Sourcing Contact Details – Changing dynamics with digital – [FULL INTERVIEW]

Hattie Fancourt from GB Group explains how we are all having to adapt in the world of digital… how in the world of digital we may change our contact details less often, however just how important it is that this now remains up to date.

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Interview Transcript
So hi, everyone. I’m here with Hattie fancourt. Today, she’s the Business Development Director for for GB group. So Hattie, thanks very much for joining me.

Now. It’s lovely to be here. Thanks, Chris.

So you guys are obviously in the sort of like Identity Fraud Management sort of investigation kind of space. And I’d be glad to hear that. What are some of the things that that you’ve been seeing? I suppose particularly since, you know, since since we’ve coming out over the last year, and then into this year? Yeah, absolutely.

I mean, as we all know, we see constantly on the news and in the media that, you know, there’s a there’s a huge pressure on everybody financially, and that’s having a huge impact in what we’re seeing here at GBG. It’s absolutely no secret that we’re going to see more people defaulting and more people, you know, struggling financially. So we are seeing a huge increase in demand from business, you know, a huge range of businesses where they need support in tracing and investigating people. Sadly, with financial difficulties, it does increase, you know, fraudulent activity, people do become more desperate people do look for new ways, to, you know, to fight to find money and to find money quickly. So, it does, you know, it does put an awful lot of pressure on businesses, and we are seeing that there are, you know, new new ways of committing fraud, and there are new ways of people trying to, you know, hide themselves as well. So there’s a massive increase for us.

Yeah. So you’re seeing that from I suppose from from businesses, and they’re starting to see fraud increase, I noticed that’s been in the media quite a bit in terms of like, seeing that started to come through. I mean, do you think that’s been the thing that’s going to escalate, I suppose post to post the holidays and put into into the new year means that I know, people sort of like now starting to investigators really sort of work out what we can do.

Yeah, definitely. And I think, you know, as we often say, you know, fraudsters are so intelligent, and they’re always trying to find new ways of committing fraud. And, you know, once we kind of, you know, once we click on to one way of, you know, we’ve we find a trend, they find a new trend. So it’s about, you know, staying that one step ahead, and understanding which areas are going to see those increases.

And how does that work? I suppose, you know, one of the things we’ve really worked on since, you know, since since lockdown, and and the pandemic has been sort of like this whole sort of shift toward digital, I mean, does that make fraud easier? I mean, we definitely saw that when the internet started, we it seemed just like, it seemed easier to be able to do that. I mean, are people using that? I mean, are fraudsters using that? Do you think I mean, is it making it easier now than it was even sort of three years ago, I think,

again, you know, where I work at GBG, we’ve got a massive raft of services to counter fraud. And we’ve got a different side of the business to where I work called ID, you know, our ID three side of the business where they work, to help businesses put things in place, so that it’s not easy for fraudsters to, you know, take out insurance policies or to take out, you know, you know, to work with businesses, it’s putting those safeguards at the front. However, it is, you know, as I said, fraudsters are so clever that they, they know about these technologies, and they do know, ways around it. So it is a case of being really vigilant and to understand, you know, from your own businesses perspective, what safeguards you need to put in place, and how you can prevent this from happening. So, you know, we I work on the investigate side of GPG. And we support a huge raft of businesses in identifying fraudsters at the point that they have already got a policy, or they have already, they have already started engaging with and working with the business. So, you know, a big area that I work with personally is the insurance sector. And we’re seeing, you know, a huge demand from, you know, like a gadget insurance. For is one example, I’m seeing a lot more questions about gadget insurance, and it’s a bit of a, you know, it’s a bit of a quick win, then then lower their lower claims. So perhaps previously, they were investigated a little bit less. But in these kind of more desperate times, and when people have got less money, maybe it’s quite easy to lose your iPad and make a claim. And, actually, we need to be a bit more vigilant and check that and check that these people are legitimate and check that, you know, can we put better safeguards in place?

