Changing face of contracting

After a quarter of a decade working for a large corporate insurance company, one day I thought there must be more to life than this. I had investigated undertaking contract work but never really progressed beyond the inquisitive stage. Although I had a Financial Service background and had worked as a Senior Compliance Consultant, I was sure that I would be out of my depth working in the contractor business. All this changed when, by chance, I was given a team of external contractors to manage. I suddenly realised that my experience and knowledge was at the very least on a par with theirs and perhaps I could take the leap.

That was all back in 2004 and 2005 and so much has changed in the contracting game since then.

So much has changed in the contracting game

My first two years were spent working on the Endowment Mortgage Review. This was a regulated project and as such there were minimum qualification standards required to undertake these case reviews. The Endowment review was the last of the large regulated review but was responsible for a massive shift in the Financial Services Market. This change was the realisation within the market place that there was money to be made in the complaint’s world. This was the birth of the large-scale Claims Management Companies (CMC) market.

It was this revolution that led to the mass generation of complaints. Starting with bank charges, then once this was placed on hold by various court cases, the focus changed to the small matter of Payment Protection Insurance complaints (PPI).

Both these reviews signalled a switch from small numbers of qualified and experienced contactors to the large-scale recruitment of case handlers. Whilst these contractors needed to have a good level of education, the need for specific industry experience vanished somewhat overnight.

The ‘new’ contractor

From this a ‘new’ contractor was born, where youth and enthusiasm replaced the demand for experience. The need to mass produce complaint outcomes was pushed to the forefront and the in-depth investigation skills previously required were becoming less and less important. But, as with everything else in life, trends so often come around in circles.

The PPI world is ending at the end of August and as with many of these projects there will be spin offs. Most notably will be the uptake of the Plevin complaints. But once this storm has passed what’s next?

This question in the main is yet to be answered but what is clear is that there will always be the need for contractual staff. The appetite for large organisations to scale up and down with employed staff appears to have vanished.

What does this mean for contractors?

So, what does this all mean for both today and yesterdays contractor. Whilst the demand for professionally qualified experienced staff isn’t what it was 15 years ago, without doubt, it is still out there. None of us are getting younger and therefore this population pool is decreasing. There are still plenty of well-paid opportunities, especially in the pension and AML arenas.

As for the ‘new breed,’ well I would suggest this is very much “watch this space.” All CMC’s are now having to be regulated under FCA. This has led to an increase in regulation, so without doubt many of these firms are looking for the next big thing. Whilst, we may not know what this is just yet, it is just a matter of time.

Make yourself stand out from the crowd

In the meantime, what should all contractors be doing? Simple really, make yourself stand out from the crowd, many will have only worked on one product type. This is a competitive market, and no one owes you anything. Make yourself more marketable by taking professional exams, whilst these may not always be needed they will certainly open new doors and opportunities. Don’t be afraid to take a step down to get your next role. If your last position was a Team Leader or SME/QC role, there is nothing wrong in looking at Case Handler positions. If you are good enough, you will get noticed in next to no time and those opportunities will come again quicker than you think.