02 May 2024
by Tom Sharman, Simon Johnson

Community Voice: Simon Johnson

In the latest episode of the Chartered Institute of Credit Management's (CICM) "Community Voice" Series, Simon Johnson, Director of UK Credit Management for SIG, a European construction material distributor, shares his insights on the past, present, and future of credit management. 

While SIG boasts over a billion in turnover and manages over 1 million transactions annually, Simon emphasizes that his team's focus goes beyond just numbers.

Building a Proactive Approach

Early in his career, Simon implemented a system called PEAP (People, Environment, Accounts & Processing) to proactively manage credit issues. This daily huddle, similar to modern practices, addressed people-related challenges, the business environment, specific customer accounts, and credit processes. This focus on proactivity and open communication is a hallmark of successful credit management teams.


Credit as a Customer Service Champion

Simon challenges the traditional view of credit management as a cost center.  He argues that credit teams play a crucial role in the customer journey, handling tens of thousands of customer interactions each month. By prioritizing customer service skills when hiring, credit teams can contribute significantly to a company's Net Promoter Scores.

Furthermore, Simon highlights the unique position credit managers hold within a company.  They are often at the center of customer interactions and have a deep understanding of customer needs and potential challenges.  This knowledge allows them to advocate for customers and even connect them with additional financing solutions, especially when banks may be hesitant.

The Rise of AI and the Evolving Skillset

The future of credit management, according to Simon, will be heavily influenced by Artificial Intelligence (AI).  While AI will likely automate many of the current tasks credit managers perform, it won't replace them entirely. Instead, credit managers will need to develop new skillsets, such as data analytics, to work alongside AI and extract valuable insights from the data.

A Noteworthy Achievement: CICMQ Accreditation

One of Simon's proudest achievements is being one of the first in securing the CICMQ accreditation for his team at SIG. This rigorous accreditation demonstrates the team's commitment to the highest standards in credit management practices, further solidifying their position as industry leaders.

Embracing Change and Owning Your Expertise

As AI and technology continue to reshape the credit management landscape, there will inevitably be change.  Simon acknowledges that some may fear this change, while others will see it as an opportunity.  For credit managers, the opportunity lies in becoming customer service experts.  They can leverage their unique understanding of the customer journey and business needs to become trusted advisors within the organisation.  Simon encourages credit managers to "sell themselves" and advocate for the value they bring to the table.

Key Takeaways and Looking Forward

This interview with Simon Johnson offers valuable insights for credit management professionals. Here are some key takeaways:

  • Credit management plays a crucial role in customer service and the overall customer journey.
  • Hiring for customer service skills is essential for building a successful credit team.
  • AI will transform credit management, requiring credit managers to develop data analysis skills.
  • Credit managers can become customer service experts and trusted advisors within their organisations.
  • Obtaining CICMQ accreditation signifies a commitment to excellence in credit management practices.