I mean, do you think that’s sort of like looking at, you know, gadget insurance as an example? Or do you think the fact that that’s becoming more common in terms of like getting extra information as a function of increasing fraud, so people are actually stretched financially and now they’re looking for opportunities, and this is a way of doing it? Maybe these were previously written off before? Do you think it’s, do you think is a function of the businesses? Maybe that look Looking for additional revenue? Because that, you know, because we’re in we’re inflationary times as well as we’re looking for returns? Or do you think it’s the fact that suppose that we’ve got extra technology for us to be able to do that? Now? I mean, I mean, it could be because it could be one of those three, that sort of driving the interest in, you know, being able to be more efficient and find these actually, but there could be also increasing or slight demand coming through from from the market as a result of stress. I mean, do you think any of those sort of dominators at all three?

Literally, I think it’s all three, I think it’s the time the times that we’re living in, it’s, it’s, it’s very difficult, it’s very, very difficult for businesses, it’s very difficult for consumers, I think, you know, I genuinely think that there is, you know, it is like an overriding recipe of we just as every single business now, I think you do need to be a bit more vigilant, I think you do have to have more safeguards in place. Obviously, you know, there is the flip side that you’ve got, you know, most customers are legitimate, and you know, that the software and the services that we provide, it also gives you that peace of mind that, you know, when you are paying out a legitimate claim, that you can feel really comfortable about it. So it’s not just, you know, we’re not spending the whole time catching bad guys and saying, you know, we’ve we’ve, you know, it’s not nine out of 10 people are fraudsters. But you know, when when you are able to stop a fraudster from claiming, obviously, that’s a fantastic thing. But equally, when you’re paying out legitimate claims, and legitimate people, knowing that you’ve got these extra checks, and knowing that you’ve, you know, you can just feel fully comfortable that when you pay out that money, or when you know, we’re using insurance is quite quite a big example. But when you do pay out on a claim, for example, you can feel very comfortable that this person is legitimate, and it’s okay to pay that money out.

When it’s in some ways that keeps the cost of insurance down because it making it more efficient, right. So you’re not you’re not losing, losing money unnecessarily. What about what about digital? And I suppose one of the things that definitely see with digital is it allows you to, you can change telephone numbers easily you can change emails easily. I mean, I think I’ve got I’ve got three emails, at least three or four new emails, at least most of us have, right? I mean, and that becomes quite easy to avoid being contacted. I mean, that’s something that fraudsters might use, might we use them you got third party fraud as your first party fraud? But, you know, people can use that in sort of nefarious ways to, to maybe avoid being contacted and those kinds of things, we just more than investigate? Simon, do you see that? I mean, is that is that is that been a change in the industry tickets? pandemic?

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Absolutely. So the big, the biggest area that I work with is the is the collections industry. And there’s been a huge shift in how the collections industry work with customers. So digital engagement is, you know, the the hottest topic, what I’m talking to, or pretty much all of the firm’s about it’s becoming, you know, there’s still a slight demand, but it’s becoming less of a demand for a valid home address, and a huge demand now, for a correct mobile number and a correct email address. You’re absolutely right, in terms of, it’s easier to change those. And it’s even easy for a customer to change their name slightly. But we, we actually introduced a new matching technology earlier on this year, and we’re seeing absolutely fantastic results, and what this code is entity resolution. And it’s a really intelligent matching technology, where we’re actually able now to read between the lines. So if you’ve got a customer, that is Robert Evans, and, you know, he’s Rob, Robert, Bob, Bobby, you know, he could be all of these different variations of himself. And perhaps he lives at number 12, the High Street, but actually, he’s going to start saying that he lives at Ivy cottage, the high street and just making these little tweaks and changes. And as you said, he might have multiple email addresses. So you’ve then got this one entity that can have all of these different variations. And it could be, you know, with one business, he’s used this email address this address, and he’s Bobby, with this business, He’s Robert, and he’s use a different email address, and etc, etc. So you can, you can create all of these different versions of yourself. And with our entity resolution matching, we’re able to read between the lines, and we can say Ivy cottages, the same as 12, the High Street match that together, Robert, Bobby and Bob, they’re the same person, let’s match that together. And we’re able to give you results that you know, that we didn’t have the intelligence to do it years ago, whereas now, those customers that are purposely creating these different personas, were able to merge them together and actually give you that correct result and say, Okay, so for this person, you had this particular email address, but we know that he also uses this one, this one and this one, and this is this is the most up to date mobile number for him. We’ve checked it. It’s definitely valid, this is, you know, this is the best way to contact him. So we’re able to give such better results now.

