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Hoist Finance is a debt purchaser, specialising in non-performing debts, primarily from banks or financial institutions. It is based in Sweden and has a presence throughout Europe, including the UK, Germany, Poland, France, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Austria.
Anders Wallin has been CIO since 2012, starting with the goal to update the company so it could manage its plans for growth – expansion that has seen it increase from about 350 to 1,700 employees. “I think it's also interesting that we come from an investment volume of about 50 million euros in 2011 to where we are now at 450 million euros,” Wallin adds. Another key task that Wallin was brought in to achieve was to support entry onto the Swedish stock market, and it is now listed on Nasdaq Stockholm Mid-Cap list.
Wallin is responsible for four pillars within Hoist Finance: IT-Service, which manages IT service operations from an end-to-end perspective; Business Applications, which is responsible for system development, datawarehouse architecture, and business applications; Group Analytics and the central Project Management Office, which oversees all projects within Hoist. The organisation is federated with about 40 group staff and 40 local staff.
Wallin describes Hoist Finance as ‘an information-driven, technology-based company.’ And both the data and the tech have been pivotal in its success. “A lot of things we are doing are based on analytics, using big data to understand how we should address our customers and how we should position ourself in our markets.”
Hoist Finance uses technology to collect and examine vast amounts of data about its customers, ultimately meaning that it knows how to increase the chances that they pay back their debts. Hoist Finance advocates the benefits of amicable settlements which allow customers to take control of their own situation, and to take the leap from debt trap to re-established creditworthiness.
The quantity of data is dealt with by two data centres that Wallin set up while streamlining the IT infrastructure, one in Germany and one in the UK. He adds: “We also set up centralised contracts with selected providers of infrastructure, because otherwise we would be facing a problem with lots of different companies providing services to us. The changes mean we can actually close down and fire up a new office with very, very little notice, and quickly scale while keeping profitability intact.”
Hoist Finance holds sensitive financial information for millions of people and makes use of this data in various ways. “One way is to support our investment team in calculating the actual price or what they should pay for the next investment price, that's important. Then, of course, we also use the information to improve our own processes in our collection centres to ensure that we're working in the most efficient way. Our Analytics team plays a key role in creating and sustaining a lean organisation. It lets us draw extreme amounts of information in a smart and high-quality way. Then the production performance feeds into our data that we then use for pricing and you have this whole process of managing data. There is a lot of automatic big data management but a lot of R&D behind it as well,” Wallin explains.
The company is always considering new ways it can use its data, says Wallin.
“We look at the possibilities to use our data in a different way, to see how we can use the technologies that are out there to work differently with our customers or just internally. That’s part of the normal process and development that we have in Business Applications, Group Analytics, and utilising recent technology developments.”
Keeping the data secure is another critical part of Wallin’s role. He says: “We are not just, in a traditional way, building protection around our information, we're also working proactively with information security and our assets, that's why we haven't outsourced the IT on that level, we're protective of our central data. We do penetration tests on a regular basis, it's not a once-a-year activity, we do it continuously and, of course, we try to understand what kind of threats we may be facing and build our security proactively based on that.”
Hoist’s clients are primarily banks and larger financial institutions, but its customers are the people that are in debt. Wallin says: “I think it's very important to point out that we work mainly through what we call amicable collections. We actually set up a payment plan over a longer period of time with the customer, which is easier and fairer for them to manage.” The staff at Hoist are tasked with finding out who can pay, who wants to pay and how much they can pay. Wallin adds: “We aspire to protect them from paying more than they can handle, which would compromise their ability to stick to the agreed payment plan.”
Hoist uses technology to analyse the best ways to communicate with customers – when they are available and when will be the best time to contact them. “To be able to understand that you need to have some behavioural patterns and the systems need to understand when it's time to attempt contact. So, that's one part that technology can play.” Speech analytics and quality management technologies are also used, so that Hoist can make sure customers are being treated well. Wallin says: “We all benefit from the customers having a good experience.”