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In Focus Collections

The time has come to collect debts more efficiently

The enforcement industry has a lot to offer UK PLC in terms of improving the country’s collections process, according to Gareth Hughes, chief executive of Marston Holdings

“In order for any society, or system, to work, then you need every part to work together. As enforcement professionals, we are a key part of the judicial system, working on behalf of taxpayers and business creditors of UK PLC. “When you talk to people about the need

for enforcement and ask, for example, if there should be no consequence if people choose not to pay their business debts, criminal fines, council tax bills or child support payments, then they understand the importance of having a system in place. “Of course it needs to be proportionate

and fairly applied, but the enforcement system is an important social function.” It is rare, in a practical industry like

credit and collections, to hear such clear philosophical thinking, but Gareth Hughes, chief executive of Marston Holdings, is a man who is noted for his clarity of thought. He has a strong vision for the enforcement

industry, which he is able to articulate with his characteristic calm, but authoritative, style. And, as the enforcement industry looks to a future that may include an expansion of its remit to include civil debts, it is exactly this deep-thinking approach that will be essential to winning the debate. He considers the logic behind an

expansion of creditor choice to be inescapable. “It really is an important philosophical

question: what should the role of the state be? Should it be to dispense justice – or to dispense and then administer that justice? If other types of court orders are being undertaken successfully by the private sector – and criminal fines, council tax, road traffic debts and Child Maintenance payments are already generally serviced by the private sector, at no cost to the creditor – then it is right that the civil creditor


should also be able to select a private sector provider to enforce its civil claims.” He points out that one of the Conservative

Party’s key manifesto promises was to continue the modernisation of the Court Service and so, with the 12-month review of the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 currently underway, momentum for change is now building, as, he believes, it should do. Such developments, he says, are part of a wider change in the collections industry.

solutions, resulting in better outcomes for creditors. And Marston Holdings is setting itself out

to be one such firm, with the acquisitions of Moreton Smith and Scott & Co being notable landmarks this year. “The goal of our acquisitions has been to

What should the role of the state be? Should it be to dispense justice – or to dispense and then administer that justice?

“Today, UK PLC has debts that can be collected more efficiently. An optimal recovery solution has debt collection as part of an integrated process, where there is a clear escalation procedure that includes enforcement as a possible outcome. If there is a clearly-defined potential consequence to non-payment, then we can expect to see recoveries increase at the debt-collection stage, based on our experience in other sectors. “If costs are also set at a reasonable rate

and charged to the debtor – as they now are by the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act regulations – then the benefits for creditors are undeniable.” He sees the market as maturing to a

situation where there will be increasingly hybridised firms offering end-to-end recovery

expand the range of services that we can offer our government, business and solicitor clients,” he says. “We now have a strong presence in Scotland through the Scott & Co purchase, but it will also benefit our existing customers. The first question that our clients were asking, once the acquisition was announced, was ‘will we now have access to more effective cross-border enforcement?’, and that was an important deal rationale. Likewise our purchase of Moreton Smith now gives us international relationships and experience.” But they still want to maintain the

strengths that these businesses already have. He explains that it is their model to buy good, strong businesses with existing expertise and abilities and then to give them a degree of independence. They do not seek to rigidly impose a model or brand on them, precisely because they have bought these businesses because they were attracted to their key people and sector knowledge and ability. Of course, they can then support them

with the right investment and wider experience that they have as a major group in the industry, so that the businesses can progress and develop. Naturally, they will expect that any new

parts of the group will abide by Marston Holdings’ core values, including respect, transparency and accountability. Just having such values is not enough, he says; they have to be lived by every member of staff, and that means starting from the beginning.

October 2015

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