ABN AMRO participating in pilot for early debt detection

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A pilot aimed at early detection of debt was launched on 20 March in The Hague. Its goal is to prevent clients who are behind on their payments from sliding into financial difficulties. ABN AMRO and the other participating Dutch banks – ING, Rabobank and SNS – will refer clients heading towards financial trouble to Geldfit.nl. The pilot, which will run in five Dutch cities this year, was set up in collaboration with the Dutch Banking Association.

Under the pilot, banks will refer clients who may run into financial problems to Geldfit.nl. Signs of possible financial problems include bounced direct debits or frequent account overdrafts. Clients first answer a number of simple questions on Geldfit.nl and are then offered a suitable service, for example the Financial Affairs Help Desk (Helpdesk Geldzaken) in The Hague. Residents can visit this help desk to ask questions about financial matters, get an overview of their income and spending, and obtain free advice. The banks do not pass on any client data to Geldfit.nl, and visitors to this website are anonymous.

Bert van Alphen, alderman for Social Affairs, Poverty and Social Services in The Hague: “Poverty is one of the last taboos in the Netherlands. Many people have a hard time admitting they are poor and postpone asking for help. This pilot will help us to identify these people sooner and offer them support, heading off potential problems or tackling existing problems quickly.”

Early detection is crucial

Some 2.3 million households in the Netherlands are behind on their payments, and 1.4 million households have high-risk or problematic debts. Eighty-five per cent of these households are unknown to social services. Almost one in every five households in The Hague are currently – or are at risk of being – saddled with high debt. Problematic debt begins with payment arrears. It takes an average of 4.8 years for people to receive the help they need.

More collaboration between banks and social services means clients will receive help with their finances at an earlier stage. Aleid van der Zwan, Head of Policy at the Dutch Banking Association: “Banks are in a unique position to tackle this complex problem, and they have the drive to do it. We want to use the information we have to detect problems at the very earliest stage.”

Collaboration on different fronts

Geldfit was developed by city authorities, SchuldHulpMaatje, Humanitas, Rabobank, Rabo Foundation, Zilveren Kruis Achmea and Stichting Lezen en Schrijven. The 20 March pilot has its roots in SchuldenlabNL, launched on 14 November 2018, when banks and the pilot partners announced they would work together. Under this pilot, Schuldenlab070 makes social services readily available to clients in The Hague. In this Dutch Banking Association pilot, banks team up with SchuldenlabNL, Moedige Dialoog, fiKks and Geldfit to work with local government and business, ultimately hoping to scale up to nationwide coverage.

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