Recently, members of the R2 team caught up with other insolvency practitioners and solicitors at our annual Scottish conference, which is a more entertaining event than it sounds! Over the course of the conference, the conversation covered all the normal topics of how the market in our various parts of the country was, what impact Brexit uncertainty was having, and a few war stories from recent cases that were worthy of some discussion.
However, over dinner, chance put us at a table where we were surrounded by people we knew well through our work, and so having had the above conversations with them many times, our conversation moved in a different direction, and onto the subject of why we do what we do.
The general perception of the insolvency profession seems to be that the work must be depressing, in that we are dealing with businesses and individuals that are struggling financially, under huge amounts of stress, and often having to deliver nothing but bad news to employees losing their jobs and creditors who will not receive all their money back, and potentially will receive nothing back, which will only add to their own business / personal stress.
It is hard to argue with that view. Regrettably a significant amount of our time is spent on such issues, and only the hardest of hearts can manage to deal with such issues and leave them at the office when they go home. Those at the table agreed that the negative side of the work we undertake does impact on them personally to some degree.
So back to the question – why we do what we do? For us, the answer is simple: we love to help people. Insolvency events are never easy, but what they inevitably do is draw a line in the sand, crystallising the issues causing stress and worry, and providing the opportunity to move on from them to, hopefully, a better future.
It can be difficult to see that in some scenarios, but it is always there. Employees losing their jobs is a tough one to see the “good side” of – but the reality is that these events arise at a time when they have to happen, so if we accept that, then the “good side” is making sure people are dealt with professionally and with dignity, carrying out work that allows our welfare state to provide some financial recompense to them that otherwise would not be available, and giving them complete clarity on their position rather than being kept in the dark and worrying about what happens next.
Even the legal arguments that we get into have their “good side”, as we get the opportunity to hold people to account for wrongdoings that impact on others and get some of the creditors’ money back.
Across the team, we have lost count of the number of times we have sat in a meeting with an individual who is struggling financially, scared to open the mail as it inevitably includes some letter in red ink telling them how much money they have to pay someone, or answering the telephone to someone chasing for an overdue payment. The impact of a life lived like this on the individual’s mental health cannot be underestimated, and in extreme cases but sadly not isolated cases, with tragic consequences.
However, again it can be the black hole of uncertainty that is the most scary, and once they understand the insolvency process, the immediate and longer term impact it will have on their life – and most importantly that there is life after insolvency – a light is shone on the black hole and suddenly it isn’t actually as scary as previously thought.
Our table agreed that the good work that our profession does to support businesses and individuals all too often goes unnoticed by the world at large. The threat of a business closing, and the potential redundancy of dozens of employees, sells papers and makes for clickbait on social media. It is no wonder the world views our profession as depressing.
There doesn’t seem to be an appetite to tell the story of the family struggling with credit card debts, personal loans and council tax arrears, young children, one of which was severely disabled which meant that the couple had to work reduced hours to deal with the needs of their son (a true story). Whilst the wider issue of whether there should have been more support for that family in the period that led up to their bankruptcy is beyond the remit of an insolvency practitioner, one of our team was able to help them go through the bankruptcy process, allowing them to repay only what they could afford over a set period, and letting them get on with their lives without constant worry about what the postman would be bringing them today or who was making that call where the number wasn’t recognised.
This article finishes with a plea – if you are struggling with financial problems, please take advice. You will find that if you approach someone properly licenced and experienced in dealing with these situations, they will not be sitting in judgement of you and your business or personal decisions, but rather be keen to help you find a solution to your problems, and if the reality is that an insolvency process is the answer, then they will be looking to carry that process out with a focus on dealing with everyone involved professionally and with appropriate empathy.
The Corporate Insolvency team at Anderson Anderson & Brown have combined experience of 50 years in dealing with these matters, and with the wider AAB team’s experience in every conceivable area of business the length and breadth of the country, we are clear that we can provide advice specific to any problem you may encounter – you only have to ask.
By Nicola Rollings, Restructuring and Recovery Senior Manager at Anderson Anderson & Brown LLP
For more information about Nicola and the rest of the Restructuring team, click here.