John Pears shares his thoughts on Lowell’s Quarter 3 performance and how the company is placed as it heads into 2021…

Posted by: Lowell|December 03 2020


When I was writing my last blog, following our Quarter 2 results, I found myself reflecting on a very challenging period professionally. This time my sentiment is quite different. Despite the prospect of a challenging economy in 2021, I’ve seen us move quickly from crisis management, to stability and now to a clear focus on building on stronger foundations than we had even before the crisis began. We’ve now settled into a new way of working with flexibility and customer centricity at its core. I’m extremely proud of the way the business has rapidly adapted its processes whilst never losing sight of our goal of helping customers rebuild their financial health.

Our customer satisfaction metrics remain very encouraging with a Trustpilot score of 4.4 and over 6,700 reviews completed, 75% of which rate us as excellent. This reflects the measures we put in place at the beginning of the pandemic, including our customer outreach strategy and a raft of other forbearance and support initiatives. In addition, our agent scores from Rant & Rave, our customer experience research platform, remain high at 92%. To be so well recognised by our customers means a lot, but also gives us the confidence that a customer focussed engagement model can both resonate with our customers and be commercially sustainable.

Our enhanced digital channels are continuing to prove very effective in supporting customers and we will continue to build on this capability and focus on improving the ease of interactions. Happily, there is much more to come as we have an exciting and innovative roadmap that will give our customers the best digital tools to help them improve their financial situation. I look forward to sharing more details with you in the new year.

With the recent announcements of several COVID-19 vaccines, and as we have now exited the second national lockdown, there is now at least light at the end of the tunnel. However, it is still uncertain how long it will take and just what condition the economy and society will be in when we get there. There is no doubt that the UK’s consumer debt pile is only getting bigger, although the full impact on Non-Performing Loans (NPLs) is likely to be seen towards the end of 2021 as the COVID-19 impact works its way through collection processes.

We remain very well positioned to take advantage of the increase in NPL’s coming to market through our new capital structure, following our recent £2.2bn refinancing success. The package comprises £600m equity contribution from parent and issuance of £1.6bn Senior Secured notes maturing 2025/2026. To attract such strong support is very pleasing and is testament to the confidence the market has in Lowell.

Despite the ongoing challenges that Covid has brought, our operational performance in Quarter 3 was strong and our collections have responded really well, demonstrating the resilience of the business. I'm also extremely proud of our colleagues across Lowell who have ensured that despite everything, we remain on track to deliver our Lowell 23 strategy, which focuses on clients, customers, colleagues, operational efficiency, and our financial strength.

From a societal perspective I’m very keen that Lowell’s voice is heard loud and clear. Back in October I participated in the Centre for Social Justice's Conservative Party Conference debate on how we should solve problem debt in the wake of COVID-19. I shared the panel with Baroness Morgan, Lord Pickles and Joanna Elson from the Money Advice Trust. This was a great opportunity to highlight some key points I believe will make a real difference. Firstly, we need to move away from a mindset of short term collection activity to one of longer term debt resolution; secondly we need to work harder to remove the stigma that’s associated with debt, in order to encourage more people to take action to improve their situation; and lastly we need to look at structural and legislative changes, particularly regarding public sector debt collection.

To this end, we are also supporting the Centre for Social Justice’s Collecting Dust report and its call for a government debt management bill. The bill would see public sector collection reformed and brought into line with private sector practices – giving people the space, time and flexibility to get out of the debt spiral. Both of these initiatives can help support customers significantly more than the current system. I am pleased to say that there is growing support for a much more supportive approach to debt resolution, but with so much else on the political landscape, we need to continue to draw attention to this given, sadly, more people than ever will face debt challenges over the coming months.

Finally, before I close I just wanted to share my pride in the news that Lowell has just won the Debt Purchaser of the Year at the Collections & Customer Service (CCS) Awards. This follows the four awards that we secured the week before at the Credit Week and Women in Credit Awards. It’s really great to see Lowell colleague’s hard work supporting customers and clients recognised with this industry recognition.

So, as we look towards 2021, there clearly remains some uncertainty, not just with COVID-19, but also how quickly and effectively the economy and consumer affordability will recover. What I am certain of is that the progress we have made since March positions us well going forward. We will continue to work closely with our clients to see where we can add value, share insight and provide support and we will continue our focus on delivering high customer engagement standards and helping people return to financial health.

New call-to-action