(New York, NY) Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase recently cautioned that the US and the world would face a recession in the next 6-9 months. And if the UK’s cost-of-living crisis is any indicator, some consumers may soon be pinching pennies to afford everyday expenses. Auriemma Group recently conducted research in both regions and found that 55% of US credit cardholders and a staggering 83% of credit cardholders in the UK say rising costs will have a negative impact on their finances in the next 12 months.

Rising food and fuel costs are already having a significant negative impact on half of US cardholders, and these consumers anticipate costs to swell further over the next year. Looking to the UK, these impacts are even greater, with about nine-in ten (88%) reporting a negative impact from rising food costs and 81% saying the same about fuel.

“We’ve been studying changes to consumer spending and borrowing behavior throughout the cost-of-living crisis in the UK and believe those shifts may be predictive of things to come on our side of the pond,” says Jaclyn Holmes, Director of Research at Auriemma Group. “Navigating these increasing costs comes at a price for many, particularly those with heavier debt loads or fixed incomes.”

According to Auriemma’s research, US cardholders are already acting in response to rising costs. Over the past 6 months 52% curbed non-essential spending, 36% sought out more sale items than usual, and 33% switched to more affordable brands.

While often opaque to cardholders, the economic outlook due to the impacts of inflation, rising interest rates, and Russia’s war with Ukraine may cause these measures to intensify. In the UK, tensions are already hitting a fever-pitch with some activists going as far as flinging tomato soup at a Van Gough painting to draw attention to the impact of fossil fuels, but also rising costs.

“These are very, very serious things which I think are likely to push the U.S. and the world — I mean, Europe is already in recession — and they’re likely to put the U.S. in some kind of recession six to nine months from now,” Dimon said.

US cardholders agree with Dimon. Auriemma’s research found that 80% believe the US will enter a recession within the next 2 years. And this belief is changing attitudes towards spending. Over nine-in-ten of those who think it is ‘very likely’ that the US will enter a recession say they have changed their spending behavior because of rising costs.

“The UK’s cost-of-living crisis has gained media attention for the better part of the year, and the US may not be far behind,” says Holmes. “Dimon’s assertion highlights the delicate state of the economy, and US consumers have already begun to feel the effects. Looking to the UK as an example, US issuers and merchants can expect some notable changes to spending over the next year.”

Survey Methodology

Cardbeat US

This Auriemma Group study was conducted online within the US by an independent field service provider on behalf of Auriemma from August-September 2022, among 80o+ adult credit cardholders. The number of interviews completed is sufficient to allow for statistical significance testing between sub-groups at the 95% confidence level ± 5%, unless otherwise noted. The purpose of the research was not disclosed nor did the respondents know the criteria for qualification.

Cardbeat UK

This Auriemma Group study was conducted online within the UK by an independent field service provider on behalf of Auriemma from April-May 2022, among 80o+ adult credit cardholders. The number of interviews completed is sufficient to allow for statistical significance testing between sub-groups at the 95% confidence level ± 5%, unless otherwise noted. The purpose of the research was not disclosed nor did the respondents know the criteria for qualification.

(London, UK): Consumer expectations for future financial stability is worsening, with many looking to credit cards for support during the cost-of-living crisis. According to Auriemma Group’s latest issue of Cardbeat UK, 37% of cardholders believe their financial health will worsen in the next 6 months.

Gen Z and younger Millennials express greater optimism about their future financial health than their older counterparts despite increased levels of borrowing. Auriemma’s research found that 20% of cardholders are borrowing more to afford everything they need, rising to 32% among Gen Z and Millennials, and 33% of sub- and near-prime customers. The added strain of rising costs will likely cause these figures grow in the coming months.

“Since the start of the pandemic we have seen a resurgence in consumer spending on debit cards and a rise in transfers from savings to current accounts,” says Jaclyn Holmes, Director of Auriemma Research. “Today it appears rising inflation is furthering the strain on consumers, leading some to rely on their credit cards for essential spending.”

According to Auriemma’s latest findings, over 90% of credit cardholders anticipate rising costs of food, housing, fuel or energy bills to impact their personal finances negatively over the next 12 months. While energy prices were capped at £2,500 for 2 years beginning this month, some households may still see their bills double.

