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Top Compliance Gurus of 2015

  • Written by Collection Advisor

Guru BadgeCompliance today is maintaining professional zen in a turbulent sea of lawsuits and government regulation. Those who truly aspire for such mastery do it not only for their own companies but also for the industry as a whole. The proactivity of these compliance gurus can include teaching compliance courses, working with trade organizations to develop guidelines, and influencing regulators. The collection professionals recognized in this issue have put these ideals into practice. Collection Advisor presents the Top Compliance Gurus of 2015 and their views on compliance.

 

 

HansonTINA M. HANSON, IFCCE, CCCO
Protocol Financial Service, LLC | CEO

What is your personal creed when it comes to compliance?
I believe compliance is at the heart of our business service delivery today. Have good process and change management systems in place with audits to finish it off and know it is done correctly. Not only do it right, but know you are doing it right.

What can a collection professional proactively do to influence the current compliance environment?
Get involved with your legislators and regulators. It starts at the grass roots to get change and education to our lawmakers and enforcers. Without our involvement, we will not have a voice in Washington helping educate lawmakers about our industry so laws being made make sense for the industry and are a balance between consumer and business needs. If you have not visited your local legislator, do so and invite them into your office to meet your staff and give them a positive experience to keep with them while they set our legislation.

What do you anticipate for the future of compliance in collections?
The collection experience is changing dramatically with recent legislation and future laws yet to be written focusing the entire collection experience on the consumer. When and how is the consumer interaction occurring? All these touch points are going to be viewed, monitored and regulated from the eyes of the consumer. We are going to be making great strides to assure those touch points are handled in the manner the consumer would like them to be handled. I see consumer scorecards becoming more important than the client scorecards we receive today.

 

EscobarSEAN M. ESCOBAR
USCB America | Senior Vice President, Compliance

What is your personal creed when it comes to compliance?
Compliance has, in the past, been viewed by the C-suite as a necessary evil; something that hovers above the company like a dense fog. CEOs dread the word as it typically offers them nothing but headache and heartache. CFOs avoid any contact with the department and refuse to pronounce the word aloud as it inevitably translates into dollars being spent on initiatives, applications, and tools that they don’t understand and can’t pencil out an ROI for. However, any business that thrives in today’s ARM industry recognized years ago that this draconian perspective of compliance is narrow-minded and an indication of a failed compliance program. Personally, I find compliance to be an opportunity to help elevate the business to embrace best practices, which is good for business. Many of the protocols and procedures I’ve implemented over the years offer a dual purpose: address the compliance gap and assist operations with improved efficiencies. In today’s turbulent environment, compliance must be viewed with a holistic approach to address the myriad of challenges and evolving regulatory restrictions, in partnership with operations to identify and implement best practices. Lastly, having an effective and comprehensive compliance management system will not only keep your company out of court but, more often than not, it can be used as a very effective public relations tool as you compete in the marketplace.

What can a collection professional proactively do to influence the current compliance environment?
Stay involved. Keep well informed. Reach out to your peers and don’t be afraid to share your war stories. Networking is a very powerful weapon that when wielded with the right intentions, can save you and your company from making costly and time consuming mistakes. Attend every webinar, seminar, and compliance related conference your budget can handle and participate. It’s good to attend, however, you will be amazed how influential one can be by simply participating.

What do you anticipate for the future of compliance in collections?
I anticipate that the CFPB, with a $670 million budget, is not going away anytime soon. I fully expect that all debt collections, including healthcare collections, will be wholly under the supervisory authority of the CFPB. I believe the audacious appetites of consumer advocacy groups and plaintiff attorneys will continue to grow with an ever-expanding diet of exploiting technical violations of laws such as the FDCPA, UDAAP, and, in the wake of the overly consumer-weighted FCC ruling, even more so the TCPA. As history has shown, this fever only serves to line the pockets of the attorneys while slowly deteriorating the fundamentals of the U.S. credit system. Compliance will become a “must do or die” for companies.

