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July/August Cover Stories

Game Changers From Collection Tech Leaders

  • Written by Receivables Advisor
  • Parent Category: Cover Stories
  • Category: July/August Cover Stories

Mastery of one’s tools is a vital step toward virtuosity. The following accounts receivable professionals have been selected by their peers as those who push the frontier in collection technology and set precedents as to what is possible for an accounts receivable entity. These Top Technology Leaders in Accounts Receivable reveal what you can do today that will improve your practices through technology and game changers for the industry.

What is a technology or technological practice every accounts receivable entity should implement?

medina danDan Medina
Senior Database Administrator
Gulf Coast Collection Bureau, Inc.

Be open with your information. First, have a consumer and client web portal. Younger consumers prefer to interact this way. Your clients also appreciate quick responses and confirmation that the accounts are being worked and issues are being addressed. Second, generate and deliver invoices and client reports on time and regularly. Collections is a function of accounting. If an agency can’t do its own accounting quickly and correctly, should they really be handling your accounts?

beck gordon2Gordon C. Beck III
President & COO
Valor Intelligent Processing

At the beginning of each year, based on current trends, agency needs and available opportunity, a great practice is to task the IT Team to bring two new technology projects to the table and see them through to completion. Whether it is a replacement to an existing and aging technology or a brand new technology or both, it is vital that the technology team is always working on the “next best thing.” By requiring this of your CIO it ensures that he or she is always on the look out and ready to take on new projects.

carter marcMarc A. Carter

A direct communications line to the collection plat form provider is vital to drive systemic up grades and top line results.

collins scottScott Collins
Director, Information Technology
Action Collection Agencies, Inc.

Speech analytics for compliance and quality assurance.

cerbelli robRob Cerbelli
IT Director
Debt Recovery Solutions

Implementation of a scoring model to assist in and increase account receivables liquidity.

gardner jr michaelMichael T. Gardner Jr.
Executive Director
Credit Clearing House of America, Inc.

Develop a database of litigious consumers that are flagged when clients place new accounts. This¬prevents contact with consumers who are associated with the well-known plaintiff attorneys in the industry.

haass rickRick Haass
Chief Operating Officer, CISM, CISA
Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson, LLP

Data analytics. Examining data to draw conclusions, change processes and adjust to what is successful is crucial in the industry. Data analysis enables organizations to make better business decisions based on quantifiable metrics and increase collections. Relying on data analytics is as important as the actual technology you use.

kiefer mattMatt Kiefer, MBA
Chief Officer of Information, Compliance & Development
The Preferred Group of Tampa

A good audit mechanism, whether it is a vendor that covers multiple processes or homemade, that you can audit your processes and ensure that what you think ought to be happening is, in fact, happening. I like queries or reports that you can run again and again as in “show me accounts that should be X but are not X or are Y?” For instance: a report that shows me accounts that have a phone, are a recent placement but have never received a call but should have, is a good start.

klamn adamAdam Klamn
Director of IT
Sentry Credit, Inc.

Information security is always the number one risk that everyone should be focused on. The Accounts Receivables industry is a service-based industry, and if you leak your client’s consumer information out in to the “wild,” you are not providing them very good service, are you? Maintaining the security of consumer NPI [non-public personal information] should be the prime driver of all aspects of information management controls. Consumers, clients, and regulators expect peerless data security controls and a solid focus on this area of risk in all new and ongoing operational projects and initiatives.

meyer michaelMichael Meyer
Chief Risk and Security Officer

Change management.

mitchell tripTrip Mitchell
Diversified Consultants, Inc.

Making sure you and your staff are knowledgeable and protected from the latest security threats is where it all starts. With all of the cyber security threats out there today, one simple lack in protection will close the doors permanently, so make sure you are safe from any threats first and foremost.

sarim martyMarty M. Sarim
President and CEO
Enhanced Resource Centers

There are many technologies that every company in the ARM space should deploy but it all starts with what you’re trying to accomplish, your tolerance for spending and your ability to integrate. From there you can really decide what makes the most sense for your individual business. Many ARM companies have diverse segmentations of business based on age, verticals, etc; so not all technology will impact the same.

maltese schobel dianaDiana Maltese Schobel
Certified Accounts Receivable Specialists

There are many! One practice we recently implemented was direct drop voicemail. This has greatly increased our inbound calls and overall consumer contact.

thompson jasonJason Thompson
Chief Information Officer
General Service Bureau and Early Out Services, Inc.

