In this weeks Leading the Way blog, we are delighted to reveal that Bristow & Sutor has scored top marks in a recent CIVEA compliance audit. We also share why we believe independent assessments of enforcement activity are integral to future success.
Civil enforcement agencies in England and Wales are governed by CIVEA (the Civil Enforcement Association) and all members, including Bristow & Sutor, follow and adhere to a code of conduct. This agreement promotes responsible and fair engagement within the industry and is essential, as it ensures accountability, clearly outlines the safeguarding policies in place for protecting the vulnerable and encourages enforcement agents (EAs) to always act responsibly.
An updated and strengthened code was designed and rolled out to all enforcement firms two years ago and the practices contained within exceed both statutory requirements and the National Standards. A compliance framework was devised to ensure that firms commit to these requirements and this included an independent audit of members, assessing policies, monitoring calls and observing agents in the field. Bristow & Sutor recently underwent a compliance audit of this nature for the first time and we are proud to share that we have passed this assessment, scoring 100%, which reflects our ongoing commitment to industry best practice.
Who leads these assessments?
Bristow & Sutor constantly self-regulate to maintain high standards and this ensures when we are assessed for our approaches, nothing new is required beyond our normal day to day operations. The CIVEA auditing process is delivered by an independent compliance auditor, who will pass findings on to a panel of experts known as the Compliance, Adjudication and Review of Enforcement (CARE) Panel. This panel consists of consultants with no commercial interests in the industry, acting as supervisors of standards and working for the benefit of debtors’ and analysing overall experiences of the enforcement process. The CARE panel oversees the entire auditing process and is responsible for reviewing and certifying all findings.
To achieve 100%, Bristow & Sutor were required to show that they are fully committed to, understand and implement the CIVEA code of conduct in everything we do. The code of practice states that members must ensure all staff can identify and provide appropriate support to vulnerable people, which is especially important since the coronavirus pandemic has increased the number of people who may be deemed as vulnerable. This is an integral component of the Bristow & Sutor approach and is present in our training, conduct during visits, the language we use when communicating with debtors and the technology we implement to improve outcomes.
Why is independent auditing so important?
Bristow & Sutor has many measures in place to ensure its employees continue to perform at the highest possible standard, including our own established Independent Advice Panel (IAP). It is true of any business that alternative views and perspectives from outside the organisation are useful and should always be gratefully received. We welcome feedback on our operations and conduct, from clients and customers alike, as knowing where issues exist is the first step in addressing them and making it right.
The IAP act as an additional provider of oversight and a final escalation point for complaints that are not addressed to the complainant’s satisfaction by internal processes. It is formed of five members, all from across the financial sector including consumer credit and debt advice providers. This is also why Bristow & Sutor has shown its support for the proposed Enforcement Conduct Authority (ECA), which intends to implement and administer behaviour standards, as well as provide an improved complaints process and point of escalation, for all firms operating in the civil enforcement sector. Adhering to common standards ensures that in times of crisis, such as the coronavirus pandemic, the industry has a solid platform to build a fast and collaborative response, as seen with the post-lockdown support plan that facilitated a return to enforcement after a hiatus during the summer of 2020.
Achieving 100% compliance in our audit by CIVEA represents third-party accreditation of our claims to be one of the most responsible and committed enforcement firms in the industry. Accolades such as this showcase to potential clients that we are reputable and credible, as well as highlighting to job seekers that we are an ethical and well-respected place to work. When embarking on a career in any industry, candidates will research businesses to consider if they are a cultural fit. We aim to hire and train employees with best practice in mind from day one and this achievement further signifies our high expectations and standards, as well as the opportunity to join a business with the right mindset, ambitions and approach.
Bristow & Sutor remains fully committed to industry rules and regulations. We always strive to do the best that is possible and ensure we remain cool, calm and collected.