Social

We understand and respond to the needs of our people and customers

At Arrow, we take our sustainability responsibilities seriously. Under our social programmes we aim to understand and respond to the needs of all our employees and customers, but we also extend this responsibility to the communities in which we operate.


For our employees, the unprecedented events of 2020 tested our resolve and put our culture under the spotlight, but we are delighted that we have weathered an unprecedented crisis in the best way possible.

From the beginning of the pandemic, we mobilised our business continuity plans across the Group, focusing on the wellbeing of our people and compliance with government guidelines. This meant moving all our employees to remote working, within three weeks, and ensuring we provided the right equipment and support. With no certainty to how long the pandemic would last, we also began a significant change programme, Arrow Everywhere, to support longer-term remote working and the retention of benefits such as increased work-life balance, no daily commute and greater flexibility. We will do this through a hybrid home-office model as we look towards the future.

Encouragingly, when questioned via the Leesman Employee Experience survey, over 90% of our people reported working productively from home and 80% noted a healthy work-life balance. This gave us confidence that our employees were resilient to the demands of remote working and comfortable with our response.

Supportive of maintaining full operational resilience, we gave all our people access to LifeWorks, a confidential employee assistance programme covering employees and their families. Recognising that every day brings new changes and challenges, LifeWorks provides professional and personal support 24/7, 365 days a year. The launch of LifeWorks was consistent with our culture to build a safe, supportive community with family values at its heart. It was this ethos that also drove our decision to top up government funding for any employee furloughed to match their existing salary – meaning none of our employees would be financially worse off. We did this both in the UK and Portugal where we utilised government job retention schemes, although in the UK we have subsequently repaid all furlough claims having delivered a better than anticipated financial performance.

This focus on employee welfare was also reinforced via enhanced leadership communications, dedicated wellbeing and social groups on Workplace – our internal social media platform and the publication of remote working and wellbeing guides. As well as responding to the pandemic, we also closely followed other external events such as the Black Lives Matter movement and our Group chief financial officer hosted discussion groups to surface opinions and identify areas where Arrow could improve as an organisation. Following this, a new diversity and inclusion strategy will be reviewed and evaluated by the board, which will include, amongst other items, participation in the 100 Black Interns Programme, as well as a recognition that diversity extends beyond gender targets. Although we continue to see good progression towards our 40% gender diversity in senior leadership roles, presently standing at 33%, a much broader focus is now reflected in our policies and processes. Inherent in this wider diversity programme, a mental health awareness initiative was launched beginning with Paul McGregor, founder of ‘Every Mind at Work’, sharing his experiences on normalising mental health conversations in the workplace in support of International Men’s Day.

Moreover, we have enlisted the support of specialist organisations, such as the Clear Company and Moving Ahead, to continuously improve our approach to diversity and inclusion (D&I) across the Group. We have also invested in a new online tool called Peakon, which allows us to measure engagement and our cultural characteristics across the Group. This tool is central to our strategy of empowering line managers to own engagement themselves and make it everybody’s business, not just an executive management or HR initiative. This is a long-term commitment and the continuation of a journey to improve the working lives of all our colleagues across the Group; in particular, helping line managers identify their strengths and priorities and co-create team-based solutions. Our Group-wide engagement score was rated Good (7.5/10) and our management and employees will be working hard to improve this score. Maria Luís Albuquerque, our workforce engagement representative on the board, continued to engage with employees throughout 2020. These immersion sessions covered all geographies and included country-wide, functional and values-based teams. Here, it was also made clear that the work done to keep everyone safe and provide the right support to work remotely was widely recognised across the Group.

 


Our operational resilience and the care we gave our employees naturally flowed through to our customers. It was driven, as always, by our purpose, which is to build better financial futures. Responding proactively to lockdowns across Europe, we implemented actions including the transition of our customer service operations to remote working. Our early intervention here meant we had no outage in service delivery, and we responded to all customer queries at a time when some organisations were struggling to maintain their service levels. To align demand with capacity, we moved to an ‘on demand’ capacity model, moving from traditional shift patterns and adapting to the changing needs of our customers. Recognising the severity of the situation, we continued with our guiding principle of treating customers fairly, managing the situation based on individual requirements in order to offer support and guidance at a time when they needed us most. Finally, our social outreach was helped by an enhanced digital capability including a new interactive SMS service which allowed customers to contact us when it most suited them.

Irrespective of our COVID-19 response, placing customers at the heart of everything is central to how Arrow operates, and we have always sought to ensure the fair treatment of customers. To help us achieve this, our Group Customer Forum (GCF) brings together the best practices from around the Group with the aim of improving the customer outcomes. The GCF is essential in sharing best practice within each country’s operations and driving forward positive change. It is also tasked with ensuring we deliver consistent customer treatment – as evidenced by our COVID-19 response – and using data and learned customer behaviours to guide future strategies and service enhancements. The GCF is currently in the process of devising standardised customer experience metrics including how we utilise vulnerable customer and complaint management information to improve process and policies.