Multichannel communication strategies to engage with consumers in a compliant fashion is a critical element for successful accounts receivable entities. Through technology we can tailor communication strategies in ways that resonate in a more meaningful fashion with the consumer. Today’s consumers, across all generations, are tech savvy and with that, they demand personalized attention that dictates when and how they want to be contacted along with easy online or mobile payment options.

What is the big technological game changer¬ for the accounts receivable industry?

Gordon C. Beck III
It is going to be interesting to see what technologies are developed and become available as a result of the new CFPB rules, but until that becomes available, it is quite obvious to me that artificial intelligence is currently the biggest technological game changer for the industry. Not just using AI for the sake of using it, but actually focusing in on what it can accomplish for the agencies is paramount.¬As it stands, many agencies are spending 30% of their day with “revenue absent calls” such as removing wrong numbers, handling fraud accounts, deceased accounts and even aiding in disputes. Implementing AI to handle these types of calls from cradle to grave, subsequently giving back that 30% of time to the agents so they can handle revenue generating calls, that alone is a huge technological game changer and that is only one aspect of what AI brings to the table.

Marc A. Carter
For CBC, the game changer is Alex, our chatbot. With multi-lingual capabilities and 24/7/365 access by consumers, Alex has provided the platform for compliant communications to debtors with a minimal cost when compared to FTE [full-time employee] costs. ¬ Scott Collins Here I would say there are two. One on the regulation side and the other purely on the revenue side:

• Regulation - Cell phones and the forever-changing laws for contacting consumers on them using dialer technology.

• Revenue - Scoring accounts for propensity to pay using vendor data and your own historical data.

Rob Cerbelli
TCPA ruling on¬autodialing cell phones.

Michael T. Gardner Jr.
No question the big game changer in the A/R industry is the new¬upcoming CFPB rule changes. These rules will allow our industry the ability to email and text consumers, finally allowing us to communicate like we are in the 21st century. Companies need to start setting up processes and procedures¬immediately¬so they are able to take advantage of these new forms of communication when the¬regulations¬are implemented.¬

Rick Haass
Self-service technology (online web portals, IVR, multi-channel options for customers) have had a huge impact on the industry. Simplifying the process of resolving their receivables and making it easier for consumers to settle accounts in a variety of ways achieves faster and better results.

Matt Kiefer, MBA
I think voice drop technology, specifically using VoApps, was a huge game changer. Not just for TCPA but for reaching people in general in a nonobtrusive manner. I was among the first to implement it at a former company after having learned about it when VoApps was a first-time vendor for a conference of the Florida Collectors Association. I analyzed it, read the legal whitepaper on how it works, talked to their people and implemented it. How quickly we saw the ROI!

Adam Klamn
The incorporation of voice analytics. The ability to systematically analyze all consumer calls for demeanor, regulatory risk and customer satisfaction gives us the tools we need to provide a detective control for non-compliant behavior and allows us to properly coach our staff to improve performance.

Dan Medina
Robocallers. Legitimate agencies now have to test and make sure their phone numbers are not on suspected robocaller lists. This is a manual and tedious task at times. Due to the proliferation of robocalls, more people do not answer their phones…at all. They return calls instead. This has greatly impacted dialer strategies. STIR/SHAKEN [Secure Telephony Identity Revisited/Secure Handling of Asserted information using toKENs] looks promising but implementation faces many hurdles and will take more time than anyone cares to wait for.

Michael Meyer
Voice assistant technologies coupled with artificial intelligence.

Trip Mitchell
Automation is key to any process! Automating your back office processes and speeding up the time to process files is allowing faster recovery times. The faster and more secure you can recover a debt, the more you will benefit in the long term. If you can secure, work and allow zero down time in all offices at a faster pace, you will out recover your competition every day.

Marty M. Sarim
Hands down artificial intelligence coming online in more user friendly and affordable ways to the average company. This has really allowed many businesses to disrupt their own work. There have been thousands of tech companies born in just the past few years that are very nimble and much more cost effective that use AI and will allow more plug and play options.¬

Diana Maltese Schobel
The technological game changer is the ability to contact our consumers using current technology such as text messaging and emailing. This would allow us to communicate with the consumers in the manner they prefer. However, until the proposed rules are finalized, we are not been able to fully implement this technology.

Jason Thompson
The biggest technological game changer is happening right now with the recent release of the CFPB’s proposed rules related to the allowed usage of modern communication technologies. The personalization of customer communications will be critical to the success of any receivables firm especially when it comes to collecting overdue accounts which are considered an intrusion if not communicated effectively. Personalized communication solutions tailored to customer preferences help in developing trust and building relationships with consumers.

