Broadcaster and BBC journalist Liz Barclay is already a familiar voice in the debt and personal finance sector. Beginning her career as a frontline advisor with Citizen’s Advice, she has spent more than three decades working with and reporting on developments in the wider industry.
An ambassador for the Money Advice Trust and honorary member of the Chartered Trading Standards Institute, as of April she will be sharing her knowledge and expertise with MALG members too, when she joins the organisation as Chair.
Here she explains more about promoting a collaborative approach to providing long-term financial solutions and outlines some of the changes and challenges ahead.
Liz says, “I think forging sustainable relationships between debtors and creditors is really important, as is looking at ways to boost people’s financial capacity in the long-term.
If, as a sector, we can help maintain these ongoing relationships then we can work together to develop long-term strategies, not just for dealing with debt, but for helping people boost their finances and save or plan for the future too. It’s an approach I’ve believed in since I joined the sector 30 years ago as a money advisor at the Great Yarmouth CAB in East Anglia.
As a frontline advisor, I helped to develop a regional network of advisors across East Anglia who could support each other and share experiences. That way we could provide a more consistent service to our own residents with money worries. And we also worked hard at building relationships with creditors so that we could understand better the challenges they faced.
In Great Yarmouth it reached a stage where the registrar at the local court wouldn’t hear a repossession case unless the person had been to me for advice first.
The development of strong relationships meant that we could work with creditors – to come up with long term solutions for them and those experiencing difficulties, balancing the needs of both wherever possible. We realised that this kind of approach was more sustainable for everyone.
Back then, in the 1980s and 1990s there was much less mutual understanding and perhaps as a result, during the recession at the beginning of the 1990s, repossession rates were higher than they were during the recent economic crisis. Forbearance wasn’t really an option and as a result many more individuals, businesses and ultimately, creditors, lost out. This time around – in the recent downturn – things were more positive, in part because of these relationships.
Working with vulnerable clients, and finding better ways to service their needs, is another important issue for all those working in the sector. We can all become vulnerable and creditors are getting better at engaging more effectively with people facing an often complex set of problems.
I hope to draw on these experiences in my work with MALG. I am delighted to be able to join an organisation that has been serving its members for 27 years – and to help serve them in the future.
Later this year we will be taking a look at governance processes and we will become incorporated in April. We’ll be appointing a Board and also an Executive Officer to share the workload with me – a job that Anthony Sharp has up until now managed by himself!
I hope to be able to report back on these processes in more detail and outline some of the work we will be doing in 2016 at a later date.