Better by definition – a blog by Philip King FCICM
13 April 2017
A couple of weeks has passed now since the first Credit Week which the CICM was delighted to support. There were some great events throughout the week and it was a pleasure to be involved in many of them. One of the interesting outcomes for me was the confirmation, from numerous conversations with colleagues from across the industry and across the globe, that our industry and profession is changing.
We’ve seen an increasing trend in recent times away from the ‘traditional’ Credit Manager and Credit Controller roles to be replaced by a plethora of different job titles. I’m sure one of the reasons for this is the imaginative and innovative approach from HR professionals who like to be creative. A more compelling explanation, however, is that it reflects the approach many businesses are taking to their organisational structure and working methodology.
I talked in the April issue of Credit Management magazine about our work in defining the credit management career journey. For all areas of credit, the life-cycle of credit management can be segregated into three sections. The first involves risk assessment, negotiating credit terms and transaction authorisation, and building the relationship. The second encompasses the transactional activity such as issuing agreement documentation, invoicing, resolving disputes, collecting payment, and allocating cash receipts. The third involves debt recovery activity, litigation, and insolvency. Finally, cutting across all three areas is that of compliance.
Set against this backdrop, job roles involve those at an operational level, those supervising and leading teams, and those managing departments and setting strategy. Alongside these more hierarchical layers, there are those who are advanced or senior practitioners. We need to put behind us the thinking that suggests the only way to progress is to become a manager. We’ve all seen examples of a superb salesman (or collector, or project lead) who just isn’t cut out to manage the team and probably doesn’t want to. The skills of these people are more technical and less ‘management’.
The job previously described as Credit Manager or Credit Director may now be Head of Order to Cash, or Director of Risk, or Global Revenue Team Lead. The role of Credit Controller may have become Customer Relationship Advisor, or Retail Debt Administrator, or Field Risk Account Manager. I’ve never got hung up on job titles; it’s the role and the contribution that count, and if we’re moving towards an era when the job title more closely and accurately reflects what someone does, that can only be a good thing.
The increasing levels of specialism mean that some individuals may not want to take a generalist qualification and will prefer specialist units that apply directly to their role, skills, and aspirations. Others, who aim to become leaders involved in strategy and more general management, will still want the sort of qualification I took in 1980! I’m pleased that the development of CICM qualifications over recent years has ensured we meet the requirements of both groups. Whichever way a role is described and however specialist it might be, the importance of complementing experience with knowledge demonstrated through qualifications cannot be over-estimated.
Whatever area of credit we are involved in, be it consumer credit cards or huge machine sales in a B2B environment, we have to recognise that the traditional approach to jobs and careers is evolving. It will change further with the introduction and development of artificial intelligence and robotic process automation. Ultimately, much of the work carried out today will no longer need human intervention, and the benefit will be the opportunity to use individuals’ skills to much greater effect. That will mean allowing those with particular skills to progress further up the career ladder as they bring more and more to the role. What about, instead of the steps involving Assistant, Clerk, Team Leader, Supervisor, Manager, Director, replacing them with titles that recognise and reflect the skill and expertise. It would be interesting to see an advert for a Brown Belt Credit Analyst or a Red Belt Account Administrator.