“At a time when all other costs are skyrocketing, the price cap will offer little comfort for many households,” says Holmes. “With more monthly outgoings attributed to energy bills, the pressure on credit card usage and borrowing will likely be even higher.”

But consumers aren’t the only ones bracing for impact. Issuers are also trying to assess how the cost-of-living crisis is currently impacting their cardholders and anticipate the enduring impact moving forward.

“Lenders have already begun seeing the operational impact of this change in customer behaviour,” says Louis Stevens, Director of Auriemma’s Industry Roundtables. “This comes at a time where regulatory initiatives, such as The Consumer Duty Act, are already taking up considerable time and resources.”

As issuers likely tighten risk criteria for customers seeking credit, some may turn to Prime and affluent customers for lower-risk lending opportunities. Auriemma Group will continue to monitor this space closely in upcoming Cardbeat studies and within its Customer Service Roundtable groups.

Survey Methodology

This Auriemma Research study was conducted online within the UK by an independent field service provider on behalf of Auriemma from April-May 2022, among 80o+ adult credit cardholders. The number of interviews completed on a monthly basis is sufficient to allow for statistical significance testing between sub-groups at the 95% confidence level ± 5%, unless otherwise noted. The purpose of the research was not disclosed nor did the respondents know the criteria for qualification.

About Auriemma Group

For more than 35 years, Auriemma’s mission has been to empower clients with authoritative data and actionable insights. Our team comprises recognised experts in four primary areas: operational effectiveness, consumer research, co-brand partnerships and corporate finance. Our business intelligence and advisory services give clients access to the data, expertise and tools they need to navigate an increasingly complex environment and maximise their performance. Auriemma serves the consumer financial services ecosystem from our offices in London and New York City. For more information, visit us at www.auriemma.group or call Jaclyn Holmes at +44 (0) 207 629 0075.

(London, UK): Rising costs for fuel, energy, food shops and housing are already impacting consumers around the UK, but many believe this is only the beginning. According to Auriemma Group’s latest issue of Cardbeat UK, 73% of credit cardholders expect the rising cost of living to have a negative impact on their personal finances over the next 12 months.

Others factors will further impact consumers, including the Bank of England’s forthcoming increased interest rates. Coupled with rises in the cost of living, these elements are set to put considerable strain on some UK cardholders.

“Rate increases will create added pressure on homeowners across the UK at a time of significant financial uncertainty,” says Jaclyn Holmes, Director of Research at Auriemma. “Meanwhile the volatility of the rental market is already putting a strain on those who do not own their own home.”

The rising costs of food, energy and fuel have impacted over eight-in-ten credit cardholders, and rising housing costs have impacted about six-in-ten. Auriemma’s research found that rising housing costs were of particular impact to Millennials, who more commonly rent—a cost that has increased 9.5% on average since 2021 according to the latest HomeLet Rental Index.

“These indicators are a sign that banks and lenders must ready themselves to provide additional support to struggling customers,” says Holmes. “When rising costs become insurmountable it often leads to cardholders making spending cuts, missing payments or even becoming delinquent.”

In fact, 67% of credit cardholders agree that they are already spending less on non-essential or luxury items due to the state of their finances. And four-in-ten say they are unable to afford a holiday, a figure that increases to 57% among sub-prime and near-prime customers.

“These changes in spending habits could have an impact on the retail, entertainment and travel sectors,” says Holmes. “This could be a considerable blow after such a short period of recovery following the start of the pandemic.”

Looking ahead, the cost of living crisis will have a notable impact on consumers. Auriemma’s research shows one-fifth of cardholders are already borrowing more to afford everything they need, and as prices increase Auriemma anticipates this figure to rise. Auriemma Group will continue to monitor this space closely in upcoming Cardbeat studies and within its Card Customer Service and Complaints roundtable.

Survey Methodology

This Auriemma Research study was conducted online within the UK by an independent field service provider on behalf of Auriemma in April 2022, among 80o+ adult credit cardholders. The number of interviews completed on a monthly basis is sufficient to allow for statistical significance testing between sub-groups at the 95% confidence level ± 5%, unless otherwise noted. The purpose of the research was not disclosed nor did the respondents know the criteria for qualification.

