Friday, 13 September 2013

A fresh view: What do you really know about the debt industry?

Over the coming months, we'll be sharing a series of posts which offer 'a fresh view'. They are the thoughts and observations from colleagues who have recently joined TDX Group.

Liz Crosland-Taylor joined TDX Group in March 2013 and works in our Advisory team. Here she shares her thoughts about the debt industry, and how it's not quite as she thought it would be.

What do you really know about the debt industry?

I’m new to the debt industry, and when I took a job at TDX a few months ago some of my initial thoughts did include, what do I actually know about debt? I pretty much had my socialised and personal view of debt, at a micro level. In my eyes it was something that, at a very basic level, was to be avoided if at all possible. Debt = bad. OK, well it wasn’t quite that basic, but fairly close to that, and indeed what I think the media would have us believe.

Working in an organisation that sits in an advantageous position centrally in the debt industry - and I say advantageously because TDX is positioned to comprehend the perspectives of participants from all sides – has definitely expanded my understanding of all things debt-related.

My original understanding was rather myopic, but reinforced by countless news stories detailing the miseries experienced by debtors struggling to get out or stay out of debt. Yet, paradoxically, it seems that many are actually clamouring to become debtors – all those people struggling to get a mortgage for example. Clearly debt can be good in some instances – it can be an opportunity. This may be in the form of a student loan that enables further education, or a mortgage that gets you onto that first rung of the property ladder – which is probably one of the largest debts someone acquires over a lifetime.

I have also realised that debt can be essential. A normality. Using a credit card or payday loan to assist with the timings of getting paid and paying overdue bills, or even technically being ‘in debt’ to utilities providers as I pay off my debt to them (having already used the gas and electricity they provided).

When I first mentioned my new job at TDX to friends and family, they joked that I was about to become a debt collector and go around knocking on doors. Obviously this is not true, but it made me realise that people outside the debt industry have very little realistic knowledge of what actually goes on!

I couldn’t possibly list all the many things that have pleasantly surprised me as I’ve been working at TDX – but here are just a couple of examples:

I didn’t know the extent to which organisations in the industry are quickly trying to respond to our changing culture and society, for example, the development of online e-collections tools and platforms that are already widening the methods people can use to make repayments - especially at times and in ways that are more convenient to them.

I also wasn’t aware of the degree to which compliance (treating all customers fairly and in accordance to their circumstances) is seen as fundamental across the industry. Nowadays creditors and Debt Collection Agencies (DCAs) think hard about the ways they treat their customers so that they can ensure fairer treatment for all.

So, to sum up, just a few months of working at TDX has transformed my understanding of debt as an entity, and its varying meaning within a context. I continue to understand that the debt industry as a whole, which may seem superficially basic or simple on the surface, is, in reality, a highly complex and multidimensional industry. I must admit I am grateful for having my eyes opened to an interesting industry that is a hugely important part of many peoples’ lives.

Liz Crosland-Taylor, Consultant, TDX Group

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