The case for external accreditation


In the competitive and heavily regulated debt collection industry, ensuring that staff possess the highest levels of competence and professionalism is of paramount importance to organisations.

The ability to demonstrate to clients that their workforce consists of highly trained and knowledgeable individuals is of upmost importance, but debt collection agencies also wish to reiterate and highlight this to their customers. The introduction of the Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) Consumer Duty, and the expectations on firms by the industry regulator with regards to the level of service and support that a customer receives when interacting with businesses, required that firms assessed and reviewed their previous working practices and procedures.

As such, part of this process for most would have been to review what training and assessment methods were needed to ensure that the expectations of the FCA are met.

regular external assessments can provide benchmarks against which firms can measure their own in-house training

Of course, organisations within the sector have been demonstrating increasingly high levels of standards and customer service for a considerable amount of time now regardless of the Duty, with the aim to firmly place positive customer outcomes at the heart of all activity.

While in-house training is one option open to firms, it is not always feasible – particularly for smaller organisations. Resources, time constraints and budget are just some of the reasons why delivering your own training and self-assessment can be unrealistic for many.

The alternative of looking to external organisations to assist with training and assessment needs however can bring a number of advantages.

One effective way to achieve this is through external accreditation of learning and competence strategies, which can add another level of assurance for customers, clients and regulators.

The Credit Services Association’s (CSA) long-running Collector Accreditation Initiative (CAI) is one example of how firms can leverage independent assessment provided by an external body.

In the case of the CSA, as the UK trade association for the debt collection industry we are ideally placed to identify specific areas of training that will benefit firms in order for them to meet the expectations of the FCA. The CAI – an online assessment platform which tests the knowledge of those working within the industry – is regularly monitored to ensure that the question bank is updated to reflect key areas that collections staff are expected to have knowledge of.

In this case an external assessment of staff using the CSA’s CAI platform independently goes a long way to establish if training programmes are aligned with the principles and expectations of the regulator, demonstrating a firm’s commitment to regulatory processes and customer protection. The CSA’s relationship with the FCA also ensures that they are best placed to understand what is expected of firms, and cater training and assessments accordingly – something which an in-house training department may simply not have the resources and capacity to do.

Trade associations and accreditation bodies also comprise of industry experts and leading practitioners, with strong relationships with other relevant bodies, allowing firms to access cutting-edge knowledge and best practices, ensuring that their training is both current and effective.

Additionally, regular external assessments can provide benchmarks against which firms can measure their own in-house training. This can help identify areas for improvement and ensures continuous development and adherence to high standards, fostering a culture of excellence within the organisation.

Firms who gain ‘company accreditation’ via the CSA’s CAI – which is a requirement of many clients they wish to work with – enables them to signal to the market that they invest in quality training and maintain high standards of competence, which can be a significant selling point.

External accreditation offers significant benefits – it enhances credibility, ensures adherence to industry standards, provides access to best practices and delivers competitive advantages. It also supports compliance, mitigates risks, fosters employee development, and improves customer satisfaction and loyalty. By investing in these initiatives, firms can meet and exceed the expectations of regulators, clients and customers, achieve competitive advantage, and foster a culture of excellence and ethical practice in the industry.

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About Author

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Fiona Macaskill, CSA Director of Learning & Development Fiona is responsible for further developing the Association's learning and education programmes and leads the professional development pathways designed to support established professionals and those new to the industry, as well as promoting and sharing best practice in learning and development across the industry. Fiona is responsible for the CSA's specialist Apprenticeship Training provision which was launched in October 2017 and now has over 200 apprentices from across the UK

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