Learn how Paylink’s Embark Platform is Helping Banks deal with ‘Payment Holiday’ Requests

Paylink Solutions recently posted an article highlighting what the development teams at Paylink are doing to help the banks and financial institutions deal with the peak in volumes of customers asking for payment holidays.

Customer Affordability at Your Fingertips

Our Embark for Collections product has been designed and developed to provide a seamless workflow for customers to digitally self-serve when providing the financial information required by the bank to gain a full picture of a customer’s affordability situation.

This allows the banks agents to quickly make an assessment which either results in an arrangement to repay the arrears or, where appropriate, a referral to Debt Advice.

Helping Fulfil the Regulatory Responsibilities of the Banking Sector

Our Embark solution has been designed to help businesses in the banking sector to fulfil their regulatory obligations by providing a full and accurate picture of a customer’s financial situation.

Our integration with Credit Bureaus and Open Banking API’s allow a user to access their full credit report and transactional bank data instantly, which in turn produces all the information needed to provide a full understanding of a customer’s incomings and outgoings.

At this point the customer can propose a repayment towards their arrears or, in cases where the customer is in financial difficulty, refer themselves for Debt Advice.

Across all our customers, on average, we have seen a 75% reduction in time that it takes an agent to gather the information via traditional methods.

Automated Features to support high volumes of Payment Holiday Requests

After close consultation with our clients to understand how they are looking to manage the recent surge in payment holiday requests, the teams at Paylink have designed additional automated features in Embark which will help replicate an outcome the agent in the bank would usually determine through a manual process.

Introducing our new bulk upload feature

Our ‘bulk upload’ feature will make it simple to upload and individually send affordability requests to your back book in one go, allowing you to tailor the messages in your requests depending on the segment of customers you are contacting. This can be done either daily or weekly and allows the bank to contact thousands of customers simultaneously.

Effective triage and automation for all customers coming to the end of payment holidays

Our triage functionality will allow the bank to handle those customers coming to the end of their 3-month payment break, differentiating between those who were in arrears pre Covid 19 and those who weren’t. The feature will allow the bank to ask certain questions designed to drive the right actions which will be predetermined by the banks policy, the outcome of which is that the customer either agrees to a new payment arrangement or they are asked to follow the process through Embark to complete an affordability assessment.

Our Embark summary page will then, after understanding the customers disposable income, either;

  • Set up a revised payment and term to repay the arrears amount
  • Allow the customer to refer themselves for Debt Advice
  • Or refer themselves back to the bank to review the proposed payment arrangement

Read more here

The Bank can automate the request for any future affordability assessments

The last piece of functionality will allow the bank to automate the sending and analysis of future affordability assessments, by creating bespoke and unique plans per customer. This feature means the bank can automate future affordability checks for customers.

We have seen examples where customers have been granted a payment break, but the checks in 3 months are normally manual and labor intensive. Embark will allow the agent to determine the date (or dates) for future affordability requests to be made and will automate the sending and chasing of that information based on your process.

Our new functionality will include supporting large scale periodic campaigns for affordability assessments on your customer bases, the ability for that customer to propose a new repayment amount and date, and the future automation of the affordability checks moving forward.

For more information on all our existing and new features contact Richard Healey on richard.healey@paylinksolutions.co.uk

Want to See the Embark Platform in Action?

For a full demo of Paylink Solutions Embark platform and its huge list of capabilities for everything from the Lending sector through to Collections & Mortgages you can either contact myself, Susan Rann on susan.rann@paylinksolutions..co.uk or by visiting our Website and clicking “Request Demo”.

What’s the score on persistent debt so far?

Firstly, I’d like to wish my friends and colleagues a very happy New Year – I hope you’ve settled back into the swing of things and are ready to make 2020 one to remember!

Last year my colleague, Navdeep Sethi, wrote about how banks and lenders are putting new processes in place to help the millions of customers considered to be in persistent debt – and what impact this could have for the industry and consumers moving forward.

But what do these processes involve to ensure they adhere to the FCA’s new guidelines?