About Auriemma Group

For more than 35 years, Auriemma’s mission has been to empower clients with authoritative data and actionable insights. Our team comprises recognised experts in four primary areas: operational effectiveness, consumer research, co-brand partnerships and corporate finance. Our business intelligence and advisory services give clients access to the data, expertise and tools they need to navigate an increasingly complex environment and maximise their performance. Auriemma serves the consumer financial services ecosystem from our offices in London and New York City. For more information, visit us at www.auriemma.group or call Jaclyn Holmes at +44 (0) 207 629 0075.

(London, UK) Widespread work-from-home started as an adaptation to COVID-19 but is here to stay. In Auriemma Group’s recent roundtable meetings financial institutions discussed long-term working models, all of which include some element of working from home. Their next challenge is developing a hybrid engagement model for their hybrid workforce.

Some have already taken then leap, and since implementing these hybrid models, Auriemma’s roundtable members received employee feedback that some feel less engaged and connected with the company. This, in conjunction with high attrition rates and challenging recruitment, means engagement strategies have become an area of focus.

Those who feel they have developed strong hybrid engagement models have focused on three areas: intentional scheduling, variety of choices and well-being considerations.

Intentional Scheduling

Firms strategically schedule location-appropriate activities when employees are onsite or working remotely. When onsite, firms try to have full teams concurrently present to build comradery and schedule more team-building activities like catered lunches and happy hours. When remote, roundtable members manage engagement via gamification and weekly competitions like step counts and quizzes.

“When managing a hybrid workforce, it is crucial that firms give equal treatment to employees regardless of on-or-offsite work,” says Louis Stevens, Director of Roundtables at Auriemma Group. “Otherwise, this can create a divide in the workforce and even lead to further attrition. Engagement models must cater to both demographics.”

Variety of Choices

Workforces are composed of a diverse mix of people with a diverse set of interests, which can make it challenging to find engagement activities that appeal to everyone. The solution? Including variety in the engagement offerings.

According to members, offerings should cater to both extroverts and introverts alike. One firm developed a successful monthly engagement programme for its employees, which allowed them to choose from a variety of activities like cocktail making classes and sporting events.

Well-Being Considerations

As part of their engagement strategies, financial institutions have incorporated well-being initiatives to protect the mental health of their employees. Initiatives vary from providing access to therapists to scheduling inspirational speakers and allotting weekly personal time in schedules.

30% of Auriemma Customer Service and Complaints Roundtable members have intentionally increased off-phone time for front-line agents since the start of the pandemic as a means of dedicating more time to employee well-being. Employees have the choice to use this time as they wish whether that be for professional development or something like meditation or yoga. Since implementing, firms have seen an improvement in productivity levels.

Auriemma’s roundtable members are still developing their engagement strategies. New developments and learnings will be discussed in depth at the upcoming Collections and Recoveries Roundtable meeting on the 9th and 10th of June in Edinburgh, as well at the Customer Service and Complaints Roundtable meeting on the 16th and 17th of June, also in Edinburgh.

About Auriemma Group

For more than 35 years, Auriemma’s mission has been to empower clients with authoritative data and actionable insights. Our team comprises recognised experts in four primary areas: operational effectiveness, consumer research, co-brand partnerships and corporate finance. Our business intelligence and advisory services give clients access to the data, expertise and tools they need to navigate an increasingly complex environment and maximise their performance. Auriemma serves the consumer financial services ecosystem from our offices in London and New York City. For more information, visit us at www.auriemma.group or call Louis Stevens at +44 (0) 207 629 0075.

(London, UK) Absence and attrition rates are on the rise for front-line agents working in financial services. Mental health concerns are a primary driver, forcing financial service providers to address a once-taboo workplace subject. According to members of Auriemma Group’s Customer Service and Complaints Roundtable, mental health is frequently the cause for taking time off or leaving the company entirely. This, in conjunction with recruitment challenges facing the industry, has made mental health and well-being a top priority for firms.

According to the researchers at the University College London (UCL), only 49% of working age adults say they feel in control of their mental health, down from 54% six months ago. The study also found that the proportion of people with symptoms of anxiety and depression is at its highest level in 11 months.

There are several reasons why mental health issues are growing at higher rates amongst front-line agents. Increasingly complex calls and a rise in vulnerable customer volume has taken its toll on the mental health of many agents. Concurrently, the cost-of-living crisis is placing more pressure on all consumers, which agents are also not immune from.

“This compounds when considering many are still working from home and missing out on the social elements of the workplace,” says Louis Stevens, Director of Auriemma Roundtables. “It is easy to see why many firms are in firefighting mode in terms of capacity planning.”

