The amount of individuals reaching out for debt management advice has increased by 20 per cent since May according to figures revealed by free debt advice provider PayPlan.

Findings revealed at a recent creditor roundtable, hosted by PayPlan at the Money Advice Service headquarters in London, saw digital debt advice top the bill, with PayPlan highlighting a significant rise in those seeking help with debt problems using digital platforms.

Discussions also looked the changing ways which clients now prefer to continue their journey online, into a debt solution. Research showed that the traditional phone-based process is no longer the most preferred option for clients seeking debt advice

During the discussion, PayPlan showcased its PlanFinder web tool, which was launched in May 2017. The secure online form allows people to enter their personal financial details, which are used to help trained advisers ensure they are recommending the best debt solutions. Once in a plan, clients can continue to interact with the company digitally as they move through the advice process, if preferred.

The company has seen 45 per cent of its clients now starting their journey using PlanFinder, with 60 per cent of those doing so using mobile phones. Engagement has also noticeably increased since it was introduced, with 20 per cent more people accessing PayPlan’s free debt advice. Using the secure web form, clients can move from advice to solution in just a few hours, faster than they would using the traditional telephone-based service.

Using the Standard Financial Statement, PlanFinder gathers details of personal circumstances, unsecured debts, household income, priority spending, living costs and any assets. The online form is supported by a live chat function, where clients can ask real time questions and there is also a function where data about creditors can be added using information supplied by an Experian credit report.

The PayPlan Plus app was also shared, highlighting the importance of 24/7 accessibility via smart devices for clients to manage their PayPlan accounts. So far, 13,000 clients have downloaded the app, which can be used to upload documents, send direct messages, complete annual reviews, update personal details and make online payments. To date more than £1.8 million worth of payments have been made by clients using it.

Rachel Duffey, CEO of PayPlan, said: “We’ve seen a clear shift in the way that clients want to access advice. In a digital age where most people are now using smart phones we want to offer better ways for them to seek free debt advice, when they want it. We’re continually adapting the ways we communicate to suit what our clients are asking us for, and in doing so we have found that by using text messages, emails, apps and online forms, we’re helping to remove some of the emotional and physical barriers to seeking help.

“Other digital pilots which we have carried out with MYJAR, IDEM Capital and the Money Advice Service have provided key insights into the better ways of working together with partners to provide more personalised way of communicating with clients and encourage them to seek debt advice sooner. By using client segmentation, tailored messaging, text message campaigns and electronic referral forms we have seen a substantial improvement in the number of consumers engaging with digital debt advice.”

Gareth McNab, Money Advice Liaison Manager at Nationwide Building Society, who attended the roundtable, added:“This was a great day, demonstrating what can be done when you don’t accept apparent constraints and instead look at where the data says the clients want to go.I have been impressed with PayPlan’s focus on client outcomes, its mature understanding of the regulatory environment, and the desire to work with creditors in a real and engaging way.

“I’m looking forward to working together with PayPlan to progress the web enquiry form referral methods to enable us to achieve better outcomes.”