I’ve spoken to many financial institutions which are affected by the persistent debt initiative and it’s fair to say the major UK banks have already clearly defined their strategies. The resource and effort required to implement them appears to be significant though and will persist beyond 2020.

What are lenders doing?

There are many logistical factors to consider, including gathering the data of the relevant customers, the practical side of communicating with them – and of course the resource needed to assist them.

Lenders appear to be categorising customers in terms of how much debt they’re in, how often they use their credit facilities and whether they’re likely to be able to reduce their level of debt based on previous activity.

Those that have a high level of debt, frequently use their credit cards and haven’t managed to pay off more than interest alone for a significant amount of time will be classed as those in the highest level of persistent debt.

The solution for each level of customer varies depending on their financial situation, which is being gauged by conversations with each person to assess their affordability. Some customers may be able to amend their payments to reduce their debt more effectively, others referred for debt advice and some could be offered an alternative – more sustainable form of credit.

How are lenders communicating with their persistent debt customers?

As persistent debt is a new initiative, lenders and banks appear to be communicating with people as part of manual processes; letters are being posted asking people to call their lenders as they’ve been flagged as being in persistent debt and resources allocated so their affordability can be assessed over the telephone.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, responses so far have been low. Could this be because they haven’t seen the letters – or because customers can’t respond online? Our clients who do utilise a digital process have reported higher engagement, levels which would decrease the resource needed to carry out people’s affordability assessments, ensure the information gathered is accurate and provide people with the most suitable solution.

How have customers responded so far?

From the limited responses so far, we understand that some customers are grateful they’ve been contacted and being given the opportunity to resolve their situation. Others are unhappy they were provided with the credit card in the first place, if it’s been flagged they can’t really afford them.

There is concern many people are burying their heads in the sand and don’t want to address the issue. It could be these people are happy paying the minimum amount every month and don’t want to have their finances reviewed in case they have to pay more.

Increased engagement

It goes without saying that banks and lenders are investigating how technology can support a digital journey to address their new persistent debt requirements.

By using Embark, our clients have seen the time it takes to assess customers’ affordability reduce by 75%. Plus, the information they gather is much more accurate and doesn’t have to be gathered over the telephone as part of lengthy conversations, which are often off-putting for customers. Embark is improving customer journeys, increasing their levels of satisfaction and making a real material difference to our clients’ bottom lines.

What will be the outcome for the lenders?

The persistent debt initiative will have a commercial impact – but lenders do need to look after the best interest of its customers, and I believe this notion is being embraced. For many lenders though, the financial impact should be minimal as credit cards are often one of many products that they provide. It should be noted however that there could be a significant impact on ‘credit-card-only’ providers and their business model.

For lenders which offer several lending products, customers flagged as being in the highest level of persistent debt can be signposted to products which are more appropriate for their needs, which would subsequently help them to reduce their debt quicker (for example an unsecured loan may be offered).

What will be the outcome for customers?

Persistent debt customers who respond will be assessed. They will be encouraged to increase their regular payments and could be signposted to a product which provides a better outcome for them or referred for debt advice if required.  There is of course the option to write off the debt, suspend their credit card account or simply freeze all interest and charges. The aim will always be to make sure customers can pay off their debts in the most affordable and sustainable way.

What will happen next?

In my next article I’m going to go into more detail as to how the features of Embark can really help transform the persistent debt process by providing an optimised digital I&E journey.

So, until then, please don’t hesitate to leave your thoughts and opinions about the persistent debt initiative and how it has affected you and/or your business.

By Rich Healey
Product Development Director at Paylink Solutions

What about Overdrafts and Persistent Debt?

In my last article, I talked about how firms can use the FCA Rules and Guidelines on Persistent Debt as an opportunity to transform their collections process.

Processes to tackle Persistent Debt are now being put in place and millions of consumers across the UK have been – or are being contacted – about their financial situations. Our understanding is that there has been limited response so far as a result of communications being sent by card providers to customers deemed to be in Persistent Debt and we feel that awareness still needs to be raised both to consumers and across the industry about why the FCA has put these guidelines in place. This will ensure consumers are encouraged to respond to creditors’ communications – and work with them to make sure they’re provided with the most suitable solution.

