DCASA Conference Round Up
The Debt Counsellors Association of South Africa held their annual members conference in Gauteng on the 23rd of August 2023.
The annual DCASA event was well attended by hundreds of Debt Counsellors and many credit providers, PDAs, the NCR, NCT and many others.
A Day of Debt Review & Debt Counselling
All who attended the Annual DCASA conference were well aware that debt review is an amazing process that has helped hundreds of thousands of consumers deal with their debt in a responsible and manageable manner. Many of the guests have been in the industry since 2007 when the National Credit Act first introduced debt counselling.
The audience was a mix of the Debt Counsellors who are assisting consumers and the credit providers who work hand in hand with these Debt Counsellors in making arrangements to help these consumers.
The annual DCASA conference is primarily aimed at association members and gives these members a chance to network with one another, engage with various credit providers and industry service providers who were present.
The conference also offers members updates on what the association has been doing over the last 12 months to help make members’ lives better.
This the conference was held at the Birchwood Hotel & OR Tambo Conference Centre.
This was the same venue as was used last year. The venue is easy to reach, has plenty of parking and is spacious. It feels less crowded and confined than previous venue choices.
Guests were arriving from 7:30am as the, long, day got off to an early start with much information to cover.
Speeches, Updates & Presentations
After a few humorous words from the MC for the day Mr. Lew Williams the day kicked off with an official welcome from Mr Reinhard Pettenberger (DCASA President). Reinhard is a long time Debt Counsellor (his practice is known as Debt Therapy) and is well known for being passionate about protecting the industry from rouge elements that undermine the reputation of the process.
Reinhard then handed over to Mr John Nickols who specializes in assisting people with trauma and anxiety counselling. Most of the guests reported that this was their favourite presentation of the day.
John is a trauma counsellor who is quick to take his clients to also engage with a Debt Counsellor. This is because of the link between out of control finances and stress levels.
John discussed the various causes of and reactions to trauma and stress and drew a direct link to dealing with debt. He highlighted that the flight or fight reaction kicks in when consumers deal with such pressures. He also discussed how some people get stuck, unable to process the challenges on their hands.
Through an account of a troubled clients who he met in the past he highlighted how trauma counselling and Debt Counselling go hand in hand. The experience spoke to many in the audience who could relate.
Then it was time for an industry update which was handled by Reinhard. The indepth update looked at several ongoing topics such as meeting with credit providers (as an association) and what is happening at the NCR’s Credit Industry Forum.
Reinhard reported that as of January 2023 the CIF are only discussing 3 topics including DCRS enhancements (to handle things like really big long term loans from banks) and DC Fees. There is some interplay between the fees and how DCRS works so it is wise to try work on these topics at the same time. Still without clarity on fees there may be delays addressing DCRS changes. One big change being worked on is DCRS handling massive loans (like those now offered by SBSA) that may take longer than 60 months to repay.
Reinhard also discussed statistics as shared by the NCR about the industry. For example, it is said that there are around 1554 active Debt Counsellors at present. The NCR say that since 2007 over 1.8 Million people have applied for help through debt review (interestingly the credit bureaus stats are off by about 400 000 people there). At present just over 200 000 people are using a PDA to pay off their debts.
Since 2007 the average aftercare fee paid to Debt Counsellors by a client each month is R300 putting the average debt repayment somewhere around R6150. While those are interesting stats there were no recent stats looking at the last 12 months for example. Rather this is everyone ever since 2007 averaged together.
DCASA have been busy meeting with various credit providers about various topics (such as the much disliked Capitec Bank advertising about debt review). DCASA have also met with MFSA and Imas (who were very helpful and have since made some significant changes to their processes to align better with the 2009 NCR task Team agreement).
DCASA is also working with VCCB credit bureau to offer members the opportunity to provide consumers with free credit bureau reports. This initiative can also help identify some consumers who may need debt review help.
Also revealed was a small R50 increase coming in membership fees, there will be more coming webinars and a booklet to help new members. The DCASA NEC and team have been very busy it seems.
Economist Mr Siphamandla Mkhwanazi discussed local and economic factors that are causing the financial stress being experienced by consumers and mulled over what may happen next. He anticipates that the rather sluggish economy will continue to further hinder employment recovery this year and that next year may not be much better. The bottom line is that, while there are opportunities for improvement there are also many factors which may play against recovery. With elections coming next year we can be sure of some excitement and plenty political manoeuvring. The DCASA conference was happening at the same time as the BRIC conference not to far off in Sandton, Gauteng.
Guests then had some time to engage with the various credit providers and suppliers to the industry who were exhibiting at the event. Debtfree Magazine was, of course, on hand to offer to help Debt Counsellors educate and inform their clients at no cost.
Then there were some practical reminders by Social Media Manager Yolanda Fourie about the digital side of Debt Counsellors businesses. Though the material in the presentation was perhaps not new to anyone at the conference it did highlight that with billions of people online and on social media businesses who do no have a online strategy are falling behind.
Due to the fee structure as suggested by the National Credit Regulator for the debt review process (which most DCASA members use) Debt Counsellors constantly need to take on more clients to remain profitable. So, a big topic at such gatherings is how do you find new people to help. Western Cape Branch Representative Ms Nadia de Weerdt encouraged members to grow their business from within and to embrace what makes them unique to find their unique clients. Each Debt Counsellors should find their own unique angle to leverage their skills and only by applying your authentic self to your practice will you be both happy and grow.
Then it was time for some lunch at the near by food hall. This also offered the opportunity to network and catch up some more.
The next presentation received something a mixed response from the audience as Mr Pieter van Zyl spoke about how debt review and sequestration. He spent a little time discussing the differences between debt review, sequestration and voluntary surrender of estate. He then discussed voluntary surrender of estate in some detail. Of the three he seemed most in favour of voluntary surrender of estate over other options.
After a whole day of interacting between the various Debt Counsellors and credit providers many guests had specific questions that they wanted to see addressed (such as: can we have more declaratory orders and what do we do when we can’t get a paid up letter for such and such reason?)
These questions were posed to a wide panel of industry specialists from the NCT, NCT, credit providers, Debtfree Magazine, Debt Counsellors, Credit Bureaus and Attorneys.
While not every item was addressed to everyone’s satisfaction (some matters were better suited to other forums), an attempt was made by those on the panel to at least try and answer the questions. Many further conversations and follow ups will happen based on the Q&A session. So, it was a great success overall and a nice part of the day.
Generous sponsors such as DCCP, DC Partner, Hyphen PDA, Maximus and others gave out small prizes to guests throughout the day (between presentations).
At the end of the day as guests prepared to head home or to hang out for the evening and relax there was a flurry of prize handouts.
Many guests had left business cards in bowls or completed a form etc to enter these competitions during the day.
So, the day ended with a little bit of excitement. And that was before anyone got dressed in an inflatable Sumo suit. Then the fun and games really began.