New World of Credit Card Collections

simendinger jeffreyCredit card debt collection looks very different than it did only a few years ago. Professionals are still exploring this new world, looking for and walking the fine line that is profitability in a jungle of regulation. This issue of Collection Advisor we shine the Agency Spotlight on SIMM Associates and find out from Co-Founder and COO Jeffrey S. Simendinger what he does to manage collection professionals and keep a collection floor productive.

How did you become involved with SIMM Associates and collections?

I am one of the cofounders of SIMM and have been involved with it since day one. I started in collections as a part-time collector employed by MBNA while attending the University of Delaware. I was later offered a full-time position in MBNA's Customer Assistance Department which was a fancy name for collections. I worked my way through the delinquency buckets and within a short period of time I was working in their backline pending charge off area. My father who is the other cofounder of SIMM has been in the industry since the late ‘70s. He managed the Collection Agency and Attorney networks for several large issuers. We decided to go out on our own and SIMM was created.

What is something you do to ensure things run smoothly on the collection floor?

Contests and recognition are some things we do to ensure the staff doesn’t become complacent. Communication between management and collection staff is also a critical piece. Contests keep collectors sharp and motivated. It’s a very tough job these days with all of the required client and regulatory disclosures; plus the quality assurance and compliance initiatives which are now more important than overall performance. It’s a different industry than it was seven to eight years ago. Those agencies that didn’t or couldn’t adapt found themselves struggling. I cannot stress how important communication is to the health of a collection floor. Information from clients, analytics, compliance and quality assurance helps collectors understand what is required of them, as well as how well they’re performing.

What do you think is an often-overlooked mistake that would guarantee failure in credit card collections?

I think not truly listening to the consumer is a huge failure for any type of collections. Every consumer’s situation may be different and to take a cookie cutter approach to rebuttals and objections is just not a smart way of handling collection calls. We teach and train our staff to “qualify” each and every consumer so that we truly understand their particular situation. Knowing what occurred that put them into financial hardship as well as their financial wherewithal and their ability to make repayment helps us offer solutions. Building a rapport with the consumer goes a long way.

Could you describe specific tactics you feel are necessary in credit card collections?

As I mentioned earlier, today’s collection call is much different than it was previously and it’s so very important to take advantage of every right party contact. This can be said for every asset class but when you’re dealing with an unsecured credit card account, repayment is normally very low on the priority list for someone that is having financial hardship. Typically mortgage, rent and car payments are going to take priority rather than paying on a delinquent or charged off credit card. With that being said its imperative to embrace technology specifically for those clients that allow email, text and other communication methods. Working with a proven data provider to be able to utilize batch processing for phone appends and to obtain new contact information is an important component of a successful operation. Qualifying the debtor before entering into settlement or repayment terms is a must. This ensures that money isn’t being “left on the table.” Believe in the power of the payer. An established payer base to supplement new money or month-one recoveries plays a very important role. Finally, consistent monitoring and coaching of your staff is critical. Complacency can be devastating, so side-by-side evaluations performed by managers/supervisors as well as a robust internal collector scorecard that helps shed light on those underperforming members of a team [is a must].

What piece of advice would you offer to help an agency get started in credit card collections?

Getting the opportunity or securing your first credit card client may be the easy part. Evaluating your staff to determine who would be a good fit to be allocated to service the credit card client is an integral piece of the puzzle. A good credit card collection team doesn’t necessarily need to be a team full of rock stars similar to what you may do on a mortgage deficiency or student loan client. You have to make sure those collectors you choose can work in a high volume paced environment. Getting through the inventory consistently with good attempts/touches is key.

Are there any games or morale boosting practices you use to keep collectors happy and productive?

Daily, weekly and monthly contests help keep morale high. We always try to do something to help close out the month. We’ve brought in catered lunches, hand out Philly style soft pretzels and lately we’ve had a local masseuse come in to give collectors a 10-minute back massage. As you can possibly imagine, the massage seems to be everyone’s favorite!

Is SIMM Associates involved in the community? If so, how?

SIMM is very involved in our local community. We sponsor a local youth baseball team, participate in Toys for Tots every Christmas, donate to a local chapter of Boys and Girls Club, participate in the Cancer Relay for life since 1995 raising more than $250,000 to date. We’re also a sponsor for a scholarship fund for a local community college that has raised $1.2 million to date.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I love to travel and I'm a fantastic cook. I've had the opportunity and privilege to coach youth baseball and football for the last 10 years. I've recently hung up my whistle but I do still on occasion make it out the fields to see how the programs are doing.

