An industry worth investigating

With the nation’s finances on a tightrope, Managing Director Godfrey Lancashire explains how London House International is providing a safety net by tracing and securing any ‘lost’ funds

Well, are we out of recession? The GDP is showing a miserly 0.2 per cent increase, the average household debt is £55,862, the Citizens Advice Bureau is dealing with 9,072 new debt cases each working day and 1,271 people are being made redundant daily.

Staggeringly the banks and building societies are writing off £20.71million of loans every day, according to loan and credit debt help charity, Credit Action. What will happen when interest rates rise even by 0.25 per cent or 0.5 per cent? How many more mortgages will slip into default?

At London House we are asked by our clients every day to visit their customers and discover their latest financial picture to help achieve negotiated outcomes. The vast majority want to adhere to structured repayment programmes. Some, of course, try to hide – literally – and that is where the skills of London House come into their own – finding people who are avoiding their creditors and responsibilities and locating assets that have not been declared.

Our industry was given some 18 million cases last year where clients did not have an up to date address for their customer. Many were living where they had always done but had just returned the envelope ‘Gone Away’ or ‘Return to Sender’. Is everything always as it seems? At London House, the motto is ‘Never Assume’.

We are now being asked: “In view of the current spotlight on the investigation industry, why are you different from investigators working for the news media?”

This is a good question and one that I feel will be put not only to ourselves but also to a number of other reputable investigators in the UK.

Our industry is highly regulated and we are governed by the Data Protection Act 1988, Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), Human Rights Act (HRA), the OFT, OFCOM, the FSA and our own industry Code of Practice, as members of the Credit Services Association. It is important that London House maintains its integrity in the industry and, therefore, we are happy to adhere to these regulations. It is important for our own reputation but also that of our clients. As is currently being seen, reputational risk is not to be ignored.

There are legal and ethical boundaries to be respected and this has clearly not happened with the News of the World case. We are asked, on occasion, what can we do with mobile phone numbers (we can only call them!), National Insurance numbers, passport numbers, bank account details and the simple answer is “nothing”. It is illegal for us to try and access these records or to obtain subject information using these records.

Nor are we swayed by the fees paid for this illegal activity. No amount of money is worth me, or our team, spending our days enjoying the hospitality at one of Her Majesty’s establishments.