We’re confident our local and Group customer forums are driving real value, and during 2020 we achieved the following:

  • increase in our customer satisfaction scores, averaging 7.7 (out of 9); 
  • customer framework governing our commitment to customers and guiding principles for collection activities;
  • unified vulnerable customer strategies which enabled a swift response to the COVID-19 crisis, including an immediate hold on litigation activities, informal payment plans of up to three months, as well as other payment arrangements including a switch to interest-only or a reduction and cessation of interest, depending on circumstance;
  • standardised customer key performance indicators, including customer satisfaction, abandonment and breakage rates, complaints and digital uptake;
  • expansion of customer payment and communication channels, including SMS, virtual IBAN, customer portals, live chat and online appointment bookings;
  • enhancements to our websites, specifically more customer-friendly language and easier access;
  • finally, a deep dive of our vulnerable customer strategy found high levels of satisfaction with focused improvements made to the digital experience and customer reviews.

With so much emphasis on the customer we were delighted, therefore, to win awards for our customerservice operations. Most notably, we were awarded the Credit Strategy ‘Best Outsourcing and Partnership’ Initiative for Onboarding and Customer Engagement, in recognition of our work with Virgin Money. Following this, we were also pleased to be a four-time finalist at the Credit Strategy Collections and Customer Service Awards, in November. In Portugal, our business was recognised not only as a Top Employer but accredited as the Best Credit Portfolio Management Company (Global Banking and Finance Review), Best Asset Management Servicer (International Investor) and Best Practice Operator of the Year (ACQ5, Country Awards 2020).

We are also pleased to report that regular updates are provided to the Group’s board, helping to facilitate a full and transparent disclosure of how we are treating customers fairly, how we listen to them, and how we put customers at the centre of everything we do.

Fulfilling our social commitments more broadly, during the year, we continued to support the activities of the major debt charities which provide free impartial advice to our customers, particularly in the UK where we fully support StepChange, Payplan and Christians Against Poverty by way of FairShare contributions.

 


Arrow is also mindful of the role it plays in society and we have continued to support Junior Achievement Europe (JAE), Europe’s largest non-profit provider of educational programmes for financial literacy and entrepreneurial skills for young people. In the first quarter of the year, we focused on classroombased learning before we rapidly transitioned to onlinebased activities; this move was consistent with our broader organisational culture of embracing new ways of working. In the classroom, we continued with our flagship ‘Learn to Earn’ programme, whereby Arrow volunteers help to equip students with the tools and knowledge to make good financial choices as well as providing them with information on career opportunities for life after education.

Transitioning online, our focus for the rest of the year has been on educational videos as well as developing a mentoring programme for young people. The educational videos, known as ‘Talking Heads’, see volunteers talk about a range of topics such as interview and presentation skills and CV writing, as well as broader topics covering leadership and entrepreneurship. The videos are subsequently shared across schools helping to instruct thousands of young people with important life skills.

Taking this concept one step further, our Portuguese volunteers delivered an online financial literacy webinar in support of International Student Day that focused on building responsible financial futures. The event reached 65 schools and 1,500 students in major cities including Lisbon, Porto and Viseu. This live tuition has also been replicated in Italy with volunteers tutoring seven schools in the final quarter of the year despite a renewed lockdown.

Collectively, our financial education programme consisting of the classroom and virtual learning has reached 11,636 children – a considerable achievement given that schools were shut for extended periods of the year, and all our employees were working remotely.

In the UK, we complemented our core JAE programme by supporting City Year, a Manchester-based charity, helping to run virtual interview skills workshops as well as involvement in their Bridge Builder mentoring programme that sees Arrow volunteers support the development of new mentors. For the second consecutive year an Arrow employee, Carrie Thompson, won Mentor of the Year, an accolade we are immensely proud of.

Outside of our core financial literacy and mentoring programmes, our colleagues in Portugal continued their sponsorship of a school in the Nampula province of Mozambique, in partnership with Helpo ONG, and they also supported the Make-a-Wish charity helping seriously ill and often disadvantaged children realise their dreams. In Italy, our business supported the San Raffaele Hospital in Lombardy that was at the centre of efforts to treat desperately ill COVID-19 patients. Crowdfunding, we raised over €50,000 to purchase vital intensive care equipment including respirators and monitoring systems, and in the Netherlands, Easter donations were sent to health care workers and other essential workers in care homes as a thank you. In the UK, we organised the collection of toys, books and clothes for the Wood Street Mission for low-income families at Christmas and supported the NSPCC ‘Letter from Santa’ appeal.

Although Arrow operates in the highly specialised alternative investments sector, our social commitments help us be a responsible business, purpose led and an important part of the European financial ecosystem.

   

Employees (internal) 2020
performance
2025
targets
Group engagement score 7.5/10 8.5/10
Share Incentive Plan (SIP) participation1 45% UK 30% Group
Leadership team gender diversity 33% 40%2
Everyone can be their true self at work 7.8/10 8.5/10
Everyone can use their differences to make Arrow a better, more successful place to work 8.0/10 8.5/10

1. Currently the SIP is only on a UK basis, however the Group is rolling out an international SIP during 2021, and therefore the 2025 target is based on Group participation.

2. 2023 target.

Customers, communities (external) 2020
performance
2025
targets
Customer satisfaction 7.7/9 8.0/9
Calls abandoned 6.7% <5%
Total beneficiaries of JAE programme 11,636 15,000

In addition to FairShare in the UK, the Group will contribute 1% of profit after tax towards good causes by 2021.