Winning the Compliance Game

The CFPB has been continually dealing blows to collection agencies’ bottom lines for a couple years now. The environment has led many into dreary time causing many agencies to close their doors. However, these times have also provided great agencies to prove their ability to remain effective. One such agency is Delta Outsource Group. Collection Advisor spoke with Delta Outsource Group’s president and COO, Nick Jarman, about how he and his team have discovered the benefits of creating an atmosphere conducive to turning difficult circumstances into positive experiences. As compliance is paramount in today’s collection environment, Jarman reveals Delta Outsource Group’s choice compliance information outlets as well as how they have adapted to the new compliance standards.

Tell us about how Delta Outsource Group came to be and how you became involved in collections.

jarman nick“Delta” means change and Delta Outsource Group, Inc. was founded in 2009 with a shared vision by its three founding partners Jim Peacock, Jackie Mucha, and myself to build an organization on a foundation of integrity, accountability and transparency. 2009 was probably not the best time to grow a business from scratch as the economy was in the tank at the tail end of a global recession and the debt collection industry facing uncertain times on the eve of an unprecedented regulatory environment and the creation of the CFPB. While a little scary at the time, we had a desire to take control of our own destiny, a collective confidence in our own abilities and the vision of doing business the right way. Change was coming and we wanted Delta Outsource Group, Inc. to be a positive and influential part of that change.

On an individual basis, Jim became involved in the collection industry when he joined a major private label credit company in 1985 as a collector. Working through the ranks, Jim joined a regional-based collection company in 1988, eventually working his way to General Manager. In 1990, Jim joined a relatively new agency with fifteen employees. When he left in 2008, Jim was an equity partner and the company had grown to over one thousand employees with a national presence. With over 30 years of experience encompassing all facets of the collection industry, Jim has worked with many clients from diverse markets to define and implement custom workflow strategies from cradle to grave.

I became involved in collections in 2000 with an entry-level position known as a “Dialer.” Basically, I made telephone calls all day and when contact was made with a consumer, I passed the call to a tenured collector. I worked in this position for a few years and it allowed me the opportunity to see areas that needed improvement that I otherwise wouldn’t have. My drive to see those changes through afforded me the opportunity to be promoted from Dialer, Collector, Collection Manager to VP of Operations. I was fortunate at the time to be involved with an organization that believed in the people they employed and because of that, had a vested interest in seeing them succeed.

How does Delta Outsource Group use technology to stay competitive?

One of the pillars of Delta Outsource Group, Inc. will always be focusing on “Innovative Technology.” As a brand new organization starting out in 2009 we knew we must embrace technology and stay ahead of the curve with the latest technological advances if we wanted to be successful. Back in 2009, we were one of the first collection agencies to build our organization on a completely hosted environment including our collection and telephone systems. We have continued to build on technology over the years; including becoming TechLock Certified, implementing Call Miner speech analytics and offering web chat and call scheduling options for consumers through our website.

Why did Delta Outsource Group choose to build on a completely hosted environment?

A completely hosted environment offered us scalability combined with affordability. When we evaluated premised based versus hosted options, the hosted options always came out on top. Better price points, dedicated support staff, updated options, and much more.

How do you keep your collectors motivated and happy?

First and foremost, we keep our team members motivated and happy by understanding that as a leadership team, we must continually focus on these objectives. When we started Delta Outsource Group, Inc., we wanted to ensure that we created an organization that our employees wanted to be a part of and ultimately enjoyed what they did every day. So from the beginning, we created a P.A.W.S. culture that stands for Positive Attitudes Will Succeed. It is a shared vision of building a culture through positive experiences. P.A.W.S. requires four things of our team members:

1. Positive Attitude
2. Be Present
3. Be Memorable
4. Have Fun

From compensation to how we treat our team members to community outreach and collector contests, we know having a motivated and happy workforce is contagious and empowering and we place a high level of focus and reinforcement on this area every day.

Describe the collector contests.

Collector contests are centered around desired objectives such as compliance scores, dollars collected, or attendance. Every March we conduct a March Madness contest to coincide with the NCAA Basketball Tournament, where teams compete for the office title over the course of March with eliminations occurring at the end of each week. Each summer we have a Survivor contest in which employees are provided several goals to meet such as attendance, compliance scores, and dollars collected each day. As long as they hit those goals they get to “stay on the island.” By staying on the island they get various rewards each day or get to dress casual (generally shorts and t-shirt as it gets very hot in the Midwest during the summer).

What has Delta Outsource Group done to ensure success in credit and collections?