 

HaagTOM D. HAAG, IFCCE
State Collection Service Inc. | CEO

What is your personal creed when it comes to compliance?
Vince Lombardi said, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” That is how we feel about compliance. Compliance is the most important element of the way we conduct business. Cutting corners is just buying trouble.

What can a collection professional proactively do to influence the current compliance environment?
The thing we must do to influence compliance is to discuss the importance with our employees, train them and then bonus them for compliance. At State Collection Service a quality bonus is paid for a perfect compliance score.

What do you anticipate for the future of compliance in collections?
In the future, perhaps even now, failure to comply will result in loss of business, additional expense and bad public relations for both us and the industry we work in.

 

BuntonDALLAS S. BUNTON, SR., IFCCE, MCE
North American Credit Services and Medical Services, Inc. | Chairman and CEO

What is your personal creed when it comes to compliance?
I believe the structure and vision of our jobs to serve our clients lends to understanding the ongoing need to protect our client’s data. None of us are above outside influences that wish to exploit and violate the integrity of our organizations; so we must be diligent at all times.

What can a collection professional proactively do to influence the current compliance environment?
Stay in tune with compliance issues, forums, alerts, security breaches and be informed. Keep your compliance team involved, informed and continually evolving in every area of operations. Compliance is never a destination but a continuing journey.

What do you anticipate for the future of compliance in collections?
Over the years we have experienced more and more client concern regarding the data provided to their vendors for collections. This concern is forcing new and innovative ways of communication, skip tracing, movement of data, verification scripts to be sure that we have the right person, sending the right communication, called the correct number, what number, and what type of number. The involvement of the CFPB and enhanced regulations of state consumer laws and broader interpretations from consumer attorneys have allowed false claims and the cost of doing business in general to rise. I believe the survival of agencies today and beyond will hinge on the strength of compliance not just in the PCI environment but in the way we do our everyday business. Compliance is here to stay.

 

BartonDENNIS J. BARTON III
Barton Law Group, LLC | Owner and Managing Attorney

What is your personal creed when it comes to compliance?
Continually educate my staff, clients, and myself as to the current consumer laws and upcoming trends to make informed business decisions that maximize profits while minimizing risk.

What can a collection professional proactively do to influence the current compliance environment?
Collection professionals should be trained to follow their company’s written policies and procedures. Too many policies and procedures are informally passed down from employee to employee by word of mouth, especially in small agencies that feel they lack the time and resources to document and train according to written policies and procedures. The writing of these policies and procedures does two things: (1) it clarifies to employees a company’s compliance expectations and what actions employees are required to take in order to meet those expectations; and (2) when drafting the policies and procedures, companies will necessarily re-evaluate the legality, effectiveness, and efficiency associated with them, which will improve both compliance and operations.

What do you anticipate for the future of compliance in collections?
The future of compliance in collections will be increased regulations and scrutiny of the industry. This development emphasizes the importance of formalizing policies and procedure, effectively training employees, and critically evaluating compliance efforts to continually improve them. Another factor collectors must consider is the ever-growing education of consumers through blogs, YouTube, fellow consumers, and interactions with bankruptcy and consumer attorneys. Whether it is bait calls or well-intended inquiries, collectors must be prepared to properly respond. That starts with collectors having clearly documented policies and procedures and the training to understand and execute them. That allows collectors to avoid violations of the law and deliver high quality service.

 

WeissROGER D. WEISS, IFCCE
CACi | Chief Operating Officer

What is your personal creed when it comes to compliance?
When it comes to compliance my personal creed is Share More Flare. What I mean by that is being compliant is a minimum standard which usually needs to be exceeded. Don’t just hit the minimums, make sure consumers, your clients, and you are overly protected. Then, share what you are doing with your clients. It is not only good practice, but gives your clients the strong reassurance that they are partnered with a true professional. With growing CFPB oversight, the term vicarious liability is going to grow real teeth, and it will become growingly important that your clients are aware of your practices.

