A crackdown by the Financial Conduct Authority has had a transformative effect on the debt recovery market over the past year, according to a report from specialist financial services recruiters BrightPool.
The recruitment firm found that there are now around 15,000 debt collection and recovery specialists in the UK, representing a rapid expansion during the past 12 months.
FCA pressure has also changed the way debts are pursued, with companies trying to adopt more ethical and sensitive practices, and to improve their customer service and internal compliance.
Angela Hickmore, managing director at BrightPool, said: “The FCA have issued a stark warning to businesses in consumer credit – get your collection standards up to par or risk regulatory action.
“Many firms across the consumer credit sector are rapidly overhauling their collections and recoveries teams in response to the more rigorous enforcement of standards by the FCA.”
This in turn is driving demand higher for skilled debt recovery professionals, with a 56% spike in opportunities for permanent and interim management-level individuals.
Ms Hickmore pointed out that, while the focus on raising standards can increase the workload, it also has positive outcomes in more general terms.
“Doing the job properly is more labour and technology intensive, but it delivers higher returns and better customer satisfaction,” she said.
“The debt collection and recoveries sector has already moved a long way from its old reputation of strong-arm tactics. For the more progressive operators, the collections business is more about offering payment plans and using analytical software to identify which customers can actually afford to pay their bills.
“Collections will remain a focus for the FCA, especially in light of recent claims about how some firms are handling the collection of debt,” she concluded.