I mean, one of the things that’s very difficult difference between those emails and example and house is, is it’s very easy to change your email, but it’s quite difficult to to change it to change where you live, right? So yeah,

yeah, that’s exactly it. So you can yeah, there’s, there’s less options to change where you physically live, but but the most effective way to physically engage with people now is digitally. So I think in terms of actually getting results and getting responses, it’s still far, far, far, far better to send technical text messages, emails, where people can, you know, respond to it at a time that’s convenient, respond to it at a time where they’re feeling, you know, they don’t feel backed into a corner, and they can sit down and have a cup of tea and say, right, I’m in a mess. I’m going to open this link now. And I’m prepared to kind of face it head on. Whereas when you’re getting, you know, if you’re getting a look at the door, if you’re getting, you know, num numbers phoning you and numbers phoning you, it’s very easy to kind of just say, I don’t want I don’t want to be plugged into that corner.

There’s I mean, you think you think, you know, we’ve been very much sort of like, you know, everything’s digital, or, you know, everything sort of, you still need to have the phone and you sort of get your state broken into these two camps? I mean, do you think there’s still need for physical face visits? Do you think there’s still need for for sending letters? And, you know, you know, talent, calling people versus I suppose some of these more digital pieces? I mean, do you see? Do you see how do you sort of see that evolving? And what you kind of hear from customers? Because it does feel like it’s been a little bit like all or nothing? It’s kind of we were just sort of swinging over here, and we overcorrecting?

Yeah, I think what we tend to see is, you know, Plan A, Plan B, so the emails and the mobiles are becoming plan a pretty, I’d say pretty much 90% of the conversations, they don’t want to be, you know, paying for an address on the first attempt. And then, you know, again, because the technology is so developed, now, you can see if the text messages have been opened, you can see if the emails have been opened, if they’re getting no response. So we’re telling, you know, we provide them, and we can tell them this mobile and this email is valid, and it is valid. But as you said, you might have five or six email addresses. And perhaps, you know, two weeks ago, they’ve decided that I’m never opening that inbox again, you know, there’s, there’s, there’s too many businesses connected to that, I just want to kind of leave, leave that behind me. So you can kind of see that on Plan A, it’s not being opened, they’re not clicking these links, we’re not getting through to them, there’s not really any point to keep sending emails to that email inbox, because they’re not opening it, we’ve tried it, it’s not working. So come back for Plan B, where, okay, this is where they’re living, send them a letter and see if you can get a response that way. So I think, you know, the digital is the quickest, it’s the easiest, and I think customers genuinely genuinely find it the most comfortable way to be contacted, I think it gives them more power, it makes them feel a bit less vulnerable. And it is very much look, when it’s a good time for you to engage with this. Whereas, you know, I think even you know, even sometimes opening a letter, you know, you can pick it up off the floor, and you think it looks like a bill or it looks like something scary. And it’s easy just to kind of put it to one side. But if you’re not getting those clicks, and you’re not getting that response from the from the digital engagement, you’ve got to try another method

and talk about all the communication people you can actually get hold of people than then the none of that stuff kind of happens, which I suppose is the other kind of angle. Right? So and it feels like you’re using this sort of like blended type of approach seems to be getting more common, but it seems like it’s it’s suddenly shifting to being digital first, rather than all digital or even more traditional kind of approaches. And how quickly do you think that’s, that’s, that’s sort of changing because it’s different in different parts of the, in different parts of the industry, for example. So you see that difference in insurance versus, you know, collection agencies versus let’s say, you no more sort of like creditors or I mean, do you see do you see differences by by market sector? Yeah. Digital adoption and digital first? Yeah, it’s

really interesting. So another area that I worked really closely with is the pension sector. And, again, digital engagement is the hot topic. It’s it’s the way of, you know, a lot of people that are at pensioner age, when they’re when they took on the pension and when they were first interacting with it with the pension firm. mobiles and emails were kind of a bit of a secondary thing. It’s, it’s,