The combination of these factors has led to a marked increase in both attrition and absence rates. In 2021, Auriemma Group’s Customer Service and Complaints Roundtable members reported an average attrition rate of 23%, up from 16.5% in 2020. Mental health-related absence rates showed a similar trend up to 14%, in 2021 from 11% in 2020.

“The cost-of-living crisis will only put further stress on both customers and employees, meaning without sufficient support measures in the place, this trend will likely only worsen throughout 2022,” says Stevens.

To combat this, firms are taking a varied approach by making mental health resources more accessible, building overall engagement amongst their employees to improve job satisfaction and embedding mental health awareness into their company culture and rhetoric. Roundtable members have also reported more return-to-office strategies, which will help those who have not taken well to home-based work.

This is an area of focus within Auriemma Group’s Customer Service & Complaints and Collections & Recoveries Roundtables, both of which have upcoming in-person meetings at the Sheraton Grand in Edinburgh. The Collections and Recoveries meeting is scheduled for the 9th and 10th of June, and the Customer Service and Complaints Roundtable meeting will be on the 16th and 17th of June. If you are interested in attending either session, please contact roundtables@auriemma.group.

About Auriemma Group

For more than 35 years, Auriemma’s mission has been to empower clients with authoritative data and actionable insights. Our team comprises recognised experts in four primary areas: operational effectiveness, consumer research, co-brand partnerships and corporate finance. Our business intelligence and advisory services give clients access to the data, expertise and tools they need to navigate an increasingly complex environment and maximise their performance. Auriemma serves the consumer financial services ecosystem from our offices in London and New York City. For more information, visit us at www.auriemma.group or call Louis Stevens at +44 (0) 207 629 0075.

(London, UK): Incoming FCA regulation could add restrictions on how consumers can use Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) services, but these changes may be welcome. According to Auriemma Group’s latest issue of Cardbeat UK, there was an 80% increase in negative experiences with BNPL plans between September 2020 and July 2021.

The increase is uniform across customer segments, including different age groups, household income, and levels of familiarity with BNPL, signalling concerns around the product itself, rather than new or unfamiliar user experiences.

“Our research shows that the few who have negative BNPL experiences most commonly attribute it to unexpected fees or issues it’s created for their other finances,” says Will Moody, Manager at Auriemma. “With a growing segment of consumers turning to BNPL options for borrowing, regulation may play a role in maintaining positive customer sentiments for the product.”

Auriemma’s latest findings show an increase in negative experiences using BNPL or instalment plans–from 5% in September 2020 to 9% in July 2021. While 9% remains the minority, it represents a large community when considering that 17 million UK consumers have used BNPL services as of November 2021.

“This sentiment is being reflected within other markets too,” says Moody. “In the US, a market where over half of adults have used a Buy Now, Pay Later service, about one-third had a negative experience. This rapid growth has caught the attention of the CFPB, and surprisingly enough, half of BNPL users in the US agree these plans should be more regulated.”

Klarna is the leading BNPL and instalments provider in the UK with 16 million customers using its products and services, but the Swedish FinTech reported a round of substantial losses in H2 2021 to add to the strain of incoming regulation.

Many of the UK’s High Street Banks and lenders already have products in market, such as NewDay with its NewPay product. Moreover, regulated FinTechs such as Monzo and Curve also joined the BNPL space in 2021, with Revolut soon to follow.

“Auriemma expects that BNPL regulation will put significant strain on compliance resources for unregulated players such as Klarna,” says Louis Stevens, Director of Roundtables. “This, in turn, could impact innovation, development and growth, opening the door for regulated lenders such as High Street Banks and credit card issuers to step in.”

Could the future of BNPL in the UK rest with traditional players integrating instalments into their existing product sets? And will this be the solution to reversing the rise in poor customer experience? Auriemma Group will continue to monitor and discuss BNPL in upcoming Cardbeat studies, and within its Customer Service Roundtable groups when they next meet June 16-17 at the Sheraton Grand in Edinburgh, Scotland. Email research@auriemma.group to learn more about our consumer studies and roundtables@auriemma.group to inquire about our forums.

