One of the reasons to attend conferences like the World Credit & Collections,is not only the people you meet but the relationships established. I have had the pleasure of meeting with Nick Kell and Simon Marshall in Dublin and since then, have had conversations that are a ‘must share’ for those of us in the credit business. 

Tim Paulsen

Head Poobah, Internationa Centre for Professional Collections


  • A customer’s cheque is returned from their bank.
  • Place of business is locked and there are moving trucks out the back.
  • Customer won’t return your calls.
  • A client wants a large and unexpected increase to their credit line.
  • Your competitors are calling you – asking if you are having any problems with your mutual customer.
  • War breaks out
  • Peace breaks out (depnds on your client’s business)

Red flags they are often called, and at least in theory, you can’t miss them if you’re paying attention to issues that may effect your client, or your client’s customer,  which ultimately may determine if you are going to be paid and if so, when.

Some red flags were important ‘back in the day’ and are still relevant. Others, such as the effect and reaction to pandemics, migration and climate change have taken on new or greater signifigance. Moving targets, like the title implies – things change.

And the oscar goes to….,

The winner for best film this year was, ‘Everything, Everywhere, All at Once’.

If you haven’t seen the film, suffice it to say a lot is happening – all at the same time – very much like the credit risk business. We cannot go running madly in all different directions and panic has no place in our business. From recent discussion with Simon Marshall, the CEO of Co-Pilot, it became evident to me that we first of all have to recognize all the red flags that matter to OUR business, effectively sort them, because you can’t do all of them, all at once, and then of course the all important last step – you gotta’ do.


Simon tells me that at an Association of International Credit Directors and Professionals (AICDP) webinar in October 2022, Dr Rebecca Harding identified the four key challenges facing Credit Risk Management

    • Inflation and recession
    • Conflict/Geopolitics
    • Supply chain and resources
    • ESG

The last one on the list ‘ESG’ is proof that red flags are sometimes new and often a moving target. ‘Enviromental, Social, and Governance’ will be new and often of more importance in many organizations. The non-financial factors will identify material risks and growth opportunities.

She said that “These risks are not going away”.

So how do credit professionals stay on top of things? After all, that telephone you hear ringing in your office right now may be a regulator or a reporter for the business ethics section of the New York Times.

According to Simon, the key thing is that you can’t just rely upon financials  any more.  You need the financial and non-financial information that enables you better to understand what is happening to your risks in real time.  That is not to say that financials are not important, they absolutely are, but you need the wider view.   You also need to implement the “Red Flags” that are essential to give you early warning.   These need to be understood and prioritised (you can’t do everything) and they should be regularly reviewed for learning and improvement.

Some Co-pilot clients like a tailor-made solution for information and red flags, and Co-pilot takes these clients through a process to design and implement the best options.  Other clients prefer a ready-made solution and Co-pilot has one available which many clients will think does exactly the job they want.  It is one that you have to see and to understand.  Co-pilot clients have been reacting very favourably to it.

The sheer complexity and variety of information coming at you means that you may benefit from automation of your credit risk management processes.  This can help you can keep on top of everything, not miss anything, and prioritise the truly important things requiring the attention of your credit professionals.   Co-pilot acts as an advisor with many satisfied global brands as clients.

Nick Kell of ‘Dropping the Pilot’ was kind enough to share his thoughts on three red flags that need our attention. 

Some clarification?

Nick and Simon are experts in the field and members of AICDP. Their organizations are separate, but with similar sounding names.

Nick Kell is Behavioral Dynamics Director at ‘Dropping the Pilot’

Simon Marshall is CEO at ‘Co-Pilot’ Ltd.

Not to worry. Contact both or either if your objective is to improve knowledge and performance in the credit field.

image pilot
Photo of Nick Kell

Nick Kell EAICDP

He is the Behavioural Dynamics Director at AICDP – Association of International Credit Directors & Professionals

Here is an example of three red flags that may be important to you and your business, written by Nick Kell.

Red flag with text 'Shrinkage'

First Demographic – Shrinkage

This concerns the sting in the tail of Capitalism: under this socio-economic system people choose to have smaller families. This is currently the demographic of all developed capitalist economies: ageing populations and falling birth-rates, combining to ensure a shortage of suitably qualified, adequately skilled, experienced workers in sufficient numbers to maintain growth in a country’s economy.

