Financial Sector: Experts Consult, Debt Recovery and Debt Management Firm in Ghana

Nathaniel Johnson gives an overview of the debt recovery sector in Ghana and presents Experts Consult. The firm engages in the service of debt recovery, debt management, risk monitoring, revenue collection and also acts as a process serving company. Its goal is to assist financial institutions, companies and individuals repossess their hard earned assets or cash that could have been lost or written off as bad debts.

Interview with Nathaniel Johnson, CEO of Experts Consult Limited

Nathaniel Johnson, CEO of Experts Consult Limited

What is your assessment of the debt recovery sector in Ghana? What are the latest trends? Is the market competitive?

Debt recovery, even debt itself, has been with mankind for ages. Even before the introduction of money into countries’ economies, barter trade was used to exchange goods with other products. Some time ago, there were no debt recovery companies in Ghana. But, as time went on and as the rate of default increased, entrepreneurs came up with this recovery concept. Before, all financial institutions used their credit departments to try to recover debt from recalcitrant defaulters. Somewhere along the line came the need to form institutions and organizations who really specialize in the area of debt recovery to help these institutions recoup their hard-earned income from their business partners. It became very difficult for institutions and organizations in the financial sector especially to accept the debt recovery business as being an essential part of their operations. So, they adopted some internal measures to retrieve their money. By so doing, they lost so much money to recalcitrant defaulters. Not long ago, more than nine banks in Ghana collapsed and their licenses were withdrawn. These banks are owed a total of over 10 billion Ghana cedis. All this came about as a result of poor recovery measures put in place by the bank credit departments who turned themselves into recovery or collection officers. Because of familiarity and other factors, they were not able to collect these monies. Debt recovery has now become a part of the financial sector and it cannot be done away with. If we tried to do so, more banks would collapse. In fact, most of our financial institutions like microfinance companies and the non-banking institutions have collapsed because of non-performing loans. Now, thankfully, the banks have started agreeing to using our services. The Central Bank of Ghana recently started collating information on debt recovery companies in Ghana. The sector is now doing well. Unfortunately, we do not have any regulatory body that governs our operations. We have been pushing for it but we are sure that soon the Central Bank will see the need to regulate us. If that is not done, it gives anyone at all the chance to come into the recovery sector. We deal with people’s money and people must have trust in us. There is a need to check the Board of Directors and shareholders of these debt recovery companies before they are allowed into this industry so that we can sanitize the industry. Moving forward, our services will be one of the essential parts of operation models in every financial institution and other business organizations.

How do you stand out as a company in the sector? What is your competitive advantage?

For now, in Ghana, we are the only company who is a one stop shop when it comes to debt recovery, debt factoring, credit management, risk monitoring, and we are also a process service company.