we said, they didn’t exist. No,

we sent we send you a paper letter. You know, every six months you get you get your paper letter through the door. We have no idea if you’ve moved 20 times we have no idea if you still live there. I mean, I still get my, the previous owner of this house, like, every six months, I get the Scottish Widows dropping on the doorstep, sent it back so many times and it’s like, you know, it’s like, it’s it’s, it doesn’t matter as long as we keep sending our letters, that’s, that’s that’s the process, whereas that’s massively shifting now, and working really closely with the pension sector on digitalising, online platform self that self service platforms, you know, people understanding what, you know, what pensions Do you have? Where are they, you know, if you’ve been employed by five different companies, do you know where your pensions are? Do you know how much you actually got? Do you know how to access it? And there’s so many people that don’t, and, you know, if they have moved house, you know, even once from when from when they had that particular pension, the chances are that it’s, you know, that information is still dropping on your old doormat, and they haven’t got your new address, they haven’t got your email address, and it’s just this information is just, you know, floating out there somewhere. And it’s about, actually, we need to, we need to get the pension sector digitalising. And we need to get people to start self serving and to understand better where your information is, how do you get it? How do you consolidate everything? So that’s been a really interesting project. So I think that’s, that’s a great example of, yes, even even the most traditional of of industries is digitalising.

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I mean, I remember way back when it was very, very manual and use actually can visit a pension advisor, physically in their office to kind of arrange it and it was on paper. But you’re right. And as you get to the Get get to sort of like the end of your working career, then you often have multiple pensions. I mean, do you think, do you think that could be more so now, though, with, even with younger people, right, because people, you know, they move around more, potentially, they also tend to suddenly move around subject to extra jobs. And so like you do sort of pick up this sort of like, little pensions everywhere versus the consolidation. So do you think that’s, that’s probably going to be growing? I mean, now, probably the challenges around digital readiness, right? So it’s like, well, people might have an email, but it wasn’t in the original account. Right. So but do you think that’s going to change in terms of like, the search around? Where was everyone? Where are all the attention? Do you think it’s going to be an increasing trend?

Yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s absolutely massive. And I mean, you think about the cost of, you know, rental properties, you’ve got a lot more people living in house shares, you’ve got, you know, you’ve got it takes longer for people to typically get on the property ladder now. So, you know, renters tend to move more often. You’ve got people, as you said, you know, I’m, I’m myself, I’m 31. And I’ve lived in, you know, in the last few years, I’ve lived in four different properties myself. And, you know, I think when you just look at that as one example, you just think, actually, yeah, my the first company that I worked for, they’d have absolutely no idea where I am, they’d have an absolutely no idea what my email address is. So it would, you know, currently, you know, the onus is on me to find out, how do I access that information, but I’m at a point where I do, I don’t really think about where my pension is. And I think it’s such a long way off that I just, I’ll deal with that later. But the onus is, is turning and there is more responsibility on the pension funds side, to make sure you know, reunite people with their assets, and make sure that people know where their assets are. And, you know, there’ll be so much that’s unclaimed, there’ll be so much that, you know, even if you’ve got a small pension pot somewhere, you know, you worked somewhere for a year, there’s, you know, there’s a few 100 quid in there maybe. And, to a lot of people, as they might just say, I there’s not much there, I don’t know how to find it. So I just let it go. And you think if there’s millions of people doing the same thing, that’s millions and millions of pounds, that’s just being, you know, brushed to one side. So there is there is a big piece coming in, which I think it will happen this year, which is called the pensions dashboard, where the pension providers will need to have their customer information up to date. And it will be that you I, you know, parents, grandchildren, whoever it is, can log on to the pensions dashboard, and it will use your National Insurance number, your personal information, and it will be able to connect all of your pensions together, and it will give you the ability to understand exactly what you’ve got where it is and to be able to consolidate it. So it’s been Yeah, really, really interesting projects. And I could talk about the pensions market very

well, it’s um, you just mentioned that the number of times you move, then you actually you might actually have more addresses than you do emails. Yeah. I was thinking that that was as you’re going through. I mean, that that is actually a possibility, isn’t

it? Yeah. Well, for me personally, I haven’t changed my personal email since I was a teenager, and I’ve just stuck with the same email accounts, it’s only, you know, I’ve changed employment a couple of times so that that email address obviously has changed. But my personal one has remained the same, which I think is why digital engagement is usually a safer option. Because most, you know, most people, if you’re not trying to avoid being contact, if you’re not out going out of your way, to create lots of different email addresses, you don’t want to be manning lots of different inboxes, you’ll have your main primary email that you use for most of your important correspondence. So if you’re not someone that’s avoiding being found, actually, your email addresses the most reliable way of finding them.