Survey Methodology

These Auriemma Research studies were conducted online within the UK by an independent field service provider on behalf of Auriemma from in September 2020 and July 2021, among 80o+ adult credit cardholders. The number of interviews completed on a monthly basis is sufficient to allow for statistical significance testing between sub-groups at the 95% confidence level ± 5%, unless otherwise noted. The purpose of the research was not disclosed nor did the respondents know the criteria for qualification.

About Auriemma Group

For more than 35 years, Auriemma’s mission has been to empower clients with authoritative data and actionable insights. Our team comprises recognised experts in four primary areas: operational effectiveness, consumer research, co-brand partnerships and corporate finance. Our business intelligence and advisory services give clients access to the data, expertise and tools they need to navigate an increasingly complex environment and maximise their performance. Auriemma serves the consumer financial services ecosystem from our offices in London and New York City. For more information, visit us at www.auriemma.group or call Will Moody at +44 (0) 207 629 0075.

(London, UK) More credit cardholders ages 18-34 would prefer to use a Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) service than their existing credit card if faced with a need to borrow, according to Auriemma Group’s latest issue of Cardbeat UK.

BNPL popularity and usage has grown exponentially in the UK since Klarna launched in September 2016, accelerated by the pandemic and the resulting shift to online shopping. In these 5 years, firms such as Laybuy, Clear Pay and PayPal have entered the BNPL space, capitalising on the rising demand from consumers.

Auriemma Group’s latest research revealed a significant shift in borrowing preferences. Among credit cardholders, 20% would prefer to use a BNPL provider (e.g., Klarna) if they did not have enough funds available on hand, representing a 43% increase since November 2020. Meanwhile, the proportion of cardholders electing to borrow on their current credit card fell to 38%, representing a 17% decrease. The growing preference in using a BNPL product to borrow is largely attributable to older Gen Z and Millennial cardholders. Nearly three in ten (29%) say they would prefer to use BNPL when they do not have the funds to hand, compared to 25% who prefer using their credit card.

UK Neobanks are picking up on this trend, with Monzo and Curve announcing the launch of BNPL products last week, and Revolut expecting to follow suit. High Street banks such as Barclays have also expressed an interest to pursue a BNPL venture. But for the larger players bringing a product to market quickly is not easy, and with regulation coming from FCA by the end of 2022, time is of the essence.

“This shift in preference is leading some cardholders away from traditional credit solutions,” says Jaclyn Holmes, Director of Research at Auriemma Group. “Credit providers should evaluate their product sets to understand how they may need to adapt and differentiate in order to meet their customers’ evolving needs.”

Auriemma has seen credit card cancellations increase as consumers look to other payment and borrowing methods. 14% of credit cardholders have cancelled a card in the past 18 months, up from 8% in November 2020. And this proportion increases to 24% among those who have used a BNPL plan.

While BNPL has experienced significant growth, credit and debit are still the preferred payment choices. BNPL only captures 7% of total transactions while credit and debit capture far more (44% and 41%).  Issuers looking to meet growing consumer demand could integrate BNPL into new or existing credit card products, where there is interest from 43% of cardholders.

“As BNPL continues to grow in popularity we expect interest in credit card instalments to rise further,” says Holmes. “As we’ve seen in the US, this type of offering gives issuers a way to compete directly with BNPL providers without cannibalising their credit card portfolio.”

Survey Methodology

Cardbeat UK

This Auriemma Group study was conducted online within the UK by an independent field service provider on behalf of Auriemma in June 2021, among 800 adult credit cardholders. The number of interviews completed is sufficient to allow for statistical significance testing between sub-groups at the 95% confidence level ± 5%, unless otherwise noted. The purpose of the research was not disclosed nor did the respondents know the criteria for qualification. The average interview length was 21 minutes.

About Auriemma Group

For more than 30 years, Auriemma’s mission has been to empower clients with authoritative data and actionable insights. Our team comprises recognised experts in four primary areas: operational effectiveness, consumer research, co-brand partnerships, and corporate finance. Our business intelligence and advisory services give clients access to the data, expertise and tools they need to navigate an increasingly complex environment and maximise their performance. Auriemma serves the consumer financial services ecosystem from our offices in London and New York City. For more information, call Jaclyn Holmes at +44 (0) 207 629 0075.

(London, UK) COVID-19 has brought about many changes in consumer behaviour and issuer offerings. Auriemma Group’s 2020 Cardbeat UK Trend Report identified four areas where shifts were most prominent, highlighting the impact that the pandemic has had on the payment’s ecosystem for both financial institutions and cardholders alike.