Experts Consult began in 2007. We came into the industry strategically. Our main mission is to assist individual institutions in collecting their hard-earned monies from their customers or debtors while at the same time maintaining the relationship that they had before we were introduced to do the recovery. In the long term, we are looking at spreading our offices throughout Ghana and to West Africa and Africa at large. We also have a vision to bring together all the recovery firms in Africa. When we entered in 2007, this industry was very new in Africa. We came in with a vision to ensure that all of Africa will benefit from debt recovery service. It is a unique area. It is not an area that you can go to school for. It is something that, apart from lawyers, people rarely practice debt recovery. You need to get field experience and keep abreast of recovery techniques, etc. Over the years, we have done well in Ghana and across the world. We have entered almost every sector from the financial sector to pharmaceutical, production, services, etc. We are the largest and best performing recovery firm in Ghana today. We are also a member of the International Credit Exchange which means that we can pick a file from anywhere in Ghana and do recovery from anywhere in the world. We do not need to travel outside Ghana for recovery. We put it on the platform for the group and refer it to an agent who ensures that success is achieved. We have a very good operating system that gives clients the chance to assess the progress of their cases right from their office. If you are in America and you refer an account to us, you can go online using the user credentials we give you and you can go to our website and see everything about the case you referred to us: progress, payments, updates, and send feedback through the same platform. We have put together a very strong management structure made up of our legal department, recovery department, financial department, and they are full of professionals. We have human resources with paralegal experience. We have field officers with experience in debt recovery. Periodically, we organize training for these employees. We bring in experts from abroad to help us beef up our recovery techniques. We are also into credit management as part of the recovery business. There is the need to ensure that our clients do not go through the hassle again. We came up with credit management services that our clients can also utilize so they do not even fall into debt in the first place. Before we grant the funds out, we review your loan agreements and your documentation to make sure everything is in order and that there are no loopholes in the agreement before the loan is given out. In a few cases, they have credit departments and risk departments in their offices. As a recovery firm, we always review these documents with a recovery eye. In the event that after all this, the customer decides not to pay, can we recover? That is where the assessment starts from. If all the indicators mark correct, that means we can give the go ahead to grant the facility. But, if there are some red flags, we will prompt the customer to let them fill in those gaps before we give them the money. In such cases, once there is a default, we can guarantee a 100% recovery rate. The most important bit of recovery is that when you go to court and you obtain judgement to recover your money, you have to be able to execute the judgement. This is something where we have achieved an over 90% success rate. Most institutions and law firms in Ghana today that go to court to obtain judgement refer those judgements for us to execute on their behalf. In those areas, we ascertain the judgement, the debtor’s assets, if the properties belong to them, we work hand in hand with the registry of the court and auctioneers in disposal of these properties by public auction, and recovery is achieved. The judgment that does not result in recovery is useless. So, we have taken it upon ourselves to help both local and international legal firms execute their judgement. As part of the services we offer, we have also introduced debt management. This area came about as a result of continuous interaction with debtors. People often are willing to repay their debt, but how to go about the payment is always a difficult task for them. So, we came up with a new concept. There was a time when I was in the office and one of the defaulters came in. He owed about $400,000. From the discussion that we had, I saw that he was really willing to pay. But there was a challenge for him in his organization. He was in the importation of fish and frozen food items. When the accounting department went in and did a little research into his firm, we discovered that, in fact, his accountant and his salespeople in front were really the people embezzling funds from the company. The director and owner of the business was not even seeing the money. Quickly, we introduced a new management team and in less than four months, the debt was paid. If this is what we can do to help people, why don’t we help them pay off their debt? After all, the ultimate goal is recovery. If someone is willing to pay, I should be able to assist the defaulter in paying. Then, I can say that I have achieved success. For now, in Ghana, we are the only company who is a one stop shop when it comes to debt recovery, debt factoring, credit management, risk monitoring, and we are also a process service company. We have been engaged by the Judicial Service of Ghana to work as private billers for the Supreme Court, the highest court in our land, the Court of Appeals, and most of the district courts in the Ashanti region. We are still working to cover more parts of the country. Some international bodies have also been sending us documents to effect service for them. We give them feedback by way of professional service because we are recognized by the Judicial Service of Ghana. We have achieved great success in that area. There are a few debt recovery agencies around but we are unique. We are exclusive when it comes to the debt recovery job as a whole by all the departments we have. We are now on the verge of signing a big contract with the Chinese telecommunications giant ZTE Corporation. This company is so big that they had an annual turnover of over 15 billion Ghana cedis in 2017. We have many other clients such as DHL, FedEx, Ecobank, and other international bodies. Just recently, the BoG secured over 900 million to sanitize our financial sector. There was a time that I had sent out an article when two of the banks had collapsed in Ghana. I was interviewed by Graphic Communications, which is the main paper in Ghana, on why these banks had collapsed. In my submission, I indicated that if care is not taken and the banks fail to recognize recovery as one of the core areas, then more banks are likely to collapse. Not four months after my article, seven more banks collapsed. Recently, the BoG sent a circular around for recovery firms to furnish them with their company profiles. That was part of the article I had sent out. They are now working to ensure that there is a regulatory body set to govern debt recovery operations. If that is done and we are supporting all these institutions, the rate of recovery in this country will be very low, especially if they can also benefit from our credit management area. The issue of non-performing loans will be a thing of the past. We have a competitive advantage in our industry over others. When our name is mentioned anywhere in Ghana, we are the most respected debt recovery firm as a whole. We are doing very well.

Are you looking for investors? Do you want to partner with other companies?

We currently have two offices in Ghana, in Accra and Kumasi. We also have some affiliations across the country, the continent, and internationally as well. Looking at our vision, there is a need to gain partners who can contribute a lot of resources so we can create offices all over Africa. These affiliations are good but being able to man your own system is the most paramount when it comes to a high success rate. We are open to investors coming to partner with us. The industry is very lucrative. If you look at the nine collapsed banks, they are owed over 10 billion in Ghana cedis. Recovery companies are taking just 10% which is still 1 billion Ghana cedis. That is not a small amount. This is just one part of it. All these remaining banks have huge debts, but because they are still operating, these debts are being managed or they have not yet gotten to where they have to move to recovery. When partners are onboard and Experts Consult is everywhere, then public confidence will be very high and everyone will come to us for assistance with recovery.