Background

The Persistent Debt initiative initially focused on credit card consumers – however, the FCA is also putting parameters in place to review the affordability of people who on the face of it seem to be struggling to pay off their overdrafts. (click here to view PS19/16: High-Cost Credit Review: Overdraft policy statement and its associated documents). It appears people who are constantly living in the red and struggling to pay off their overdraft could also deemed to be in Persistent Debt. Out of the 52 million people who have a UK current account, two thirds have overdrafts, which are either arranged or unarranged.

The exact figure of how many people are in overdraft Persistent Debt is unknown – however, the FCA clearly assumes there’s a large enough proportion of these people who have been stuck in the red for too long, which warrants its request for banks and building societies to contact these customers.

Given the scale of the number of customers potentially in scope, the operational and financial implications are significant. Yes, the process is the same as Persistent Debt, in terms of contacting consumers, reviewing their financial circumstances and offering a solution – however, additional resource will be required to identify and engage with these people.

What is the FCA asking banks and building societies to do?

The regulators’ ‘overdraft pricing and competition remedies’ policy statement is asking all banks and building societies to do more to identify customers who are showing signs of financial strain or are in financial difficulty and develop and implement a strategy to reduce overdraft use.

The FCA has commented: “Our analysis showed that fundamental reform of overdrafts was required. The changes we are making today will reform the market, and lead to significantly improved outcomes for millions of overdraft users.”

Although the original deadline to implement the rules was April 2020, the FCA has brought it forward to 18 December due to the apparent financial harm being endured by existing consumers living in their overdrafts. Time is clearly of the essence!

The FCA has asked banks and building societies to investigate consumers’ use of their overdrafts after discovering there is currently a lack of effective communication and support for those who are under financial strain.

According to the FCA, banks and building societies need to identify consumers who are living in their overdrafts as these people are more likely to be struggling with their finances than those in the black. These people should then be contacted to review their circumstances and determine whether they need further support, such as debt advice on how to manage their finances. The regulator wants more early intervention to prevent these people’s debt spiraling out of control.

The FCA also believes communication to these customers could be improved as existing methods are not as effective as they could be. Currently the onus is on customers to respond to letters by calling banks and taking part in an affordability assessment, which can be lengthy and off-putting. Plus, these letters are often unread or misunderstood, which can again affect response rates.

Regulatory Requirements

Banks and Building Societies have been asked to develop strategies that reduce customers’ repeat use of their overdrafts, which aim to flag those who are at risk of financial difficulty and reduce the impact the repeat use of their overdraft could have on their personal circumstances.’

As part of these strategies, firms need to include policies, procedures and systems to monitor customers’ overdraft use and identify repeat users further identifying those who could be deemed to be in financial difficulty.

If customers are identified to be in financial difficulty firms must seek dialogue with these people, and present options for reducing their overdraft use, whilst explaining that if the issue continues, their overdrafts may be suspended or removed – unless that would worsen their financial positions.

If customers are classed as repeat users, firms must make contact, highlight their pattern of use and explain how this may mean they end up facing high and unavoidable costs in the future. If these customers continue with this pattern of behaviour, the firm must contact the customers again after a reasonable time – and then annually if their situations remain the same.

Like Persistent Debt for credit cards, banks and building societies need to report the outcomes of their 6 and 12 month reviews to the FCA – including details of any change to the total number of repeat overdraft users, the total size of customers’ overdraft balances and any other relevant background information.

As we know from Persistent Debt, gathering information on people’s financial circumstances over the phone is time consuming and could be a reason why customers aren’t responding to the persistent debt letters – which again could be missed.

Automating this process would make sure data is gathered more quickly and accurately, which could not only increase response and engagement rates, but also mean more people are provided with additional support and referred for debt advice.

How can we help?

