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What role can digital play in identifying and helping vulnerable customers?

18 Oct, 2017

The DBC for Collections Live Debate, sponsored by our partner Experian, was held on Wednesday 19th October at the Law Society, London

What role can digital play in identifying and helping vulnerable customers?

Our topic on this occasion was: "What role can digital play in identifying and helping vulnerable customers?"

Read about the Live Debate  and download the White Paper by Randolph McFarlane now.

The discussion points included: 

Vulnerable customers experience specific obstacles in managing their money and are significantly more likely to end up in financial difficulty as a result. Our panel discussed: 

  • What is meant by a vulnerable consumer - and how can digital technology help in defining vulnerability?
  • The challenges that vulnerable customers face in relation to managing their finances, how these challenges evolve in collections situations, and how they vary across sectors such as utilities, consumer finance and more.
  • What are current best practise standards for identifying vulnerability - and how is digital technology being used in the process?
  • The role of digital technology when vulnerable customers are in financial difficulty.

Our panel for this debate: 

The debate was chaired by Fred Crawley, Consulting Editor, Credit Strategy and Chair of the DBC for Collections. Fred was joined by: 

  • Chris Fitch, Vulnerability Lead, Money Advice Trust
  • Jake Beavan, Policy Manager, Citizens Advice
  • Martin O'Donnell, Lead Digital Analyst, Capquest
  • Rachel O'Connor, Senior Commercial Manager, Distressed & Vulnerable customers, Barclaycard
  • Bill Hill, Senior Consulting Client Partner, Experian 

Credit Strategy interviewed some of the panel ahead of the debate. Read more here:

Our Sponsor:


Experian is the world’s leading global information services company. During life’s big moments – from buying a home or a car, to sending a child to college, to growing a business by connecting with new customers – we empower consumers and our clients to manage their data with confidence. 

We help individuals to take financial control and access financial services, businesses to make smarter decisions and thrive, lenders to lend more responsibly, and organisations to prevent identity fraud and crime. Experian BM TM RGB 24072017

We have more than 16,000 people operating across 37 countries and every day we’re investing in new technologies, talented people and innovation to help all our clients maximize every opportunity. We are listed on the London Stock Exchange (EXPN) and are a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index. 

Learn more at or visit our global content hub at our global news blog for the latest news and insights from the Group.


The Law Society, London WC2A 1PL

Download the opinion paper by Randolph McFarlane now.

Fred Crawley

Fred Crawley

Consulting Editor, Credit Strategy and Chair of the DBC for Collections

Fred Crawley is consulting editor at Shard Media Group, where he works across a number of brands including Credit Strategy, Credit Week and the Credit Awards. A specialist in B2B communications with nine years’ experience as a journalist and editor, Fred works across Shard’s publishing and event brands to shape publishing strategy, develop and deliver multi-platform projects for clients, and produce high-impact written and live content. He also heads up Shard’s presence in the Car Finance market, where he has been a well-known commentator and speaker for a number of years. In 2016 he launched the Car Finance Conference & Awards, held this year in Nottingham on June 8th. Prior to working at Shard, Fred was group editor at Timetric, where he had responsibility for publications in asset finance, motor finance and professional services. He graduated from Pembroke College, Cambridge in 2005 after studying natural sciences, and had a brief career in education before working in publishing.

Chris Fitch

Chris Fitch

Vulnerability Lead, Money Advice Trust

Chris Fitch has led a programme of award-winning research and intervention work on financial services, financial difficulty and vulnerability since 2006. This includes studies of the experiences of creditor staff in working with vulnerability, with this informing the FCA practitioners’ toolkit on vulnerability. His most recent publication, in association with the Finance & Leasing Association and The UK Cards Association, is a new guide fur vulnerability in lending. Earlier this year, he published a similar guide in debt collection. These guides are based on research with over 3000 frontline collections and credit provision staff. Previous reports from Fitch have been supported by StepChange Debt Charity, Christians Against Poverty, the Money Advice Service, Toynbee Hall, Money Advice Scotland, Advice UK, DEMSA and the Financial Ombudsman Service. Fitch is also an advisory member of the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute and works with the Money Advice Trust to provide training and consultancy work as well as carrying out a research and intervention role with the Personal Finance Research Centre at Bristol University.

Jake Beavan

Jake Beavan

Policy Manager, Citizens Advice

Jake started at Citizens Advice in January 2016, leading the retail energy team's work on vulnerable consumers. He has a particular focus on the current state of the prepayment market whilst also looking at how changes in the energy market, such as the introduction of smart meters, affect vulnerable consumers and monitoring affordability and debt issues. Before joining Citizens Advice, Jake worked as a political adviser in the Local Government Association covering devolution, finance and welfare.

Martin O'Donnell

Martin O'Donnell

Lead Digital Analyst, Capquest

Martin O’Donnell is the Digital strategy lead for Capquest (part of the Arrow Global group). He is responsible for increasing Digital engagement throughout the business by adding new functionality, improving the customer journey and introducing Digital marketing capabilities. He has been in the industry for 7 years across operational, strategy and customer experience roles focusing on the Digital proposition. Recent achievements include overseeing the build and launch of the new online account servicing platform for customers and creating a new Digital marketing facility. These changes have seen a significant uplift in Digital engagement, increased revenue, reduced operational cost and most importantly improved customer satisfaction levels.

Rachel O'Connor

Rachel O'Connor

Senior Commercial Manager, Distressed & Vulnerable customers, Barclaycard

Rachel is the Customers in Vulnerable Circumstances lead for Barclaycard UK Credit Cards. With a personal drive for wanting to make a difference in an industry that’s had a turbulent past, for the last 2.5 years Rachel’s work has focused on driving considerable change for the customer and company on how they identify & support customers in vulnerable circumstances. One of Rachel’s first deliverables was a digital hub which builds trust with consumers, enabling them to reach out for help when they find themselves in difficult circumstances. Leveraging real- life, financially challenging events it provides tangible and relevant stories to help them understand how Barclaycard can support them when they need it most.

Bill Hill

Bill Hill

Senior Consulting Client Partner, Experian

Bill has over 20 years’ experience in credit risk management covering collections, fraud, data and decisioning. Primarily focussed on the banking and financial services sector, Bill has successfully supported a broad spectrum of client initiatives from data enrichment through to major transformation programmes. By working collaboratively with business partner executives to identify transformation opportunities, Bill has helped many organisations develop strategic roadmaps that deliver significant business benefits. These are typically achieved by incorporating the extensive use of data and decisioning to enable analytically derived insight and the delivery of value through proven systems and processes. By empowering businesses to constantly challenge and learn Bill ultimately helps them deliver performance excellence across the customer journey.

Cards International
Credit Strategy
Electronic Payments International
Life Insurance International
Motor Finance International
Private Banker International
Retail Banker International

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