What can a collection professional proactively do to influence the current compliance environment?
Collection professionals can do a number of things to proactively influence the current compliance environment. Remember, the seeds we plant today become the current environment tomorrow. a) Walk the walk, and talk the talk. Say what you are going to do. Do it. Tell others about it. Be the role model. b) Educate yourself and those around you. Use industry resources, as well as non-industry resources. Read books, magazines, blogs, and anything else you can get your hands on. Watch YouTube videos, TED talks, and other tools (such as the videos found at www.thecollectionscoach.com). Study consumer, plaintiff attorney, legislator, and regulator points of view; then ask how can you indoctrinate those points of view into your company and industry. c) Educate others. Share what you learn with employees, co-workers, colleagues, competitors, consumers, and nearly anyone else that will listen. d) Forge relationships with local, state, and federal legislators and regulators. Develop personal relationships with your representatives and senators (here’s a hint, most of them who even start small have higher ambitions, and some of them make it). EVERYONE in this industry regardless of position or title should do this. We need thousands of whispers to roar into a thundering voice.

What do you anticipate for the future of compliance in collections?
I anticipate continued upheaval for the compliance landscape well beyond the horizon. I believe that regulators will make regular visits to agencies for oversight and audits. I think there will be new state and federal regulations addressing the use of technology, and hopefully clarifying it as well. I think voice analytics is going to become just as standard as recording phone calls. Internally for companies, I believe that supervision, training, compliance, and quality assurance will begin to morph into a broader all encompassing role.

 

RainwaterMICHAEL K. RAINWATER, MBA, IFCCE, CCAE, CCCO
The Uptain Group Inc. | Administrator, Third Party Collection Division

What is your personal creed when it comes to compliance?
If you do your best to be as compliant as possible, you can spend much more time looking forward than over your shoulder at what you have done and worrying about the action you have taken.

What can a collection professional proactively do to influence the current compliance environment?
Be actively involved in associations like ACA International (or those specific to your industry) and respond when requested to contact legislators or provide information – there is power in numbers.

What do you anticipate for the future of compliance in collections?
There is an expression that to get some things changed takes “an Act of Congress” – in the case of compliance, that is literal, not figurative. Laws effecting compliance in the collection industry must be updated, modernized and reflective of today’s environment as opposed to when they were passed.

 

BedardJOHN H. BEDARD, JR.
Bedard Law Group, P.C. | Managing Attorney

What is your personal creed when it comes to compliance?
Errors will occur, but there is no acceptable margin of error in compliance.

What can a collection professional proactively do to influence the current compliance environment?
Compliance professionals can have the biggest influence on the current compliance environment in their organizations by doing two things, (1) always questioning processes and thinking in different ways about how those processes affect consumers, and (2) designing compliance management systems capable of preventing, detecting, and correcting consumer harm.

What do you anticipate for the future of compliance in collections?
The future of the collection industry is bright. Over the next several years the collection industry will achieve compliance success unlike any seen before. Origination and servicing functions in the credit cycle will improve and bad debt collections will transform in ways designed to positively advance the consumer experience. Creditors, collectors, and consumers alike will reap the benefits of stronger compliance practices in the marketplace.

 

StiefDONNA NICHOLSON STIEF, ACA FELLOW: 2012, ACA PROFESSIONAL COLLECTION SPECIALIST: 2013-2016, ACA SCHOLAR: 2011
Credit Bureau of Lancaster County, Inc | Executive Director, CCO

What is your personal creed when it comes to compliance?
Live and Operate “Above Reproach.” Wikipedia describes compliance and regulatory compliance: “In general, compliance means conforming to a rule, such as a specification, policy, standard or law. Regulatory compliance describes the goal that organizations aspire to achieve in their efforts to ensure that they are aware of and take steps to comply with relevant laws and regulations.” What’s interesting, the reality is, in credit and collections we are not just conforming to a rule. We know all too well that rules are often draconian, ambiguous, technologically outdated, vague, and left to the interpretation of any particular judge. Therefore, we must do more than comply by asking, “does our compliance policy fully capture the spirit and intent of the law and have we put reasonable processes in place to exceed the expectation of the law?”