Paylink software has already transformed the way several major UK banks and Building Societies are helping customers in financial difficulty. Our solutions make the income and expenditure and debt referral processes as quick, accurate, convenient and secure as possible for customers. Our Clients are using our solutions to help drive customer engagement and support those customers in Persistent Debt and repeat overdraft use.

In our next article, my colleague – Rich Healey (Product Development Director – Paylink Solutions) will be writing about how our partners are carrying out their persistent debt strategies – and how important our software has been in making sure they’re sustainable. Look out for his article soon and in the meantime I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you feel the initiatives surrounding the implementation of Persistent Debt combat strategies has affected the industry and the consumer.

Navdeep Sethi
COO at Paylink Solutions

Persistent debt – an opportunity to transform the customer engagement experience

How can firms use the FCA Rules & Guidelines on Persistent Debt as an opportunity to transform their collections process?

The approach to managing persistent debt is high on the agenda of most banks and credit providers. It’s a problem, which needs to be solved – not by just treating customers who are classed as being in persistent debt fairly but also helping to prevent people from reaching this unwanted status.

New rules introduced by the FCA

In February 2018, the FCA introduced new rules that lenders must follow to help their customers who are struggling with persistent debt. The FCA classes an individual being in persistent debt if, over a period of 18 months, the amount they pay in interest, fees and charges is more than the amount of debt they are repaying.

When the FCA rules were introduced, the FCA reported there were four million credit cardholders in persistent debt, paying an average of £2.50 in interest and charges for every £1 they borrow. It estimated the new rules would save customers between £310 million and £1.3 billion a year in lower interest charges.

Requirements to contact affected customers

The FCA stipulated a minimum requirement that after 18-months of continuous persistent debt, lenders must contact any affected customers and explain how to reduce their cost of borrowing and inform on the time it will take to repay their balance. They should also support their customers by signposting them to any relevant debt advice.

If there is no evidence of change, then at 27 months, firms were required to send a reminder.

From January 2020, the 36-month milestone is reached and at this stage if not material change is evident from customers, firms will have to offer options to these customers that allow them to repay their balance more quickly and in a manner that does not adversely affect their financial situation.

Technology will be key when transforming collections strategies

It is unclear at this stage what issuers will do after the 36-month point. Firms are working through the next level of detail required to execute their strategies, including: repayment plans, credit-limit adjustments and credit-card or account suspensions.

What is clear is that compliance does require all firms to review their end-to-end collections strategies – and that technology will be a key enabler.  Of course firms have already taken steps to implement the contact processes required as a minimum to adhere to the FCA rules but there is still much work needed.

At Paylink we are already proactively working with our partners to help firms in delivering their Persistent Debt strategies. However, many of our clients are also using this as an opportunity to transform their customer engagement processes and deliver a digital-first and CX-led approach to collections.

Persistent debt provides an opportunity to improve customer engagement

At Paylink, we believe persistent debt provides firms with a perfect opportunity to review their end-to-end collections process and introduce technology to drive higher levels of customer engagement.

By providing digital solutions that support our clients obtain: higher contact rates, more accurate and rapid affordability assessments as-well as access to our first-of-a-kind digital debt advice service, we are able to support our clients transform their collections processes and use this as the mechanism to also comply with persistent debt rules and guideline.

We also believe that firms should be introducing technology to support the credit industry in their efforts to prevent persistent debt – not just help customers manage their situations with it once it is already there.

Navdeep Sethi,
COO, Paylink Solutions

Update: Embark helps lenders meet the needs of their clients

Following our recent post relating to mortgage payment holidays – where monthly mortgage repayments are paused for a set period of time to help those customers affected by the current Covid-19 situation – we set out the intentions of the Paylink teams to adapt our existing Embark platform to assist in the processing of applications.

I’m pleased to announce we are now working closely with many of our customers to help them deal with the peak in volumes anticipated at the end of payment holidays. Our changes will mean consumers can access our affordability tool directly from their banking application, website or through chatbot, allowing them to set up a payment arrangement.

We will also create functionality for users or agents to reset a new workflow for a later date, meaning that those coming to the end of their payment holiday will automatically be sent a request to complete a new affordability assessment.