The foundation of our success starts with being appreciative for and valuing every opportunity that presents itself. The overall experience we provide must be extraordinary, with both our clients and the consumers we interact with. Selecting the right team members and investing in them through employee and leadership development has been critical to our success as well. The bottom line is our team members are the backbone of our organization and we will never take that for granted. Ensuring success is also about maintaining strong performance results for our partners so that they can rely on the returns they get from us.

How has credit card collections changed in recent years?

The two most notable changes with credit card collections in recent years is decreasing volume and increasing compliance requirements. There is still plenty of opportunity for organizations in the credit card segment as long as they are able to balance the performance versus compliance proposition. How you manage and adapt to the various credit card clients’ requirements is also a major change in recent years.

How have credit card clients’ requirements changed in recent years?

With the CFPB on everyone’s radar, each creditor has their unique approach to compliance. The approaches to compliance cross a very wide spectrum, from minimal oversight and requirements to extensive restrictions. No two creditors are the same in their approach to compliance and it’s important to be understanding, flexible, and adaptable to compliance changes as they come down from the clients. We are in uncertain and volatile times and being able to successfully adapt to these changes will determine ultimate success.

How does Delta Outsource Group stay up to date on compliance developments and changes?

We stay plugged in to as many compliance avenues as we possibly can. Joining professional groups, attending educational seminars, and staying abreast of the latest news and court decisions are a few of the ways our organization stays up to date. In addition, we also place an emphasis on staying ahead of developments and changes we believe may be forthcoming by constantly surveying the compliance landscape and making internal alterations as needed.

What are some other compliance sources Delta Outsource Group utilizes?

ACA International offers the most extensive resources for compliance with their updates, seminars, events, and updated database resources. A fairly new resource called the Compliance Professional Forum is also a great resource to engage with compliance professionals and share best practices.

How is Delta Outsource Group involved in the community?

delta at school 
 Delta employees teaching financial literacy to 4th graders.

As part of our P.A.W.S. culture, community outreach is extremely important to us. Just this spring, we continued our partnership with Junior Achievement and volunteered for JA in a Day. Our leadership team spent an entire day teaching the 4th grade at a local elementary school about the importance of financial literacy. Aside from partnering with Junior Achievement, we also regularly organize and participate in food drives, the Salvation Army, Hiring Our Heroes, and the Shoeman Water Project.

What was one particular challenge you had in the office and how was it overcome?

Several years ago, the CFPB had made clear it was concerned about performance-only bonus programs so we knew we needed to incorporate compliance into ours. We came up with numerous options at first but none of them felt right to incorporate that would be both fair to the collector and the organization. So after about a year of concepts, constant dialogue and idea sharing amongst members of management and our employees, we collectively came to a solution that integrated compliance into our bonus program and ended up with a complete buy in from all levels of the organization.

How did compliance end up getting worked into the bonus program?

We had always been using a proprietary collector scorecard to evaluate our collectors on their phone calls. Once complete this scorecard generates an overall scored percentage from 100% to 0%. We incorporated the scored percentage into the performancebased plan and formulated a structure from there.

What is one tip you would give fellow collection professionals?

Ensure that analytics is an integral part of your evaluation and decision making process. While data may not always tell the entire story, it most certainly provides a solid narrative to build from. Just remember, if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.

How would an agency ensure analytics is an integral part of the evaluation and decision making process?

There is always a hierarchy of analytics in each organization. Owner and C-Level executives tend to review high-level analytical data, while middle and front-line managers will look at analytical data on a more granular level. Take for instance compliance, a high-level review may consist of an aggregated score of the company or clients, while a more granular level will focus on specific teams and individual collectors. When looking at performance, aside from the obvious metrics related to dollars collected, analytics focusing on closing percentage, average size payments, and fee per hour are just a few of many options available to look at.

I have been told that you meet with Congressmen. Why do you meet with them?

 jarman-congressman long
 Jarman speaking with Congressman Billy Long.

We meet with members of Congress to educate them on what we do as debt collectors and how important our role is to the health of our credit based economy. It is our responsibility to ensure we engage our legislators on a consistent basis and educate them on the issues so they can make informed decisions.

What do you like to do outside of the office?

As any business owner can attest to, “outside of the office” is a very limited and loose term. With that said… For Jim, outside of the office revolves around lots of travel both for work and fun. Jim and his wife enjoy traveling in their RV, staking a campsite, and enjoying the great outdoors. As a long-time St. Louis sports fan, you also have a good shot at catching Jim at a St. Louis Cardinals or Blues game during the season. For me, most down time is about family and focusing on being the best husband and father I can be. Being fortunate and blessed to be married to my wife where together we have three beautiful daughters who keep us very occupied. I am also an avid sports fan, rooting on my Florida teams (Miami Dolphins, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Miami Heat) from the Show Me State.