What can a collection professional proactively do to influence the current compliance environment?
It frustrates our professional industry when bad actors surface and make negative headlines. Do not be that agency. If you’re reading this magazine, chances are you are not one of the rouge bad actors. Live and operate your agency above reproach. Be actively engaged in your ACA state unit and participate in ACA events, in particular the Legislative Conference in Washington DC. Otherwise, such agencies are spectators, watching others roll up their sleeves to better our livelihood. All ships rise and fall with the tide. We are in this together. Our success will be in the collaborative effort of we, the stakeholders. A stakeholder should never be a spectator.

What do you anticipate for the future of compliance in collections?
If the past is any indication of the future, we are eating, drinking, and sleeping compliance. It’s going to be tough. There is currently no balance between consumer rights and creditor rights. I am a proponent of both. After all, we are consumers as well! A healthy economy needs legislators and regulators that understand the necessary balance between the rights of consumers and creditors and implement rules that support both. We need to keep up the good fight.

 

StocktonTHOMAS A. STOCKTON, IFCCE
The CMI Group | CEO

What can a collection professional proactively do to influence the current compliance environment?
The key to the answer is in the question: proactivity. Collection professionals need to go above and beyond by proactively taking steps to create a compliance culture within their companies. The effort has to be every day and involve not only floor management but also training at every level. Everyone, the Board of Directors, the CEO, senior management, the front line manager, the supervisor, the individual agent, needs to be tuned into the compliance culture.

What do you anticipate for the future of compliance in collections?
We will continue to see increased regulation at every level. It will be more and more complicated to track local, state and federal law as they apply to revenue cycle management. This will necessitate more and more expensive technology solutions so that we stay out of trouble. Clients are already and will continue to demand compliance from their agency partners. Compliance is and will continue to be the number one priority for successful companies in the ARM business.

 

BrownRON L. BROWN, MCE, IFCCE, MPRS, CCCO, CARS, CFA, API
CSI Group | President and CEO

What is your personal creed when it comes to compliance?
When it comes to compliance in any area I live by a very simple creed, “Right is right, wrong is wrong, and there is no in between.” Today compliance has become a very serious issue in the collection industry and we must stay abreast of the ever-changing legal interpretations and follow the compliance laws in both letter and spirit.

What can a collection professional proactively do to influence the current compliance environment?
Today’s collection professional must be proactively involved not only in the collection industry but also with the lawmakers on every level of our government who are involved with the laws we must exist under. I advise people in the collection industry to not reactively move from a defensive position but rather get in the fracas early and stay on the offensive side of the relevant issues. We must always be conscious that we create the public’s perception of who and what we are and that perception is reality. Our task is to change the envisioned reality by changing the public’s perception.

 

CiskeyDEBRA J. CISKEY, IFCCE
Wakefield and Associates Inc. | Compliance Officer

What is your personal creed when it comes to compliance?
We comply with the law because it is the moral and ethical thing to do. There is no downside to compliance.

What can a collection professional proactively do to influence the current compliance environment?
Externally, compliance professionals have to be vocal advocates for their industry. Communicate with state and federal legislators to educate them about your industry. Visit them when they are in the district and make the effort to visit them at the Capitol. Contribute to industry political action committees to support the election of sympathetic legislators. Be an advocate for the industry with your state regulator – develop a working relationship and be the go-to person for their office when they have a general industry question. Be a resource, and be sure to answer complaints fully and in a timely way. Internally, be an example in your office by following company policies closely. Be positive about compliance – it is not something we are forced to do, it is a part of being a viable and leading member of the industry. Finally, be sure to encourage the heart of all employees by providing positive feedback whenever warranted, and be accessible! Smile, even when you don’t feel like it.