1. New card acquisition, spend amounts and card usage have declined.

Cardholders were less engaged with their existing products and fewer sought new products compared to prior years. According to Auriemma’s research, new card acquisition dropped nearly 50%, with only 10% of UK credit cardholders in Q4-20 saying they acquired a new credit card in the past 18 months, down from 18% the same time the year prior.

“Consumers and issuers kept focus on current offerings,” says Jaclyn Holmes, Director at Auriemma Group. “During this period, issuers recognized their efforts were best spent building meaningful and productive engagement with their existing customers. For cardholders, it was critical that they got the most out of their existing products and kept on top of the various solutions that were being presented to them.”

Cardholder spend across payment methods declined from Q4-19 to Q4-20, coinciding with a drop in usage among heavy top of wallet card users. By the end of 2020, UK cardholders reported £854 in average monthly spend, down from £988 the year prior. Meanwhile, the proportion of cardholders who use their most frequently used card 20+ times in a typical month decreased over the same period (30% vs. 22%).

2. Types of rewards cards held shifted away from T&E and towards day-to-day rewards.

The impact of travel restrictions and stay-at-home guidance was felt most prominently in the T&E space. Over 2020, the types of rewards cards held shifted to align with new consumer spend patterns due to COVID-19. Ownership of supermarket co-brand (from 21% in July 2020 to 28% by November) and cash back cards (23% to 27%) rose, as co-branded airline (19% to 9%) and hotel card (5% to 2%) ownership trended down.

“While rewards card ownership shifted towards the end of 2020, and travel naturally became a lesser focus given the obvious limitations, our research found that most T&E cardholders still enjoy earning travel rewards” says Holmes. “These cardholders currently prefer redeeming their rewards for non-travel benefits, but we anticipate travel-centric redemption will bounce back as travel becomes more routine.”

Auriemma recently covered COVID-19’s impact on travel and consumer loyalty in-depth here.

3. Payment holidays became a commonplace issuer-provided relief option.

COVID-19 impacted some cardholders earning potential, leading issuers to develop payment accommodations, including payment holidays, for those unable to make their payments. Despite being a new concept to many, credit card payment holidays had strong consumer awareness by Q4-20 (94% aware), and nearly one-quarter of those offered the option took it.

Future interest was rather low (17%), signalling that the accommodation–which was intended to be a temporary, short-term solution–likely will not be missed post-pandemic. In fact, 58% of cardholders were ambivalent or would not be disappointed if payment holidays were no longer an option in the future.

“We’ve passed the March 31st deadline for cardholders to enrol in payment holidays, so issuers are now preparing for a possible increase in delinquency volume. Most cardholders aren’t expecting to rely on a future payment holiday, but there will be a group who aren’t able to jump back into their payments and will seek alternative accommodations to help make ends meet,” says Holmes.

The government has already shared guidance for such a program. Breathing Space, enacted May 4th of this year, provides a 60-day freezes on interest, fees and enforcement for people in problem debt. The program is expected to bring in £400 million in extra repayments in the first year, ultimately extending upon the improvements made with persistent debt figures throughout 2020.

Auriemma covered payment holidays and Breathing Space in greater detail here.

4. Reduced spend and focus on paying down balances led to fewer in persistent debt.

While shifting finances were a hallmark of COVID-19, reductions in spend and access to payment accommodations led some to improve their financial positions. Auriemma found that the number of cardholders in persistent debt decreased from 7% in Q4-19 to 3% by Q4-20, likely because cardholders were able to focus on paying down their balances without compounding interest slowing them down.

“COVID-19 had the potential to worsen persistent debt, but a combination of cardholder thriftiness and payment accommodations created an environment where consumers could improve their financial standing instead,” says Holmes. “However, as payment holidays come to an end and spend levels return to pre-pandemic levels, we’ll see if this change, along with the others that emerged in the shadow of COVID-19, is long-lasting or temporary.”

Survey Methodology

Cardbeat UK

This Auriemma Group study was conducted online within the UK by an independent field service provider on behalf of Auriemma in November 2020, among 845 adult credit cardholders. The number of interviews completed is sufficient to allow for statistical significance testing between sub-groups at the 95% confidence level ± 5%, unless otherwise noted. The purpose of the research was not disclosed nor did the respondents know the criteria for qualification. The average interview length was 21 minutes.