Yeah, I mean, that’s quite interesting. You could actually see more stability in emails than you do in addresses, particularly on personal emails, right? I mean, because if you change jobs, you get different different work email addresses, but you could actually see more stability going forward than than it was historically and say, even even with mobile phones, for certain sectors, right, because people sort of resist changing mobile phones. Yeah. You know, but But you know, there will be people who use I mean, that, you know, no people are they have almost like burner emails, because they know they’re going to get a lot of spam. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Whether those coming eight news,

yeah, that I think, you know, that that absolutely does exist. But I do think, again, for for, you know, legitimate people that, you know, because there are, there are a lot of people that, you know, could be in financial difficulty that, actually, you know, they do just want to get it sorted, and they do want to be contacted, and they do want to know, their options. And, you know, they, they won’t be avoiding that contact. And actually, when they do get that email, they’ll click it quickly, and they’ll resolve it quickly. I think you get, you get different people look at debt in very different ways of some people will bury their head in the sand and hope it goes away. But you’ve got other people that, actually it because it keeps them up at night, they want that, that resolution as quick as possible. They want that payment plan in place, they want to know that they’re not going to be getting letters and phone calls, they want to set something up so that it’s almost like, right, I’ve faced this, I face this problem head on. I’m resolving it, I can relax a bit about it now. And it doesn’t need to keep me up at night.

Yeah, I mean, how do you think that changed from an email and from a mobile phone point of view. And if you go back to like, 10 years, when people used to use their, their business emails, sometimes for contact details, or their business phone for contact details, and then obviously, that market sort of changed a bit so that that those are almost like less stable from a personal point of view, than maybe, you know, we all have a Gmail or, you know, whatever, whatever the service, is that sort of like we know is going to be there on the longer term, would you see a shift away from almost like work emails to personally emails? I mean, is that sort of like, Do you think that’s really consolidating to people having one go to email, maybe a couple of go to emails that that? Is that is that a change?

Yeah, well, one of the massive strengths that we have here at GPG is we do provide you with multiple contact sources. So if somebody does have a live work, email, and alive, personal or too personal, we will provide you with all three, and we will be able to differentiate which are personal, which are working emails. So I know, most most businesses that we work with, will prefer to have a personal email than a work email. Because again, I think, from a customer’s perspective, is that especially if it is contacting somebody about, you know, money that they owe? I think, you know, it will catch you very off guard, if you get an email to your work, your work email, and you don’t want, you know, you don’t want your employees seeing it. And often your employees can look at your work inbox and things like that, and it will maybe, you know, panic you a lot more if you’re getting contact by your work channels, rather than your personal channels. So I think it’s a massive strength that when we provide the contact information, we do tell you, this is very, very, very likely to be a working email, or this is very, very, very likely to be a personal email.

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And how is it How’s GDPR and data privacy sort of affected the business in terms of like, particularly on the personal side and the consumer side in terms of like consent, and sort of, you know, those those kinds of things in terms of where the information comes from? How’s it how’s that had an impact? Yeah, I mean, I’ve had to adapt to that. Right?

Yeah, it changed things massively. But genuinely, it changed things so much for the better, because, you know, the businesses that we work with have got a legitimate interest, there is a legitimate reason why they can have this contact information, not just any business could set up a meeting with me and I can provide them with, you know, your, your personal information, and actually, I think that’s, that will make everybody feel so much more comfortable. And it is, you know, it is businesses that you know, qualify Um, through GDPR, and through compliance and through the relevant channels that there is a legitimate reason why we can provide these contact details to you. So there are limited sectors that we can work with. And there are very strict use cases in terms of, you know, whenever we have a new business meeting, we clarify very clearly what are you using this information for? You know, it, you couldn’t, you couldn’t just have a company phone up and say, Oh, we want to do a marketing campaign, because we want to sell lots of these. Absolutely, that, you know, we’re not, we’re not going to provide you a massive list of email addresses so that you can bombard them with something they haven’t given permission for. However, if, you know, if this person needs to be, you know, pension sector, reuniting somebody with their assets, that is a fantastic legitimate interest. And actually, we’re doing a great service. Again, if you do own a company money, there is a legitimate legitimate interest there. So GDPR changed things massively for the business, but actually, I think it’s a great thing for consumers.