Protecting Your Business in Commercial Collections

Collecting and taking legal action against a business in commercial collections is best done when numerous steps have been taken prior. These steps include sound contracts, terms and clear expectations. Proceedings can be costly if one of these steps was neglected. Collection Advisor talked to Bob Ingold, president of Commercial Collection Corporation of New York, about what commercial collection agencies should be doing to protect themselves and their clients.

What does an account need to be bullet proof collectable from the agreement to the invoice to the late payment penalty to the interest charged?

If only credit extension was bullet proof. The best laid decisions today can go haywire tomorrow. Circumstances beyond your customer’s control affect the best-laid plans: health, loss of key customer or weather (think Hurricane Katrina). Certainly there are conditions that can be created to aid the decision: check credit, obtaining a good credit application, being specific as to terms or obtaining a personal guarantee if possible. Some companies use discounts for prompt payment and certainly enforce late charges and collection fees. These add-ons must be spelled out before the transaction takes place to be enforceable. Early and frequent collections will go a long way towards a satisfactory payment.

What are the steps necessary to properly invoice and proceed when the account becomes one day late according to the terms?

Early warning and early action will help bring about a good payment result. Before the sale, be sure to spell out your terms. Reinforce those terms when invoicing the transaction and when default occurs make immediate contact advising of your company’s expectation of payment. The Commercial Law League of America has published a chart of collection results and the earlier the collection activity, the higher probability of collection. It just takes good common sense and early follow-up.

What are the best procedures to require the account pays for the collection charge?

Again, there is no magic bullet to insure collection of any collection fees but clear understanding of your terms enable the customer to understand your expectations early on. We suggest a clear credit application that spells out collection fee enforcement. Upon first sale, send a letter to the buyer spelling out your terms. Having terms and conditions on your invoices as well as statements help to define your expectations and finally enlisting the help of sales to explain what corporate credit requirements are adds to the certainty of your terms. Collection agencies and attorneys will insist on collecting fees when there is a signed agreement prior to the transaction.

What states have limitations on the collection of commercial debt?

All states allow the collection of commercial debt. Some states require a collection agency to be licensed in that state (21 to be exact) if they attempt collection but they are not limited to collection as long as they adhere to the rules of good conduct expected of all debt collectors.

How do you proceed if a small corporation officer guaranteed the debt considering the consumer debt collection compliance rules?

The presence of a personal guarantee of a commercial debt does not shift the debt under the FDCPA. It is still a commercial transaction and treated as such. All our communications are careful to include mini Miranda wording however as we sometimes back into a consumer transaction without knowledge.

If the account says, “Sue me!”, what is the next step?

Often times in the heat of the discussion the debtor will say, “Sue me,” but that doesn’t always ring true. We try to present them with a different collector, different scenario, change the tenor of the discussion so it is less confrontational and see if there is a solution. If the debtor really means it, we make our recommendations to the client based on balance, our assessment of collectability and cost. It is always the creditor’s decision to proceed.

What steps and financial expense can be expected when a lawsuit is filed?

Filing a lawsuit is never cheap or quick. Every jurisdiction is different but the court costs can be from $250 - $800 depending on the location. Once a file is approved for suit the costs go up dramatically and contingent fees can be from 35 - 40% of the balance. The legal complaints need to be filed, affidavits completed, service perfected and time to appear adds to the delay. If a countersuit is filed, attorneys consider it a separate lawsuit and charge hourly for defense. The best settlement is prior to suit.

What are settlement possibilities at the various stages of a lawsuit from depositions to arriving for trial?

Settlement is always possible. As the debtor gets closer to trial they may be more motivated to settle but clients motivation may be less. Many years ago at Chase Manhattan I learned the best settlement is usually the first and earliest. A lot of time and money go into the collection process that could be reduced if both parties are motivated to make the suit go away.

Principles come with a cost! What is the success rate of various procedures in different states based on creditor versus consumer-friendly rules for commercial debt?

Again, collection is greater the earlier the action is started. Once a judgment is obtained the attorney may file bank attachments (back to the credit information, source of information), seizure of unsecured property and liens against property which are a few of the more successful forms of execution to collect. Collection occurs when the creditor is in the front of claims, not at the end. Early placement and early legal action bring about successful collection.

