Debt collection agency launches ABS

Debts collected: 1.65m claimed in 10 years

A north of England debt collection agency has launched an alternative business structure (ABS) to bring litigation in-house after commercial clients demanded a “seamless cradle-to-grave service”.

Sheffield-based Credit Style, which offers a range of debt-related services, claimed on its website to have undertaken 1.65m debt collection activities to date, after 10 years in business.

Credit Style Limited was granted the ABS licence by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) at the beginning of September.

The head of legal practice and legal services director is solicitor Jackie McGuirk, who was admitted in 1988. The head of finance and administration is operations director Richard Martin.

Mr Martin told Legal Futures the ABS aimed “to continue the service that we already supply but do it from our internal resources rather than through partnerships with law firms”.

Until it was brought in-house, the firm’s litigation was handled by 31-partner Yorkshire law firm HLW Keeble Hawson, which has offices in Sheffield, Leeds and Doncaster.

He said there was “quite a high demand for debt litigation”, adding: “We’ve got lots of clients that see that as an integral part of their credit management policies and they want to know they can have a seamless and cost-effective approach… rather than having to move from one company to another company and have delays and breakages in the process, as it were.

“That’s what we’ve set out to achieve – a full cradle-to-grave process that uses all of the tools available.”

He said Ms McGuirk was currently the only solicitor, but “we’ve got a number of graduates going through further education and training right now, so we should have a number of qualified individuals in the not too distant future”.

The firm’s website states that in addition to having an on-site solicitor, the firm has a number of legal executives. All money claims are issued through the County Court Bulk Centre in Northampton.

Mr Martin said he was confident Credit Style’s ABS would “expand organically” given the client demand.

He would consider making it available to external clients, including other collection agencies: “It’s not part of the current strategy but I can see the synergy and it’s something we would always be open to discuss.”

He said the SRA application process was made easier because the company had in the past obtained a consumer credit licence from the Financial Conduct Authority, which meant “we’ve already invested quite heavily in regulation and compliance and there’s some good… similarities between that and the SRA requirement”.

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