Our MERJE Meets series continues with this great conversation with Nick Cherry, Chief Operating Officer of Phillips & Cohen Associates, Ltd.
Nick’s 25-year career has seen him develop a wealth of expertise across Financial Services, starting out in consumer and motor finance before focusing on collections, debt purchase and recovery in more recent years.
As well as his role as COO, Nick is Deputy Chair of the Credit Services Association, a family man and an aspiring linguist. Here, he discusses PCA’s journey through the pandemic, their commitment to diversity and inclusion and shares some career advice.
Describe a little about PCA and the role you hold in the business.
PCA is the globe’s leading specialist debt recovery business, best known for innovating the Deceased Account Management market and for our uniquely compassionate consumer engagement model. My role as COO of the business is to help the team wherever I can, but specifically to drive the strategy for the core operation, starting with the investment in our people, and extending to our collection strategy and digital transformation plans.
How has PCA and your day-to-day been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic?
I am incredibly proud of the way PCA has navigated through the pandemic and the way that our leadership and global team have pulled together. Our people’s safety comes first and thanks to the support of our many global clients and some swift laptop acquisitions, we were able to seamlessly transition our entire workforce to the safety of their own homes. Without exception, the commitment and quality of work has been outstanding and the PCA family will come through this stronger for the experience.
How challenging has it been managing business operations across several countries that have all been affected differently by the pandemic?
The biggest challenge has been the inability to see and meet our people face to face, particularly new joiners to PCA. Like everyone, we have transitioned well to video conferencing, but that’s never a long-term replacement for breaking bread together across the table.
PCA is growing rapidly at the moment, with several recent hires and many opportunities available across five of your global locations. As well as expanding your teams, what growth plans and strategies does the business have in store for the next 12 months?
Despite the pandemic, we are delighted to have opened our 6th physical office in Dusseldorf, Germany, in 2020 and we have seen a very positive response from the German market to our niche service offering. In the years ahead, we plan to expand our international footprint further alongside seeing continued strong domestic growth in our existing markets. We also have a number of exciting technology and service offerings which we will be bringing to market in the near future.
What are you expecting in the future of the debt recovery industry?
The accounts receivable industry has shown itself to be both innovative and resilient and I believe that this approach will underpin its continued success. Technology, use of data and seamless channel choice will become more prevalent factors, but our skilled people will remain at the forefront of our service offering.
Diversity, inclusion and equality are key topics that are in the spotlight now more than ever. What steps is PCA taking to promote a diverse and inclusive work place?
We have always been strong advocates for diversity and inclusion across our global business, but we have challenged ourselves to do more to promote positive change. In 2020 we formed a Diversity & Inclusion Committee and also a Women’s Forum, both chaired by members of our executive group to ensure that we continue to find ways to identify and implement positive improvement opportunities.
What key attributes do you think make a great leader?
For the sake of brevity, I would highlight 3 attributes. Firstly, surround yourself with the smartest people you can find and then listen, listen and listen some more. Second, don’t be afraid to make mistakes, as long as you learn from them. Lastly and most importantly, be yourself and stay humble.
What advice would you give to an aspiring COO?
My advice to any aspiring leader would be, “If you work hard enough, anything is possible”. I think this is true both personally and professionally, but you have to prepared to work for what you want, and be ready to overcome setbacks when they happen.
Has there been a key moment in your career that has led you to where you are today?
Growing up as the youngest of 3 sons, with a self-employed father who was a trained engineer and joiner, there was no shortage of lessons on the importance of a strong ‘work ethic’.
Those aside, I vividly remember a team meeting with my very first manager at The Associates in 1996. I was 21, fresh from a year working in the US after graduating from university. My manager gave our team a talk about ‘forming habits’ and the necessity of deciding which behaviours you wanted to form into habits, then repeating them often enough to achieve that goal.
Of course, I have made mistakes along the way, but I made a conscious decision that day to form and maintain positive habits and those behaviours have stood me in good stead throughout my career.
Has anything positive come out of the events of the past year for you personally?
For various reasons our family has had a tough couple of years prior to the pandemic, so the biggest positive by far has been spending quality time with the family and this has helped make us into a very tight unit. I do have to remember to log off at some stage though!
If you could instantly pick up any new skill, what would you choose and why?
I regret not keeping up with my language studies from school. Especially as PCA has expanded internationally this has been a frustration, so I would dearly love to be truly fluent in more languages.
Tell us something people might be surprised to learn about you.
I am typical Cancerian. Most people only get to see the hard shell which I commonly present to the world, but if you look deeply enough there is a well-hidden soft centre in there somewhere!
Many thanks to Nick for taking the time to collaborate with us on this piece! If you would like to join forces with MERJE in the name of our MERJE Meets or MERJE Insights series, please do get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org.