Super 7 Commercial Agencies 2014

  • Written by Collection Advisor
  • Parent Category: Cover Stories
  • Category: July/August Cover Stories

Collection Advisor worked with the International Association of Commercial Collectors finding commercial collection agencies that are held in high regard by peers and have aligned themselves with values such as those listed by the IACC certification which includes being sufficiently bonded and licensed while exemplifying ideal financial and operational procedures as determined by a third party. Collection Advisor talked with these agencies about commercial collections and how they have achieved success. If you would like to nominate a Top Commercial Agency, contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


ingold bobHow does a client transmit account information to you and keep up-todate with the account’s status?
We have setup methods that accommodateour clients. The more automated customers willsend over accounts with FTP or other electronic placement.They will view activity online, in real-time. Other clients sendemail, fax, or mail files to us. Our motto is “Whatever Worksfor You”. Reports are the same. While we can do real-timereview of email, we still offer the client the approach “Keep itBest for the Client”.

How is it determined that an account is uncollectable?
Many factors go into this and it is difficult to offer one answer: company out of business, bankrupt, judgment proof, too small to sue, disputed, lack of documentation; just to name a few. The simple answer is, we verify the circumstances and provide full information back to the client. Inevitably, it is the client’s decision on proceeding.

What is the most important technology your agency uses?
It may sound simple, but the telephone. While we have computers, fax machines, email, etc, the whole thing comes to a stop without phones. Because of that we have a very complete disaster plan.

OSS, STUART & DAWSON INC. | Lee VandenHeuvel, President

vandenheuvel leeWhere do you collect? Why?
Our agency collects mostly in theMidwest region, as we are a smaller regional-based player.However, with the increase in website marketing efforts,we are seeing an influx of new clients from coast tocoast. We are also handling more international filesthan ever before due to globalization. We have anetwork of collection partnerships in over 50 countriesthrough our association with the IACC whichmakes it very streamlined to quickly begin the collectionprocess virtually anywhere in the world.

How is it determined that an account is uncollectable?
When the RSD collector handing the file has exhausted all efforts of contact and/or obtaining a reasonable resolution, a determination is then made on how to proceed with the file. Our office will determine if the balance versus the cost of litigation is worth forwarding to our legal department. The representative will further obtain credit report information on the customer regarding their financial situation and any listed assets, as well as existing liens, judgments, and UCC filings. We will also attempt to verify any bank and/or employment information in order to help secure payment through the garnishment process if necessary. If all of the aforementioned information indicates that litigation could possibly obtain payment, we forward the file to our legal department for further review and handling. In the alternative, if based upon our findings we do not feel that litigation would be a viable option, we would reluctantly close our file and provide the most detailed explanation of same to the client.

What is the key to success in customer relations?
We believe strongly and strive to provide world-class client service. It’s all about communication and building relationships. Knowing a client’s preferences on how they wish to be communicated with is important, but only if you design a follow-up system that actually delivers on those expectations! This is where I see most agencies falter. When we bring on new clients, we always ask them why they are making a change. The #1 reason we hear is the agency doesn’t communicate properly and keep them up-to-date, which translated, means they failed to build a solid relationship. The #2 reason is they don’t collect very much. This tells me that servicing the client and building a strong foundation are more important to clients than the actual collection liquidation percentage. Face to face meetings with clients is still the best way to nurture and develop rock solid relationships. Increase your ‘business meals’ budget and you will be fine.

O. | Palmer H. (Pete) Roth, President

roth peteWhat is the most important technology your agency uses?
Making use of the proper technology to assist our adjustors (what others may call collectors) in managing their accounts, providing good tools for our outside reps to use in managing their territories, and giving our clients the means to review and oversee the accounts they entrust us with, are all important. However, technology doesn’t hold a candle to professional staff members. No matter how good the tools are, having the best people is the key. Many of our clients are surprised to learn that our adjustors average over 15 years with CST; and many have over 20 years experience in the industry. They are the most important piece to our collection strategy.

What is the key to success in customer relations?
Communicate. Ask. Clarify. Discuss. No two credit departments handle everything the same way, not even within the same corporation. CST has always been very big on customizing the service to fit each client’s needs and wants. We can have three sets of special instructions for every client. We may have docketing instructions so that those doing data entry know client preferences regarding things such as: with whom we communicate on different accounts, handling instructions to help the adjustors manage and report on an account according to the client’s wishes. We may also have bookkeeping instructions to make sure we manage the remittance process in just the way the client prefers.