Both of these features will reduce the number of agents required to facilitate the peaks in volumes and gives the consumer a seamless journey through their channel of choice.

Aligned to this, the credit reference agencies Experian, Equifax and TransUnion have confirmed that homeowners will have their credit scores protected when they take out a mortgage payment holiday.

Contact us for more information and how we could help you

Helping lenders meet the needs of clients

Current Government policy has provided a steer to financial service providers, enabling them to announce payment holidays that can help customers who will struggle to pay their bills due to the pandemic.

The latest of these is a scheme that allows mortgage payments to be frozen for a period of time, with the customer paying the money owed back via deferred instalments at the end of the term or through an arrangement to repay the arrears at the end of the payment holiday. This provides short-term relief for those who can’t make their normal payments due to illness, loss of work, loss of income or time off caring for the more vulnerable among us.

Whilst good news for borrowers, it presents banks with logistical challenges, with many financial institutions reporting as much as a month’s worth of inbound customer requests for payment relief in a single day. This is further compounded by staff absences due to illness or the need to care for unwell family members. Ultimately, the customers that need a payment holiday can’t get through to someone to set it up.

Paylink intends to be proactive in meeting the needs of financial institutions, utilising and adapting existing platforms to help lenders meet these needs in a seamless manner, allowing you to set up new payment schedule for your customers with speed and efficiency.

The outbound contact occurs automatically via SMS or email, providing your customer with a simple path to giving you their details. Our affordability software – Embark – allows the agent or customer to provide all the information the bank needs to make a quick and informed decision. Complimented with CRA and Open Banking API’s, Embark allows you to gather the information you need with minimal manual intervention which – as highlighted by the current financial climate – will be of great use in terms of speed and reliability, especially when dealing with large quantity of customers applying for a payment holiday.

The software has a chat facility, which can be tailored to alert those who have already been contacted to discuss the best means for future communication. Demonstrating flexibility, all content can be individually adapted to the needs of the client and can be integrated seamlessly.

To discuss how our systems can benefit your processes, please contact us

Paylink CEO shortlisted for Women in Credit Awards

Chief Executive of Paylink Solutions, Susan Rann, has been shortlisted for Innovator of the Year at the Women in Credit Awards.

Credit Strategy launched the Women in Credit Awards in 2018 to empower, connect, support and uncover achievements among women in the profession. The Innovator of the Year award will go to a woman who has demonstrated achievements that have brought something new – such as change in process, strategy or technology – to the organisation she works for.

Since becoming CEO of Paylink in 2018, Susan has focused on optimising customer experience within the financial services sector by developing market leading software solutions. With a thirst for innovation and new technology, Paylink is leading the development of new affordability tools for the sector as a whole.

On being shortlisted for the award, Susan Rann commented: “The Women in Credit Awards is a great opportunity to take note of the fantastic determination and range of projects that are being showcased right across our sector. It’s fantastic to see that the achievements at Paylink are at the forefront of industry innovations.”

“Since the launch of our digital platform, Embark, we have been working with key players across credit and finance to refine and enhance the platform. By identifying client drop off ‘hot spots’ and making changes to the use of language through the user journey, we have been able to increase customer engagement for a range of sectors.”

“It’s great to be able to look back at what we have been able to achieve as an organisation over the past twelve months and to have been nominated for this award. Equally, I’m so excited for the direction that Paylink is continuing in, especially with exciting new opportunities with open banking, credit bureau data and one touch referral mechanisms.”

Paylink announced an ‘Open Banking’ partnership in October 2018. The technology provides a solution to engage customers and allow them to quickly and securely provide accurate financial information. The partnership allows Paylink clients to collect the right information from their customers and third-party organisations, whilst providing transparency and accountability throughout their whole journey.

The Women in Credit Awards ceremony will be held in London on Thursday, 21 March. For more information: www.creditstrategy.co.uk/women-in-credit-awards

Paylink Solutions’ ‘debt help’ software wins national award

Our team is celebrating after being victorious in the Innovations in Collections and Recoveries category at this year’s Credit & Collections Technology Awards.

