By Phil Andrew, CEO
This week, it has been my absolute pleasure to unveil our new StepChange organisational strategy for the years to 2025. Originally planned to launch last year, uncertainties in the debt advice funding landscape gave us cause to pause, until in the end we decided that we could wait no longer to set out our ambitions.
Even since the final draft was penned, we’ve seen the emergence of worse cost of living pressures than almost anyone had anticipated, so uncertainty continues (among other things, this will influence the range of solutions that might be available to people, which in turn influences our sources of funding). However, as we always say to our clients — you are not alone. We won’t be the only debt advice organisation out there seeking to chart a course through choppy waters. Our strategy is specifically designed to help StepChange be resilient to uncertainty.
In some ways, despite the horror of the pandemic, Covid has prepared us well. It’s easy to forget that just two short years ago, we worked so differently and our clients had not yet felt the full force of change that the pandemic wreaked on many household finances. Now, having worked at pace to manage and adapt to those times, the lessons we’ve learned along the way have significantly influenced our future roadmap.
Our new strategy covers five main areas:
1. We will put our clients and their needs at the heart of everything we do
2. We will empower our people, and further develop their skills
3. We will deliver value for money in a changing funding landscape
4. We will listen to and collaborate with our growing network of partners
5. We will campaign to stop people falling into problem debt, and help them recover if they do.
These look like simple statements — and at heart, they are. Yet the workstreams that underpin them, that we will be following over the next few years to deliver the results we seek, cover significant ground and potentially profound change.
For example, “putting our clients and their needs at the heart of everything we do” isn’t just the restatement of an organisational mantra. Lift the lid, and what you see is a fundamental review of our advice policy, of our client journey, of considering how both telephone and online clients can change channel as they wish so they get not just the right outcomes, but also the right experience and the right feed in to any other services they may need, especially if they have other vulnerabilities.
It also means looking at the way in which we nurture and care for clients, whether they interact with us on a one-off basis or are on a managed solution with us for years. It means making sure we have the information and analysis we need, building a rich understanding of client experience and the performance of our wide range of solutions, to inform how we keep building better outcomes and continuously reducing failure rates. It means understanding the profile of our client base to make sure we are serving the entire community. It means ensuring that client insight and voices influence the changes we make and the changes we seek from others. It means trying to make sure that our communications and our approach help clients to build future financial resilience where possible. Ultimately, it means getting as many clients as we possibly can debt-free over time.
Our colleagues within StepChange have shown remarkable resilience throughout the pandemic but times continue to be tough. So, it is incumbent upon us to care for and show consideration to the mental health and emotional needs of our StepChange family, who jump out of bed every day to make a difference. Central to the strategy is this core of respect for and empowerment of our colleagues, to ensure StepChange is a great place to work and an employer of choice across the UK.
One thing is certain, even though the world is not. Our strategy will only succeed by working with the goodwill and collaboration of many others, not just our funders. It’s important to say here that providing high quality debt advice isn’t itself a competition, goodness knows there are more than enough people who need help and advice to keep the entire sector busy. However, I emphasise the words high quality here; the sooner the scam ad generators and dodgy mis-sellers exit the market the better. Although funding is competitive, the way in which we work together needs to be collaborative and focused on delivering better client experiences and outcomes. We’ll be doing our utmost here to practise what we preach, and we look forward to it.
I would love to know what you think of our strategy — you can reach me on email@example.com.