 

AndersenROZANNE M. ANDERSEN, ESQ.
Ontario Systems LLC | Vice President and Chief Compliance Officer

What is your personal creed when it comes to compliance?
To use my intellect, deep knowledge of the credit and collection industry, and understanding of complex legal issues to bring solutions to our clients and the industry at large in the areas of compliance and risk management.

What can a collection professional proactively do to influence the current compliance environment?
Look beyond the halls of the organization they serve to impact the broader framework. Teach the nuances of complicated and often conflicting regulatory issues to regulators and legislators and, in some instances, clients, by presenting practical, real world legislative and regulatory solutions. Support the voice of the industry by amplifying your own in simple, understandable everyday terms and never stop teaching, lobbying, and coaching. Understand that a voice that is not heard cannot affect change.

What do you anticipate for the future of compliance in collections?
I anticipate compliance will become the single most impactful role within a collections operation. Compliance is the new key performance indicator by which collections operations are measured by their creditor clients. This will only cause compliance as a function to become more valuable. Although I do not see compliance as a revenue producer, I do see compliance becoming a catalyst to reduce costs and expenses relating to litigation, damage awards, complaints, collector training, staff turnover, legal fees, remediation, and the like, within an organization. In short, compliance will move from being a cost center to a business driver and all that that implies.

 

ChernerDAVE CHERNER, ACA FELLOW
Northland Group, Inc. | Chief Compliance Officer

What is your personal creed when it comes to compliance?
Compliance should never be a top-down approach and never managed by the “compliance team.” True effective compliance is fostering a collaborative atmosphere where all employees share in a common approach to ensure business practices meet legal, client, and ethical responsibilities.

What can a collection professional proactively do to influence the current compliance environment?
The current compliance environment has already changed significantly in the last five to seven years. We should expect the next five to seven years to be even more volatile with local and state jurisdictions attempting to regulate the industry as well as the anticipated CFPB debt collection rulemaking, which will likely impact all participants in the credit lifecycle. We know many of the hot button issues that raise regulatory concern. We have an opportunity right now to try and identify the best collection strategies and approaches that can meet those challenges, but there needs to be a higher level of interaction and participation among collection professionals to identify the best ways to remain compliant but also competitive.

What do you anticipate for the future of compliance in collections?
The future of compliance in collections is going to be the rise of data analytics in the compliance and legal departments. Developing opportunities to obtain, organize, evaluate, trend, and act on various kinds of collection, financial, litigation, complaint, and quality assurance data (among other pieces of information) in a cohesive environment is going to be vital for an agency to remain compliant and competitive.

 

MurphyPAMELA A. MURPHY, ACA CERTIFIED INSTRUCTOR, ACA APPROVED PPMS INSTRUCTOR, ACA PROFESSIONAL COLLECTION SPECIALIST
ConServe | Vice President, Privacy and Compliance Officer

What is your personal creed when it comes to compliance?
I am committed not only to imparting a mindset of compliance to each and every employee, starting with their first day of training and continuing throughout their career, but also to reinforcing a comprehensive “culture of compliance” throughout the entire organization on an ongoing basis. I strive to achieve this objective by defining and executing our comprehensive compliance strategy while simultaneously providing constant coaching, mentoring and guidance in my day-to-day activities. The fundamental message that we do not forsake compliance for recoveries or vice versa is my key motivator in the adoption of a compliance-focused attitude which in turn drives success. As a role model, educator and leader of the compliance department, my goal is to have all our employees embrace our “culture of compliance” in everything they do.

What do you anticipate for the future of compliance in collections?
The future role of compliance in the collections industry will be inexplicably tied to increased regulatory legislation. In light of this trend, it will become increasingly important to confirm that the best interests of the consumer are being protected. Towards that goal, I have created an overarching Quality Improvement Program to Plan, Do, Check, and Act our practices to guarantee that we remain compliant. Additionally, continuing ongoing education and training will become a necessary priority in order to stay informed and apprised of new developments. Through internal review programs, cutting-edge technology and ongoing education, I ensure that an organizational culture of compliance continues to perform in a vibrant and effective manner.

