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Stars of Compliance

The big ball in Times Square has dropped, 2019 has arrived and it looks like uncertainty in regulation is here to stay a while longer. However, the fight for meaning and clarity continues as professionals across the accounts receivable industry band together. When the question is what path to take on a phone call, letter or data management, there is always a star professional who has taken the correct path and is willing to share it. This list compiles such compliance professionals as nominated by their peers and asks them where to find such information and which of it they have found to be most useful. When in question, look to the stars.

Question: What is something accounts receivable professionals can do to continually improve their compliance with regulation?

nilsen barbaraBarbara Nilsen
Partner/CCO Blitt and Gaines, P.C.

Accounts receivable professionals need to remember that compliance is fluid and the requirements are constantly changing which requires versatility. It is important to keep current on the latest consent orders, lawsuit theories, case law and pending changes to regulations. This information should be analyzed against current business practices, policies and procedures to ensure up to date compliance. The second part to any type of improvement is training. Training must include examples of the regulation that make it relative to a certain task or department within the organization in order for employees to truly understand how a regulation applies to them. The third part to improvement is controls. You can have the best policies, procedures and training program, but you have to set up controls to identify potential issues for remediation before they become a regulatory violation.

kaminski davidDavid J. Kaminski, ESQ.
Partner and Chair of the Financial Services and Class Action Group Carlson & Messer LLP

Routine audit of your systems to determine compliance performance is key. Running analytics to see what your collectors are saying to consumers during live conversations, and analyzing the codes agents use and the entries they make in your collection software may help isolate problems a company never knew existed.

ciskey debra jDebra J. Ciskey, IFCCE, CCCO
Chief Compliance Officer Wakefield and Associates Inc.

Read everything published by the BCFP — blogs, press releases and official publications such as Supervisory Highlights, reports and enforcement actions, even if they are not actions against ARM firms. While the current administration appears to have softened the previous administration’s approach that, “everything applies to everybody,” these documents are very instructional at least, if read with an attitude of “What can I learn from this that might help me in my compliance work at my company?” While state regulators are not as prolific, reading their publications and public enforcement actions is also extremely useful.

barton dennisDennis J. Barton III
Managing Attorney The Barton Law Group, LLC

Companies can improve all aspects of their business, including compliance, with a holistic view of employment. An employee’s compliance failure is often symptomatic of a company’s inability to properly recruit, hire, train, and/or motivate employees. Management should continually review and update its policies and procedures used to (1) attract and hire quality employees, (2) create and provide initial training, (3) measure skills and performance over time, (4) develop and deliver additional training and (5) tie compensation and bonuses to compliance.

bedard johnJohn H. Bedard, Jr.
Managing Attorney Bedard Law Group, P.C.

If it moves – measure it! A great way to continually improve compliance processes is to be identifying, measuring, monitoring, and controlling risk. Measuring behavior is one of the most important pieces of the compliance puzzle. If collectors are not measuring and documenting behavior in a structured way (versus capturing unstructured data i.e. a natural language text field), then analyzing that data becomes difficult and inhibits full understanding of a company’s risk profile.

mcnamara johnJohn McNamara
Assistant Director, Consumer Lending, Reporting, and Collections Markets Division of Research, Markets Regulations Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection

I have always favored a black box like analysis of failures. Failure could be a complaint, a lawsuit, a substandard audit or other suboptimal outcome. By black box, I mean that you retrace the chain of events that eventually led to the undesired outcome, collecting data along the way. It’s easy to get defensive, and certainly that has place when you’re facing a lawsuit. That said I maintained a team whose job was not to get defensive but rather to get dirty with details and perform root cause analysis (RCA). Their job was to find the point or points where we could have altered the outcome. This same process created a great deal of data, and that data was used to look for trends and commonality in complaints. We could look at complaints by date, client, collector, unit, stage of collections, trainer, time of day, number of calls attempted, number of contacts, etc. We even added a recruiter to see if it was possible managers charged with staffing might cut corners and increase compliance risk.

