“A sombre topic but an important one.”
In a specialist showcase on deceased account management at Qualco Live, Phillips & Cohen’s Tim Webb highlighted the changing demographic landscape as well as evolving attitudes to debt and the business challenges they present.
With more pensioners in the UK than teenagers, Webb argued that today’s ageing population has a very different attitude to debt than its forebears. While some have amassed significant assets, many have taken advantage of the availability of credit that has developed during their lifetimes.
By 2030, 7.3% of all debt will be held by the over 65 age group and debt held by over 65s has risen almost 50% in less than a decade, said Webb. “Ageing baby boomers will unfortunately be the first generation passing away in volume with unsecured debts.”
Given more people are likely to pass away with debts, Webb said businesses must prepare themselves for a different approach to collections on these accounts. These collections are more time consuming and require more interactions, usually with grieving family members, leaving some creditors reluctant to engage.
“Providing closure to those dealing with the affairs is very important,” advised Webb.
He added that having dedicated collectors for this purpose is essential because it can be hard to switch between handling deceased and regular accounts. Collections professionals need to be trained in understanding the stages of grief family members are likely to experience.
“It’s not personal, it’s a product of the situation. Active listening and appropriate engagement is key.”
Webb advised creditors to validate deaths themselves online instead of asking family members to send proof, to be proactive and to maintain lists of people who have passed away in tragic circumstances such as terrorist attacks.
A dedicated team which acts in a sensitive manner, plus plenty of explanatory information for those thrust into dealing with a deceased relative’s affairs makes all the difference – as does partnering with charities or other experts in loss.