At the Credit Summit in 2014 Martin Wheatley, the FCA’s “shoot first, ask questions later” boss at the time, told delegates that unsecured debt in the UK had reached £158bn. Just four years later it now stands at £205bn.
It is, admittedly, a very different picture to what delegates were facing in the spring of 2008 – the nationalisation of banks, a credit crunch, and an onset of the worst recession for decades.
Scanning through Credit Summit reports in the magazine archives from 2008 and 2009, it’s evident how the tone has turned.
Panels about debt purchase in 2008 focussed on how the debt sale market was reacting to the financial crisis, with activity drying up fast and many speculating that firms had overpaid.
In 2009, delegates reacted with the loudest cheer for any speaker at the conference, to Claire Sandbrook, chief executive of the enforcement firm Shergroup. In a typically forthright speech she remarked that “if debtors don’t pay their debts, there are very serious consequences. Enforcement is one of those. But the government doesn’t want to talk about that.”
In 2010 and 2011, the nature of discussions started to shift, as it became clear a new regulatory structure was going to be far tougher, more intrusive and frankly, more dangerous, whatever form it would take.
In 2012 the Credit Summit moved to its current home, the QEII Centre in Westminster, and began to grow several streams, reflecting the proliferation of alternative lending and the emergence of a new buzzword – fintech.
In 2013, a speech delivered by Will Amos, the FCA’s head of consumer credit at the time. Remember him? Probably not. Apart from turning up nearly half an hour late, Amos did make references to the FCA’s use of authorisation as a supervisory tool.
At the 2014 Summit, David Fisher, then director of credit at the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), told delegates that the new regulatory regime would be very different from “the way consumer credit industries have been regulated over the past 40 years.”
That turned out to be an understatement. He also revealed at the time that the OFT was looking “deep under the hoods of six payday lenders” and was about to pass its findings onto the FCA. That turned out to be an incendiary piece of work.
The following year saw conversations about this market shrinking and how the authorisation process was working. In the last four years, between 2014 and the start of 2018, the FCA has ordered 11 firms to pay out a total of £732.7m in redress to consumers.
In 2016, the year the BBC’s Evan Davis made his first appearance as panel host, the FCA’s acting chief executive Tracey McDermott mentioned that the regulator was “just as concerned about over-forbearance as under-forbearance”, though this concern has not yet turned into publicly-announced action.
Last year, a CRO panel agreed that cyber security was the number one issue keeping them up at night, and a vulnerability panel was the most well-attended of all debates – speaking volumes for where the credit and collections industry is now at.
So what do we have in store for 2018? Evan Davis is back and Vince Cable, the ex-business secretary, and shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, will also be speaking on the day.