What activities is the group involved in?

Personally, my interest is in job creation. Experts Consult is under the group Experts Holdings. We have Palace, Reflex, and Supreme Hospitality as our subsidiaries. Supreme Hospitality’s main objective is to create mass employment, not only in Ghana but in the West African subregion. We keep saying that there is very high unemployment in our economy, not only in Ghana but elsewhere in Africa. We cry that people are graduating from school and cannot find jobs because whole offices are full of professionals. More than 10,000 graduates take to the streets every year with their CVs and application letters and they find no jobs and end up turning to some other social vice such as armed robbery or internet fraud. Personally, this greatly concerns me. It has always been my dream to come up with a concept that can create mass employment. Supreme Hospitality has identified the home management sector as a big gap in our economy. In Ghana, to get a housekeeper or a nanny or a caregiver, you need to go to the village to get a boy or girl who has dropped out of school to clean your house. You have to find old ladies who do not have any formal education come and take care of your babies because it is assumed that they have already taken care of grandchildren so they can do better with babies. We bring uneducated people in to come and take care of our aged. How are they able to tell the difference between medication A and B? We are posing more risks to our children, elders, and our homes. The village person that comes and uses the same mop for the walkway, washroom, and hallway contaminates the entire house. We came up with the main idea to discharge our objectives two-fold. Not too long ago, our president introduced free SHS into the system. Earlier, when it was not free, there were too many of these SHS graduates on the streets without jobs. They ended up in prostitution, internet fraud, teen pregnancy, they went out and did all sorts of things that are not helpful to society. Now that free SHS has been introduced, it will become worse. That is where our concern is. Supreme Hospitality came up with two subsidiaries: Homemakers Academy and Homemakers Pro. Homemakers Academy recruits all these SHS graduates and we give them professional training in the area of home management: nannying, caregiving, cooking, housekeeping, waiting, bartending. We are giving them complete vocational skills. We look at them and see what best fits their strength and ability. We have seen that it is really helping. The Homemakers Pro main idea is to not only give these people vocational skills, but to also provide them with jobs. When Homemakers Academy trains, Homemakers Pro employs and places them in various homes. We deliver home management services to organizations, institutions, and homes. Homemakers Pro goes out and looks for business for our trained professionals. Homemakers Pro does not only employ people from the Academy. We have too many vocational institutions in Ghana like the NVTI and technical institutions as well. These institutions turn out so many technical students who are still on the street. We opened our enrollment to these people. When you enroll, we interview you, we take you through our Academy for a short time, already you have a vocational skill, we take you through our code of ethics to confirm that your actions are in line with the ethics of the company, and then we get you a job. We have trained over 400 people at the Academy and every one of them has a job. The Academy takes 108 at a time so before the last date of the training, Homemakers Pro has already sought jobs for those people. If you need a housekeeper or a nanny or someone to assist you in your home, you need to come to Homemakers Pro and book before the training is finished. This is an area that was left open. No one was thinking about it. We are running an intensive communication to sensitize the general public and to [Unintelligible] these young SHS graduates about the need for them to join the Academy and get placed. Over the years, we have undermined this area because of the kind of people who we have brought to come and do this work because of their background and lack of education. There is a need for us to get these students to agree that it is not something for the uneducated but something for the educated as well. Now, we are transforming the industry. The response from the general public and media is great. Soon, we will get the same response from politicians.

Where do you see the company in three years’ time?

The Holdings’ main objective is to help with societal challenges like unemployment, job creation, cleaning the financial sector, non-performing loans. We have talents in this country but there are no funds to bring them out. That is what Reflex Ghana does. We scout for talent, we produce them, and then we make them into superstars. Some people have wonderful talent in music, drama, etc. We have produced a few and many are doing very well in society. In the next three years, for the recovery, we are looking at being everywhere in Ghana and the West African subregions with some affiliations around the world. We want to be accepted by every financial institution in this country and elsewhere. For Supreme, we are looking at 5,000 every year. In five years, we are looking at employing over 25,000 young people to be working in the home management sector. We have over 10 million houses in Ghana. Every house needs to be clean. We have so many mothers that want to be careerwomen and no mother wants to sit at home to take care of their children. The need for nannies is so high. We are posing more risks to these children by employing the uneducated here. We want to create jobs for our country. We are looking at partnering with some international investors to help us expand almost everywhere. The idea is to operate in every country and create the same mass employment for them. From Ghana, we are looking at going into Kenya, Rwanda, Liberia, Nigeria, and other areas. In ten years, the group should be internationally recognized as a great employment creation company.


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