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How to help clients deal with bad debt



South Africa: 11 August 2020: 10 million South Africans have bad debt according to the Debt Counselling Association. Debt Rescue further reports that 85% of South Africans are in need of help financially, emotionally or both, right now. In a dire economic climate, intermediaries can play a pivotal role in guiding clients by offering practical, objective advice when it comes to credit and a holistic financial plan. 

Ayanda Ndimande, Business Development Manager of Retail Credit at Sanlam, says most intermediaries are cognisant of their clients’ financial needs right now and play a very supportive role, both financially and emotionally. She notes, though, that there is much benefit to be derived from also proactively assisting clients through tough credit conversations. “The loss of income and jobs has resulted in a depletion of savings and investments. People need guidance on what to do. Intermediaries can offer substantial value by guiding clients on how to manage credit effectively as part of a bigger, long-term strategy.” 

 Below, Ndimande highlights some practical steps intermediaries can consider to help their clients deal with bad debt: 

1. Analyse your client’s credit position

As an intermediary, shift your focus to address the other side your clients’ balance sheet by critically analysing their credit position during the financial planning process. This will enable you to make recommendations to your client on how to grow or retain wealth. Importantly, not all debt is bad and a thorough analysis can, indeed, help your clients to understand their credit position from all angles. 

However, when people are so far in the red that they are no longer able to service debt comfortably and run the risk of cancelling crucial financial products like life cover or retirement planning, then it’s time to take action. Using budgeting as a tool and possible debt consolidation can free up cash flow. In drastic situations, a client may benefit from a debt management process. Also consider advising clients to speak to their creditors to make arrangements that they can afford.

2. Remind your clients of your services and how you can be off assistance

Intermediaries know the importance of remaining in contact with their clients during uncertain times. Proactively reach out to people to address their concerns and help to reprioritise their finances. By understanding your clients’ credit profiles, you gain an overall perspective on their financial position to offer optimal guidance in the circumstances. By providing trusted advice timeously, you may help your clients to emerge from this period still financially secure, even if that means putting savings or investment goals on hold for a while. 

3. Educate your clients about engagement of digital platforms

Encourage your clients to take control of money matters by knowing their credit position. Guide them to access their credit profile via Sanlam’s newly launched credit dashboard. This provides an insightful credit profile, a credit dashboard to track one’s financial journey, and free access to a credit management coach. Together with this coach, you can powerfully impact your client’s financial wellbeing, now and in the long-term. 

Ndimande concludes, “The pandemic has taught us to view financial management in a holistic manner, and to consider credit as an essential part of our finances. Now, more than ever, people need holistic guidance from their intermediaries to know their credit position and to apply the tools to actively address debt, through practical, incremental steps.”