It had been billed as an opportunity for advisors across the debt advice sector to come together and discuss some of the most pressing issues facing the industry.
And this year’s annual Money Advice Liaison Group (MALG) conference, held at the Royal College of Physicians, Regents Park, London last month (November) did not disappoint. With an over-arching theme of fairness and debt, almost 300 delegates attended to hear key note speeches and contribute to workshops and debates.
Here UKAR ARena Editor, Kevin Shaw, looks back on an eventful day and details some of his conference highlights.
As always, this year’s MALG conference provided a great way for advisors from all areas of the industry to share ideas and ways of working – powered by a wide range of workshops, talks and debates as well as networking opportunities. The event opened with a speech from co-founder and chairman, Anthony Sharp, reflecting on 29 years heading up the organisation.
As he explained, when the very first conference was held in 1987 there had been a clear divide between advice providers and creditors – with the two groups even sitting on different sides of the room – but now the sector was coming together to work on clients’ behalf. Although stepping down as chairman next year, Anthony said he hopes to continue to play an important role within the organisation.
Conference chair, BBC finance journalist and Financial Consumer Panel member, Liz Barclay, began by expanding on the theme of inclusion, explaining that there were no ‘sides’ to the industry anymore. As she put it: “the MALG community are the circle of conscience that works together in the interests of the consumer.”
She was followed by investment expert, Justin Urquhart Stewart, who delivered his views on the changing economy and debt trends. A series of workshops followed, beginning with a closer look at the way councils deal with arrears and collections.
Under the title: “Debt collection by local agencies – are they playing by the same rules?’ panellists Peter Wallwork, CEO of the Credit Services Association, Lesley Piggott, Associate Director of Finance at Camden Council and Alistair Chisholm, Creditor Liaison Officer at Citizens Advice were joined by 100 delegates to discuss the challenges facing local councils, the unique environment they occupy and calls for one regulator to oversee the whole industry.
A ‘Points of View’ debate was well-attended, with delegates asked to give their opinions on a range of ‘hot topics’. Led by an expert panel made up of the Lending Standards Board’s Robert Skinner, Paul Smee, from the Council of Mortgage Lenders, Yvonne MacDermid OBE, representing Money Advice Scotland and Annette Lovell, Director of Engagement at the FOS, the group considered ‘is there still a role for voluntary codes of practice (the attendees decided 80/20 in favour), ‘do the benefits of data sharing outweigh the risks? (60/40 voted in favour) and ‘should creditors have their collection agencies check affordability in all cases?’ (80/20 voted in favour).
An afternoon workshop considered the many financial problems facing small business owners and the self-employed. Chaired by Leigh Berkley of Arrow Global and presented by Business Debtline advisor, Dawn Jennings and Money Advice Trust Insight Manager, Claire King, delegates learned more about the financial struggles of the self-employed.
Among the stand-out facts from the session was the news that 91 per cent of callers to Business Debtline had no savings and 80 per cent weren’t making pension contributions either. Another 43 per cent of callers had been also been declined credit.
The day closed with a drinks reception delegates said goodbye to Anthony Sharp, who chaired the MALG conference for the final time. Anthony told us: “We were delighted that we had record numbers of attendees and there was a good even balance between the creditor and advice sectors. There was a great atmosphere as usual at the event and I think we can tick it off as another very successful conference to further the work of MALG.”
See more pictures from the event at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/malg13/albums/72157661592498191