The reaction in the national press last week to the news that government-owned Northern Rock Asset Management and Bradford & Bingley is offering advice to borrowers who may be facing repossession was staggering.
NRAM and B&B’s holding company UK Asset Resolution is contacting borrowers getting behind with their finances. The news came about from an interview with the Yorkshire Post in which UKAR’s chief executive Richard Banks said it was contacting borrowers and warning them that they needed to consider what their most important debt was.
Obviously it is self-serving on UKAR’s part in ensuring that arrears and repossessions at its brands don’t spike. And if people are that bad at managing debt it’s fair enough to question whether Northern Rock or B&B should have given them a mortgage. But UKAR has been attacked for advising on spending habits – is a lender ringing up a borrower and discussing their debt that bad? What do people think happens when someone gets into difficulties and has to see a debt adviser?
The cartoon that accompanied the Daily Mail’s front page splash on the story last week pictured a couple outside a clothing shop. The man is holding up his mobile phone to show a text message on it to his wife. The caption reads – “It’s from Northern Rock saying don’t even think about it”.
Pretty funny but the reality is we live in a consumer society and for many of us what we buy is what defines us. Practicalities such as paying the mortgage can easily be forgotten.
All of us at some point have a voice at the back of our heads telling us not to buy something. UKAR is just providing a service for those who fail to listen to it.