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Falling for Credit

Jackie Borthwick, European Credit Manager at ABS Europe LTD, didn’t set out to have a 30+ year career in the field of credit, but after re-entering the workforce in the late-1980’s, she ‘fell’ into a position in a Windsor (London)   hotel’s accounting department and hasn’t looked back.

Without many expectations, the position led to a new career for Jackie - one that she has excelled at. Jackie’s work history includes credit roles at firms of accountants, Williams Allan, RSM Robson Rhodes, and Grant Thornton   UK. While working full time and continuing to fulfill the role of mom, Jackie studied at the Chartered Institute of Credit Management (CICM) in Berkshire England in the 1990’s, where she earned her MCICM certification then   to achieve FCICM certification (Fellow of Chartered Institute of Credit Management 2006).

ABC-Amega’s director of Global Business Services, Jennifer Tirré-Daniels, recently spoke with Jackie about her experience as a female leader in the historically male-dominated field of credit and collections.

 JTD: How did you get into the credit field?

 JB: I felt it was time to return to work after staying home with my children for 10 years, my son was starting school, and I took a position in the accounts department at a hotel where my husband worked. I started doing billing,   and eventually was asked to do credit control, so I really just sort of fell into this field.

 JTD: What challenges, if any, have you faced being a woman in this industry?

JB: Normally, men are the managers in the credit office. I feel that being a mother, and a grandmother gives a person a good background to be in this role…women can adapt really well. Some countries have cultural restrictions, where they wouldn’t expect to receive a telephone call from a woman, so in those rare instances, men will make those calls, countries such as Saudi Arabia.  Things have changed, and I’ve noticed that men really respect women in credit roles now.

JTD: Are there any programs or initiatives dedicated to bringing more women into the field?

JB: I studied at the Institute of Credit Management in London. The CICM is the place to go in the U.K. Many colleges and universities have business programs that you can take. There are online courses available now that make access much easier for people. Past experience also plays a role, you need to be open and honest, and really be a people person. Some people think that you need to be tough and have a hard personality to be a debt collector, but I believe it’s really the opposite. I feel that if you have a smile on your face while you’re making calls, the person on the other end of the phone knows, and will respond well to you. The more adept a person is with current technology helps as well. The credit management systems that are being used right now are fantastic, so being able to be flexible and embrace new technology is important. Many clients like to access their information online, so technology is key.

JTD: How has the industry changed over the years?

JB: The biggest change I’ve experienced is the updates to credit management tools. When I first was starting out you would just grab a piece of paper and dial the phone. Now we have amazing technology and a variety of ways to accept payment. Also, employers now invest in their employees with training and professional development, which wasn’t always the case.

JTD: What ways do you feel the industry should improve?

JB: Companies have to spend money and invest in their people, their systems and in technology.

JTD: What advice would you give, particularly to women, thinking about getting into the credit industry?

JB: Recently, I was giving a lecture at the London Met University, and shared my story with some of the younger girls and they were very impressed with how far I’d come in my career, especially since I took a 10 year break to raise my children, and had dealt with the stress of losing my father and going through a divorce. The girls I spoke with weren’t originally convinced that they would go through the full course, but they were very inspired by our conversations and they now plan to go as far as I have in the field. I would also say that anyone interested in credit needs to be passionate about the work. You need to be able to work independently as well as with a team. I would encourage anyone, man or woman, to take up a career in credit.  There is an accounts office in every business, so there are always opportunities out there, and it’s a very rewarding position to have.


Founded in 1862, ABS is a leading international classification organization devoted to promoting the security of life and property and preserving the natural environment through the development and verification of standards for the design, construction and operational maintenance of marine and offshore assets.