What do you think the future holds for commercial collections?
That’s an interesting one, because the economy has had such a strong negative effect on this industry. First, I have always been concerned with how so many states want to bundle the commercial collection industry with consumer collections, but we are totally different segments. Consumer collection laws can be arbitrary and completely impractical when a state tries to apply them to a commercial debt. Second, I’m sure we will see more and more states adding licensing requirements, likely doing so more as an additional revenue stream rather than to protect the debtor or manage the agencies. Third, with the coarsening of American culture, I think we will find it tougher for our outside reps to make collection calls so regularly. I already make it clear now, that if they in any way feel that their safety may be compromised, to not make the visit, and let’s contact the client. Lastly, I think more and more agencies will depend upon the Internet to a greater degree. Cloud-based data management, higher dependence on web access and information interchange through a highly evolved website will be a must-have for the more tech-savvy client.

ALTUS, GLOBAL TRADE SOLUTIONS | Thomas E. Brenan IV, President

brenan thomasWhat bonds or licenses are required to collect commercial accounts?
Bonds and licenses for commercial collections are required in the following states: AZ, AR, City of Buffalo, City of Chicago, City of New York, FL, ID, IL, IN, MI, MN, NE, NV, NC, ND, OR, RI, TN, UT, WA, WV. States that Altus possesses an exemption letter from are: AK, CO, CT, DE, HI, IA, ME, MD, MA, NM, WI, WY. All other states have no licensing or bonding requirements for commercial collection agencies.

What are the values of the majority of your accounts?
Our average placement is $5,600. We have collected accounts in excess of $2 million on occasion and as low as $25.

How is it determined that an account is uncollectable?
Predominant factors are: 1) Irresolvable disputes, 2) debtor insolvency and bankruptcy, and 3) clients willingness or unwillingness to escalate the collection process.

JOHNSON, MORGAN & WHITE | Robert G. Cooper, President

cooper robertHow does Johnson, Morgan & White deal with a debtor company’s bankruptcy?
We follow federal bankruptcy guidelines and assist our clients with any bankruptcy requirements. We also have our own division called Bankruptcy Recovery Associates

What is the key to success in customer relations?
We are selective with our clients and we don’t over promise or under deliver. It is mandatory that our employees keep their cell phones on after business hours so that our clients can reach us at any time.

How does a client transmit account information to you and keep up to date with the account’s status?
We accept electronic placements, via e-mail/facsimile or through our secure FTP access. Our clients have up to date real time access via our client view portal.

ABC-AMEGA INC. | David Herer, CEO

herer davidWhere do you collect? Why?
ABC-Amega provides collection services on every continent and with every major U.S. trading partner. Due to the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) trade sanctions we do not cover collections in Cuba, Iran, Myanmar (Burma), North Korea, Sudan, or Syria. This list is subject to change in the event OFAC imposes new sanctions or lifts existing sanctions. ABC-Amega has cultivated a market position as one of the few commercial firms globally that is a specialist in overseas collections. We aggressively seek international collections opportunities from US and foreign multinational corporations as well as other entities.

We actively participate in two leading international organizations: FCIB, an association of professionals in Finance, Credit and International Business, and ICTF, an association of International Credit and Trade Finance professionals, of which we are a Silver Sponsor Partner. Additionally, we are platinum members of the Credit Research Foundation (CRF), whose multinational and exporting members have collection needs throughout the world.

When is the best time in an account’s lifetime to receive and begin working the account?
Regardless of whether or not a client chooses to perform in-house collection activities before turning accounts over to an outside collection agency, the best time to begin working the account is truly before it is past due. Once an account is more than 30 days delinquent, the collectability begins to drop dramatically with each subsequent month. By just 90 days past due, the probability of collection drops to below 70% (per the Commercial Collection Agency Association (CCAA)). Therefore, we believe soft collection techniques should be part of a company’s ongoing AR process.

JOSEPH, MANN & CREED | Bill Mann, Partner & CFO

mann billWhat is the key to success in customer relations?
Managing client expectations. We found it’s important to clear that up right up front so there are not a lot of questions after the fact. If things change, it’s good to call up the client and talk through those things. If anything happens, with our bigger clients, we have a monthly call and we talk about anything that has happened. No matter how long we’ve had the client, whether it’s brand new or ongoing, we try to touch base and make sure we understand expectations. We let them know what our expectations are of them and make sure we’re on the same page.

What do you think the future holds for commercial collections?
Increased regulation. Right now there are a lot of things going on with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau; and they are really honing in on the consumer collection space. Everything will eventually roll down to the commercial claims as well, to the point where in the future there will be no differentiation between a commercial account and a consumer account.

When is the best time in an account’s lifetime to receive and begin working the account?
When the delinquency is less than 90 days.