We performed RCA on every complaint, looking for a point where we could have avoided the bad outcome or at least minimized it. Since we had data, we were able to draw conclusions, finding faulty training, culture issues, or even lead us back to the trainer, or the recruiter involved in collectors who generated complaints. The team got really good at this, and drove what they learned through the organization, so each failure improved the organization.

knepper stephens kellyKelly Knepper-Stephens
VP Legal & Compliance TrueAccord

Take advantage of all the industry continuing education initiatives both at conferences or through online trainings and hot topic courses. Participate in benchmarking groups either formal or informal where you can share best practices and solve problems. Read all the industry publications (sign up for the daily news), listen to the industry blogs, and join the industry list-serves.

bohling ladonnaLaDonna Bohling
VP Special OPS Contract Callers, Inc.

Join an industry association that will provide you with regulatory updates and offer opportunities to network with peers to share best practices. Police yourself to ensure compliance with regulations by developing a robust internal auditing process to measure your performance against regulatory requirements. Use the data to make changes to mitigate risks and incorporate process improvements.

bender leslie2Leslie C. Bender
Chief Strategy Officer & General Counsel BCA Financial Services, Inc.

There are few things an accounts receivable professional can do to continually improve their compliance with regulation that is more important than reading and listening to each and every communication from the regulator or law enforcer responsible for a particular regulation. Oftentimes regulators clarify their positions or interpretations of regulation in enforcement actions, public meetings and speeches, reports and presentations to elected officials, and in other types of bulletins or commentaries. All of these communications help an accounts receivable professional know what is important about particular regulations, pitfalls to avoid, and some practical insight into how to apply or scale a regulation to your own circumstances.

kohn mavisMavis Kohn, CCCO
Vice President of Compliance Diversified Consultants, Inc.

Stay involved. From grass root efforts to national involvement, it is vital that agencies stay aware of ongoing changes and any potential new regulations. Whether you choose to do this as part of a local unit, an annual national visit to the capitol, or on your own, make an effort to meet with your local lawmakers and legislators. A thirty-minute meeting once a year to let them know who you are, how many jobs you create and what you bring to the community can go a long way when a bill is presented to them. You can also invite them to visit your offices when it’s close to re-election time. This gives them a few minutes of face time with their constituents and allows you to discuss any concerning legislation.

bevel mikeMike Bevel
Director of Education insideARM LLC

Challenge assumptions. I facilitate monthly peer calls with compliance professionals and where we’ve done our best is when we’ve put aside a lot of received wisdom – anything that starts with “we’ve always done it this way” – and look at compliance and operations questions with fresh eyes. This new perspective will absolutely help when the new debt collection rules are published in 2019. (By the way: that assumption that rules will be published in early 2019 is also one that should be challenged because we’ve been waiting on rules since I was a child.) I think it’s also important to widen your perspective. There are a lot of pro-industry resources with compliance info, and of course those should referenced regularly. But it can’t hurt to throw in some consumer-focused sites too. Perspective can build better processes. (And if you can stomach it, scrolling through consumer message boards where they swap info on how to challenge the collection process can also strengthen your compliance practices. Forewarned being forearmed, etc.)

frost mikeMike Frost
Chief Compliance, Sales Officer & General Counsel CBE Companies

Continuous improvement with operational and compliance efforts is a real testament to the compliance and operational departments of a given organization. Consistent review of case law, enacted as well as proposed legislation at the federal, state and municipal levels is the best way to ensure continuous improvement in compliance. It is also essential to maintain working relationships with other collection agencies’ compliance departments to seek and share assistance with one another. It is always best to collaborate with peers to ensure nothing is overlooked.

jarman nick 2018Nick Jarman
Owner The RightAway

Staying on top of the compliance trends that tend to sway on a consistent basis. There are numerous resources available through industry trade associations along with news sites that continually provide the latest information and insight. Making a habit of monitoring these resources and articles on a daily basis will assist in staying on top of the ever-changing trends.

perr rickRick Perr
Partner Chair, Financial Services Practices Group Fineman Krekstein & Harris, P.C.

Stay up to date on a daily basis. A day doesn’t go by without a new case, a new regulation or a new outcome in a financial services matter. It is imperative that these situations be digested by every company, lawyer and compliance professional and disseminated throughout the company. The law can change daily. One cannot afford to be behind – regulators and plaintiff’s attorneys surely are not.

koskovics timTim Koskovics
CEO USA Meridian Int’l Inc.

I believe the best way to improve on compliance is to be a part of a group, i.e. Eagle Group XX, that specializes in compliance. Eagle Group has regularly scheduled compliance training plus yearly face to face training. The group enable me to have a culture of compliance in my company.