We’ve been recognised for the custom-built one-touch referral system we delivered for customers of a banking client who are in financial difficulty, at the prestigious ceremony in Stratford-Upon-Avon this month.

Our new system has drastically reduced the amount of time it takes for customers to receive debt support and empowers them to take control of their financial situation.

Susan Rann, CEO of Paylink Solutions said: “This award is testament to the dedication and expertise of our team to design, develop and implement pioneering technology, which is tailored for each client’s needs. We’ve worked really hard over the past year developing and improving our systems, and it’s wonderful we’ve been recognised by the industry.”

This accolade is our second recent success after also receiving ISO accreditation for our data security policies and how we continuously monitor and improve our products and information systems.

Susan continued: “Although accreditation isn’t mandatory, we thought it was an ideal way to prove our acumen when we showcase our services across the sectors we currently operate in, including lending, mortgages and insurance.

“It’s a really exciting time for Paylink Solutions, and being recognised not only for our product development, but also ability to meet stringent data security guidelines, is a reflection on our ability to design and deliver marker-leading software.”

Contact us now to find out how our award-winning expertise can benefit your business.

Paylink Solutions shortlisted as a finalist at the Credit and Collections Technology Awards

We’re delighted to announce we’ve been shortlisted for two categories at this year’s Credit and Collections Technology awards: the Innovations in Collections and Recoveries and Affordability Assessment Solutions categories.

Our entry in the Innovations in Collections and Recoveries category is for the custom-built, one-touch referral system we designed for one of our banking clients.

This new software allows our client to contact and assist customers who have fallen behind with monthly payments, by providing them with an online tool to take control of their financial situation.

Within the Affordability Assessment Solutions category, we’ve been shortlisted for the digital debt solution tool we created PayPlan, our sister organisation which offers free debt management plans and a range of other solutions for people struggling to repay their debts. Thanks to our expertise, their clients can now complete details of their income and expenditure online allowing an expert adviser to quickly and easily recommend the most suitable debt solution for their circumstances.

Product Development Director, Rich Healey, said: “To be a finalist for not just one, but two awards, is fantastic news for the Paylink Solutions team. We’ve worked really hard over the past year developing and improving our systems for our clients, and it’s wonderful our dedicated expertise has been recognised by the industry.”

The annual Credit and Collections Technology Awards brings together the industry’s leading players to champion innovation and best customer outcome solutions, recognising technological achievements from specialist providers within the credit and collections industry.

Winners are being announced during the prestigious ceremony at the Crowne Plaza in Stratford-upon-Avon on 13 September, and we can’t wait for the night to find out if we take the top spots!

Paylink launches new brand and website

We’re delighted to launch our brand new identity and website, which the whole team has been working really hard on to deliver.

From now on, Embark and Paylink are the two main products, with Paylink Solutions being the umbrella company.

Embark provides client on-boarding software, digital data capture and detailed customer analysis. PayPlan’s financial affordability tool PlanFinder, which allows clients to seek debt advice as part of an online journey, is a great example of how Embark works. PayPlan is one of our sister companies within the Totemic group, which provides free debt management plans and other solutions for people facing financial difficulties.

Paylink specialises in collections and distributions software, which allow clients to carry out multiple payments at once, distribute money and generally manage their finances.

Susan Rann, Paylink Solutions’ CEO, said: “We decided to launch our new brand and proposition to promote the full capabilities of our software, so clients are more aware of what we can deliver, and how it can be adapted to businesses across a range of sectors.

“We’ve also identified opportunities within the lending, lending, buy-to-let and insurance markets, and are going to use our industry and development knowledge to demonstrate how Paylink Solutions can make a real difference to customer satisfaction and service delivery within these areas.

“Our experience of working with companies such as PayPlan, Lloyds and law firm, Walker Morris, means we’re confident in our ability to increase our client numbers and build our reputation as a leading software provider.”
Find out more about how Paylink Solutions can benefit your business here.