creation of the Advanced Research & Invention Agency, we are empowering our fantastic researchers to take on groundbreaking research, delivering funding with flexibility and speed. With this approach, innovators will be able to work with our traditional industrial heartlands to explore new technologies, and design and manufacture the products on which the future will be built – ready for export around the globe.

And I believe trade will flourish. We are a leading nation in the fight against climate change. As the host of COP26 this year, we have an incredible opportunity to market our low-carbon products and expertise. Our departure from the EU gives us the chance to be a champion of truly global free trade; we have already signed trade deals with more than 60 countries around the world.

As we turn the page and leave 2020 behind, I am excited about the new chapter which Britain is now writing for itself, and for the opportunities which lie ahead of us.
Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy