I can guess what you may be thinking right now - debt and vaginas, what? And why is the word ‘vagina’ popping up on a professional blog at all, that can’t be allowed, can it?
Well yes, it is. Vagina, like debt, is not a dirty word. Vaginas are incredibly common, but they are often ignored, overlooked and surrounded by shame.
Are you starting to see any parallels yet?
My name is Saskia, and I’m the new Senior Product Manager here at Ophelos.
I used to work on products for people with vaginas - specifically, to help them understand and improve the strength of their pelvic floor through the clever use of technology. And I think a few people were confused by my move into the world of debt collection.
So this post aims to share the similarities I’ve found, and in doing so, encourage you to rethink your opinion of the debt collection industry altogether.
What’s one of the biggest challenges with both vaginas and debt? Nobody wants to talk about theirs. We’ve been conditioned to believe that they are shameful, and should be kept private. This idea is so pervasive that people often don’t even feel comfortable turning to experts for help:
Only 28% of women with urinary incontinence seek medical help, and wait as long as seven years on average after noticing symptoms.
In a similar vein, only 37% of those surveyed by the Money and Pensions service with the most severe financial difficulties sought debt advice. And our recent survey of 1000 adults in problem debt found that over half of people are putting off these conversations by borrowing more.
The shame people feel towards both their bodies and their debt has real-world consequences, from women refusing to leave the house for fear of a leak, to people taking on risky loans to cover existing debt and getting into a vicious cycle of borrowing.
One of the mantras of those in the pelvic floor space is that incontinence is ‘common, but not normal’. I prefer ‘common but solvable’, which applies to debt too. This phrase acknowledges that while you’re not alone in your experience, it’s not something you should ignore - there are solutions out there.
In the case of pelvic floor issues, pelvic floor exercises can improve symptoms in up to 70% of cases - yet the combination of shame, lack of available education and lack of visible solutions means the problems persist.
When it comes to finances, debt is something that will impact most of us at some point in our lives, making it ‘common’ - but getting into arrears on an ongoing basis is not sustainable for individuals or for businesses. There are numerous solutions available, but similar to pelvic floor issues, they’re not well advertised or understood. That’s where Ophelos comes in, to make clear that just because it’s common, it doesn’t mean there’s no help to be found.
If you don’t know us already - Ophelos is working to humanise debt collection and bring it into the 21st century. We’re leveraging sophisticated Machine Learning to reduce the need for call centres, providing digital self-serve journeys, and freeing up our time to support customers who need it most. By listening to both our business clients, and those with debt, we have found that you can start making a positive change right from the first missed payment to the day a debt is resolved, and beyond.
Our team are already doing a brilliant job of creating a positive experience for our customers. Whether it’s our product team designing simple interfaces to communicate complex information, or our customer support team going the extra mile to handle disputes and ensure customers’ unique situations are understood, everything at Ophelos is targeted at creating better debt outcomes for all.
And we work hard for our business partners too - delivering industry-leading insights into their debt books, recovery rates that regularly win champion challengers and a better reputation for their brand through our customer-centric approach. We believe we can solve debt better for everybody. And with that comes the final similarity:
What I’ve realised through my work in both sectors is this: ‘taboo’ is just another way of saying ‘a huge untapped opportunity’. If no one’s speaking about it, then no one’s solving it, and that gives us an edge and the potential to have a huge, category-defying impact in the space.
In addition to the life-changing impact we can have on our customers, it also just makes good business sense. The femtech space has started to figure this out. Despite the word ‘femtech’ only being coined in 2016, the industry has already grown by 10x - from just $1.6n in VC funding during 2016 to a high of $16bn in 2021, with a forecasted growth to $60bn by just 2027.
Can debt do the same?
The numbers in this space are staggering. Over half of the UK’s families are in arrears, and people in the UK owed £1832.8bn in debt at the end of December 2022. Yet typical recovery rates are low, and from the recent press, we’ve seen how heavy-handed recovery methods not only damage the wellbeing of an organisation’s most vulnerable customers, but also the business’s reputation. We’re here to change that, and help tap into the huge financial opportunities of this industry in a way that centres customers, working together to find a solution that works for all.
So back to the original question - what do debt and vaginas have in common?
We’ve been ignoring them for too long - but whether you’re an individual, a business or an investor, looking into those areas you’ve ignored may just be your biggest opportunity yet.
If you want to hear more about what we’re working on, our blog is growing all the time as we explore the lessons we’ve learnt and share how we’re tackling problems. If you’d like to discuss how Ophelos may be able to partner with your company to start tackling debt differently, reach out to our wonderful team who can provide you with more information.