 

JarmanNICK JARMAN
Delta Outsource Group, Inc. | President & COO

What is your personal creed when it comes to compliance?
There is only one way to do business and that is the right way. Compliance isn’t about trying to figure out how to work outside of the policies, rules, or regulations; but rather how to embrace them and turn the challenges into opportunities. Complete compliance is also the standard on how business should be conducted, nothing less can be expected.

What can a collection professional proactively do to influence the current compliance environment?
Embrace compliance. In order to succeed and sustain in the current and future landscape of the debt collection industry, you have to create a culture of compliance within the organization. Compliance has always been around. The importance of it has just been magnified with the creation of the CFPB. Compliance (policies, rules, regulations, etc.) help outline the rules of the game which establishes expectations. From there, it is up to each organization to hold everyone accountable to those compliance expectations.

What do you anticipate for the future of compliance in collections?
Clarity, at least more than today. Between the CFPB’s examination procedures, enforcement actions, lawsuits, supervisory bulletins, and ANPR (Advanced Notice of Proposed Rule Making), they appear to be casting a wide net in regard to covering all aspects of the debt collection process. During this process they have also created a lot of uncertainty as to which direction they will go. So when the time comes for the actual new debt collection rules to be enforced, the unclear and uncertain should become more clear and concise. Clear and concise will provide a foundation for everyone to understand the rules of engagement and also should help curtail the ever expanding frivolous and technical lawsuits.

 

FrostMICHAEL FROST
CBE Companies, Inc. | Chief Legal Officer & General Counsel

What can a collection professional proactively do to influence the current compliance environment?
Learn, believe, execute. Collectors are the most crucial element in any collection effort. They own the direct relationship between the company and the customer. The customer experience is premised upon the direct interaction with the collector. In order to create a positive experience for any consumer, the collector must understand and believe in the company culture and expectations and execute on each and every customer interaction to maintain a positive image of the company and industry as a whole.

What do you anticipate for the future of compliance in collections?
The future of compliance is driven by each individual industry. The debt collection industry has focused heavily on compliance in the past five years and has made significant improvement. I believe that within the collection industry, compliance has already begun to evolve to a quality assurance focus, which encompasses more than just meeting minimum regulatory compliance expectations. There will continue to be an expanded focus to include metrics, which evaluate the overall consumer experience with every consumer contact.

 

NeebMARK J. NEEB, CPA (inactive), MBA, IFCCE
neebEDU, LLC | President/CEO

What is your personal creed when it comes to compliance?
Our clients place a great deal of trust in us by allowing us to communicate directly with their customers for a very sensitive reason. I think collectors need to realize that this trust comes at a cost, which is the reasonable expectation that we will perform our work at the highest level of confidence possible. In short, do the right things and do things right.

What can a collection professional proactively do to influence the current compliance environment?
Besides making sure they are compliant themselves, they can help promote compliance among their peers. They should also take personal responsibility to continue to learn and be aware of changes happening in our marketplace regarding compliance. This could include such things as becoming a certified collector through ACA International, reading periodicals on the subject, and staying familiar with the missteps of others that are publicized. One can’t simply expect their employer to spoon-feed them everything they need to know. I believe the professional debt collector realizes this and commits to life-long learning.

 

BecraftCHRIS BECRAFT, IFCCE
RevSolve Inc. | President & CEO

What is your personal creed when it comes to compliance?
Today, compliance comes first. All other business considerations must be developed on top of a strong compliance foundation.

What can a collection professional proactively do to influence the current compliance environment?
I’ve personally given up trying to influence the compliance environment because after nearly 20 years of giving money to PACs, writing politicians, or meeting with regulators, I have nothing to show for it. As a businessperson who requires a return for my investments, our resources have been focused on building an exceptional compliance team and process internally to deal with the business realities which we are dealt. Today, our compliance program is a competitive advantage.

What do you anticipate for the future of compliance in collections?
It’s going to continue to get worse and only the larger companies will have the scale to deal with it and thus, survive. We are going to survive and even flourish.