So it’s really interesting. I mean, I love I love the sector in terms of like, fraud and investigation. So like seeing how things are changing, because you’re right on the front end of select seeing some of the demographic changes, I think, which is, which is, which is fascinating. Yeah. I mean, where do you think it goes from here into, you know, out into the rest of this year? And sort of like out a couple of years? I mean, sort of like, we’ve been through quite a journey over the last three years. I mean, what what do you sort of see, see, how do you see that changing going forward?

Yeah, I think, you know, digitalising, in terms of communication, that’s, as I’ve talked about, that an awful lot. But that is, that is the topic that I’m talking about more and more and more across all sectors. So I think that’s, you know, that’s absolutely huge, in terms of the conversations that I’m having business to business, but in terms of fraudulent activity, I think we’re gonna see a massive increase. I think the people that are facing financial difficulty, you’ve kind of got people that are used to it, but we’re gonna be finding a new sector of people that fall into like, the new the new branch of, they could afford their lifestyles, you know, one year ago, maybe two years ago, but with the cost of living, increasing, so significantly, actually, they’re now falling in this bracket, where that they’re starting to default. They’re finding themselves in, you know, uncharted waters that they’re not used to, and it’s going to feel very uncomfortable for them. So I think we’re going to see new new people facing financial difficulty and trying to find quick ways to get themselves out of it. So I think we’ll find more people, I think we’ll find more fraud from people that aren’t typical, bad fraudsters and actually just more desperate people that are trying to find a solution. And I think we’ll find more people don’t want to be found, because they’ve gotten themselves into, you know, significant financial difficulty, perhaps, you know, they’ve got five or six different companies trying to contact them, they’ve defaulted on quite a lot. And they, you know, that they’ve, they’re feeling incredibly vulnerable, and they’re feeling incredibly scared. So the best thing that they can do is, from their perspective, is to go off grid. So I think, you know, it’s, we need technology, like our entity resolution, so that we can keep helping people get out of these situations. As I said, client vulnerability is a massive, massive topic, and we talk about it a lot at GBG. And we talk about it a lot with our, with, with the businesses that we work with. And it’s so important that when we are communicating with and when we are contacting customers that, you know, we understand their vulnerabilities, and especially in the collections industry, you know, pretty pretty much anybody that is facing debt collection will be classed as vulnerable, you know, they’ve, they’re in a situation that’s very uncomfortable, and, you know, nobody’s going to be enjoying that.

I mean, it’s, there’s part of it, you’re trying to trying to get ahead of it. So you sort of get ahead of it sort of work out what your financial situation is, because there is good help out there. And you could help either from the debt advice sector, but also from the companies themselves and like, it’s like, how do you get ahead of it, too, so you can address it as soon as possible because the longer you leave it, the worse it gets. Exactly that. And I think, I mean, that’s obviously an important role, right?

100% 100% And I think that’s why I am so passionate about this, you know, being able to communicate with people and to be able to get that message across of you know, you’re you’re not alone, actually. So so many people coming into this year are going to be feeling financially vulnerable. There’s there’s gonna be more conversations about it. There’s already more conversations about it. I mean, you can’t you know, On the radio on the television, there’s a lot more conversations about, you know, let’s let’s speak to this particular family who it was, it was on this morning about the energy metres not being able to talk them up. And actually we’re making a decision between do we put food on the table? Or do we do we heat the house? You know, and there’s, it’s, it’s really, really distressing. And it’s it’s a horrible situation for a lot of people. So I think by getting the messages out there, the help is so much better than you probably think it is. And that being out to set up a way of getting out of getting out of financial difficulty. They, you know, these companies work with you, not against you. And everybody’s end goal. Absolutely. Everybody wants to see that customer out of that situation.

Yeah, yeah. Well, it’s gonna be it’s gonna be an interesting year. I mean, it’s it’s concerning. I know, sort of where we’re sitting now, but it’s going to be I mean, hopefully it plays out better than, you know, the than we think, you know, but it’s going to be a busy year, I think, no doubt as well. So yeah, but Hattie, thanks very much for making the time for me. I appreciate it as I find it, it’s a it’s a very interesting sector. And I, you know, I learned I learned a lot every time we chat. So, so I really appreciate it. So thanks very much. I’ve really enjoyed it. Thanks, Chris.

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