About Auriemma Group

For more than 30 years, Auriemma’s mission has been to empower clients with authoritative data and actionable insights. Our team comprises recognised experts in four primary areas: operational effectiveness, consumer research, co-brand partnerships, and corporate finance. Our business intelligence and advisory services give clients access to the data, expertise and tools they need to navigate an increasingly complex environment and maximise their performance. Auriemma serves the consumer financial services ecosystem from our offices in London and New York City. For more information, call Jaclyn Holmes at +44 (0) 207 629 0075.

(London, UK) Collections Departments faced unprecedented challenges throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, from embracing remote working to managing significant payment holiday volumes. And now, they must take action on HMT Breathing Space while transitioning from payment holidays. Auriemma Group’s Collections and Recoveries Roundtable has been discussing these events and their corresponding strategies amongst the UK’s top financial institutions. These two deadlines are quickly approaching, and along with the unpredictable macroeconomic environment, lenders must leverage learnings from the last year to prepare for the likely spike in volume ahead.

“Payment holidays have been the primary focus since the beginning of the pandemic, but with the extension of support schemes, that has now switched, and priority is on HMT Breathing Space,” says Louis Stevens, Director of Roundtables at Auriemma Group. “However, the payment holiday conclusion date is looming, which could mean a significant strain on Collections teams.”

In 2020, lenders quickly learned the need for automation and additional headcount to manage volume spikes, and they are now applying these learnings to prepare for the coming months. On average, lenders intend to increase their collections teams by 42% throughout 2021. Additionally, 86% of lenders have invested in their automated decisioning and digital channels to prepare for volume spikes.

Are Lenders Prepared for HMT Breathing Space?

On 4th May 2021 HMT Breathing Space (Debt Respite Scheme) will go into effect, giving consumers in problem debt the right to legal protections from their creditors. The Debt Respite Scheme has two paths: either through “standard problem debt” or through “a mental health crisis” referral. During this moratorium, lenders cannot communicate with customers and must stop interest from accruing.

According to Auriemma Group’s Collections and Recoveries Roundtable, as of April 1st,69% of lenders indicated that they feel somewhat prepared for the regulation, and the remaining 31% still feeling somewhat unprepared. There are a number of remaining concerns affecting preparedness, including the delay of the creditor portal, ambiguity in the regulation and unknown volumes.

To try to estimate the volume of customers who could potentially enrol in the scheme, lenders are utilising data from payment holidays, debt-advice charities and usage rates of other types of breathing space (e.g., CONC). They are also slightly increasing forecasts due to the worsening economy, payment holiday conclusions and the ceasing of furlough programs.

38% of lenders have already, or are planning to, increase their teams due to HMT Breathing Space. Initially, most lenders will use a combination of manual and automated processes to manage the regulation with the hopes of further automating as they get a better grasp on volumes.

How Will Payment Holiday Conclusions Affect Operations?

Although the deadline to enrol in payment holidays was 31st March, consumers have the option to extend their payment holidays until 31st July as long as it is within their six-month allowance for both secured and unsecured products. The number of customers returning to contractual payments after a payment holiday has remained strong; however, 92% of lenders are anticipating an increase in delinquency volumes following the conclusion of payment holidays.

“The primary watchout is the cohort of customers working in particularly hard-hit sectors, such as travel, tourism and food service. As the support ends for these sectors, we could see significant increases in delinquency volumes as many of these businesses are currently overstaffed,” says Stevens. “The magnitude of volume is contingent on the ability of the economy to bounce back and if predictions, such as the travel boom, come to fruition.”

Customers needing additional support will likely look to long-term forbearance plans, which have caused lenders to focus their attention on that process. Investments have been made in streamlining income and expenditure assessments and digitising the forbearance enrolment process as well as increasing the size of Vulnerable Customer teams.

Auriemma Group’s Collections and Recoveries Roundtable is tackling these challenges head on through our executive meetings, workshops and benchmarking exercises. Within the next three months, the group will be meeting six times with two sessions dedicated to HMT Breathing Space. If you are interested in attending any of these sessions, please reach out via roundtables@auriemma.group.