Attracting, inducting, skilling, training, managing, motivating, rewarding, developing, retaining, promoting and leading enough suitable employees is the business megatrend for the rest of this century . . . and beyond.

Population shrinkage is not something which can be rectified easily, cheaply or quickly. Immigration can ease some shortages. AI and robots will mitigate the problem, not enough to solve it. Women, still busy with the hard work of achieving equality in developed economies, and having distant dreams of it in the developing world, are unlikely to want to go back to being baby machines for the sake of helping the economy.

We will have to learn to manage economies which do not have, as their main feature, the aim of untrammelled growth. We will have to start focussing on improving quality, increasing productivity, depth, profundity and other measures which we do not yet use to measure economic success. We will have to begin to consider the concept of economic maturity.

For Credit the implications are immediate: how and where will you source the Credit Professionals of the future? The profession must be made more attractive, more high-profile and transferrable skills must be emphasised.


Flag with 'Managing' as text

Second Demographic – Managing

Generally, management is getting worse. There are, for starters, fewer managers, they are less well-trained and are not supported enough as they start out. The prevailing development model for managers nowadays is Sink or Swim.

New managers are often thrown into a supervisory, team leader or management position because they are either technically able or they have been there longer than others. There is less mentoring and learning from others with experience of the company, of the sector/specialism or, simply, with hard-won experience of good, and bad, management practise.

Organisations are far too stretched and pressured to spend time and money in planned training and development of their managers. And it is beginning to show in major ways around the globe.

In addition, social media has heightened an emphasis on presentation and the surface impression, rather than on depth of experience, competence, achievement, ability, credibility and authenticity. You can fool some of the people – and with a multitude of PowerPoint presentations and an assured social media presence – you can go on pulling the wool over their eyes for a considerable amount of time.

Education, development and training is expensive . . . until you try the alternative.

Credit should focus on the comprehensive training of managers who are both technically and behaviourally outstanding. The recognition that these Credit Managers are outstanding professional managers will help the reputation of the profession, will attract people to train as Credit Managers as a sure route to managerial excellence and will raise the profile of Credit as an integral part of any successful business.

Flag with text 'Geopolitics'

Third Demographic – Geopolitics

The world is not becoming less complex. Increased media for communication has not meant better communication between countries, power blocs, political entities, corporations, companies, organisations, groups, families and individuals. As the speed and ease of communication has increased, and the media have proliferated, the quality, depth value and truthfulness has been compromised.

Globalisation has encountered unexpected problems and there are myriad difficulties involved in trading internationally, offshoring, governance, regulation, competition and trust.

War, cyber warfare, nationalist movements and political populism have ensured that movements to Make Wherever Great Again have been on the rise, although cost, incompetence, corruption and poor delivery will give these a short (ish) shelf-life. They are a clear sign that people want competent leaders, able to solve problems and lead decisively. There is a massive lack of these.

Political leaders are visibly struggling to know what to do and visibly use all their energies for their own political survival. While thus engaged they are failing to lead their countries effectively. Life is likely to become more difficult before it becomes easier. On the plus side, it’s harder than ever, in this brave new world, to be a dictator or authoritarian leader.

The realistic parallels with George Orwell’s 1984 are more clearly visible now than 40 years ago in 1983, or even 20 or 10 years ago. This should worry us.

There is a geographical arc of potential conflict, actual conflict and/or political and economic instability running down through Eastern Europe, the Middle East, through the Indian sub-continent and continuing to the Pacific Rim. Shared Service Centres located in or near these areas may be at risk of future disruption of various kinds.

Credit should think carefully about where it locates itself geographically to ensure stability and to be in a position to leverage maximum influence over the responsible stewardship of successful companies which want to perform financially, deliver consistently impressive results, grow their products and services . . . and still be around in 50 years.

image of Simon Marshall

Simon is the CEO of Co-Pilot.  When you are preparing to sail into risky waters, it is a good idea to bring on board a ‘co-pilot’ to help with the navigation. Simon and his team are experts in helping with the navigation by helping firms develop the right questions they need to ask and resolve to make their credit management process effective.

He has worked for many years in the international credit field.