About Auriemma Group

For more than 30 years, Auriemma’s mission has been to empower clients with authoritative data and actionable insights. Our team comprises recognised experts in four primary areas: operational effectiveness, consumer research, co-brand partnerships, and corporate finance. Our business intelligence and advisory services give clients access to the data, expertise and tools they need to navigate an increasingly complex environment and maximise their performance. Auriemma serves the consumer financial services ecosystem from our offices in London and New York City. For more information, call Louis Stevens at +44 (0) 207 629 0075.

(London, UK) Perceptions of loyalty points and miles redemptions has shifted in the wake of COVID-19. The lack of opportunity to travel since the beginning of COVID-19 is eroding the appeal of travel-related benefits from UK loyalty programmes. According to Auriemma’s latest research, 76% of credit cardholders enrolled in a loyalty scheme prefer to use their loyalty rewards for non-travel benefits. Meanwhile, only 35% of programme members intend to use their points or miles for travel-related benefits in 2021.

But how has this change in behaviour been impacting loyalty programmes, and how quickly, if at all, will these patterns return to previous norms?

The large volume of unused loyalty points mean high levels of financial exposure for brands on their balance sheets, which can cause a serious headache for company CFOs. Brands with loyalty programmes which are modelled heavily around offering travel redemptions, such as British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Hilton Honors or Marriott Bonvoy, are at the highest risk in this scenario. As evidenced in April and May 2020 when Hilton Honors sold $1 billion Honors Points to American Express, and Marriot Bonvoy sold a similar $920 million points to American Express and JP Morgan Chase to build up much needed cash flow and reduce their points liability. This is only a temporary fix, however, and with travel restrictions still in place one year later, the problem of over-exposure persists for brands.

Some loyalty schemes have expanded their partnership approach to maintain member engagement and relevance. IAG Loyalty’s recent partnership with Nectar in January 2021 allows the direct  transfers of points between the two schemes providing low value redemptions to BA Executive Club members, also demonstrated with the launch of Virgin Red in November 2020 and its partnership with Greggs. Despite the apparent strengths of these partnerships, they can present poorer value to consumers which will test the theory as to how viable they are in the longer term, once travel restarts.

There remains hope as Auriemma found that 55% of consumers still enjoy earning travel rewards through their loyalty programme or credit card, many with plans to redeem these for travel-related benefits as soon as possible. With the continued effectiveness of UK’s vaccine rollout and the subsequent easing of restrictions, a return to travel could be around the corner.

“Now is the time for issuers and loyalty programmes to focus on member and cardholder engagement,” says Kate Morgan, Head of International Partnerships at Auriemma Group. “As consumer confidence in the ability to travel rises, the appeal of redeeming hard-earned points for bookings should, too. We have seen that delivering relevant, personalised offers and marketing is key, along with cancellation options that give customers the assurances they need to complete the booking process.”

While foreign holidays remain less of a certainty than domestic travel this summer, the airlines face a larger challenge than hotels who have a greater ability to turn the focus inwards on UK stays and vacations. Premier Inn owner Whitbread, UK’s largest hospitality company, is bracing for strong summer demand.  Nevertheless, as most hotel programmes exist without the cushion of commercial partnerships with non-travel-related loyalty schemes, the reopening of UK hotels might be the only opportunity for a profitable 2021.

“The nation eagerly awaits more clarity on the government’s foreign travel policy beginning on 17th May 2021,” says Kate, “and fingers crossed it is good news for the travel industry and the thousands of employees within this sector.”

Survey Methodology

Cardbeat UK

This Auriemma Group study was conducted online within the UK by an independent field service provider on behalf of Auriemma in November 2020, among 845 adult credit cardholders. The number of interviews completed is sufficient to allow for statistical significance testing between sub-groups at the 95% confidence level ± 5%, unless otherwise noted. The purpose of the research was not disclosed nor did the respondents know the criteria for qualification. The average interview length was 21 minutes.

About Auriemma Group

For more than 30 years, Auriemma’s mission has been to empower clients with authoritative data and actionable insights. Our team comprises recognised experts in four primary areas: operational effectiveness, consumer research, co-brand partnerships, and corporate finance. Our business intelligence and advisory services give clients access to the data, expertise and tools they need to navigate an increasingly complex environment and maximise their performance. Auriemma serves the consumer financial services ecosystem from our offices in London and New York City. For more information, call Kate Morgan at +44 (0) 207 629 0075.

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