This article is part of an ongoing Think Differently series, launched in October 2019. Written by members of the iA Innovation Council, the series showcases thought leadership in analytics, communications, payments, and compliance technology for the accounts receivable management industry.

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Almost everyone I talk to in the industry rates innovation as a top priority. Not long ago, in my former role as the leader of collections strategy for a major bank, I led a full strategy overhaul. I know first hand there are a lot of hurdles and setbacks once you decide to engage in such a change. In our case, everything needed an update; data infrastructure, scoring models, decision engines, customer contact tools (interactive messaging, text, email, etc.), reporting -  you name it, we needed it.

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Below are some lessons I’ve learned along the way. I hope they help you move more quickly on your way toward innovation.

The Great Debate...be willing to have it -- The compliance and legal debate can feel like an insurmountable hurdle when trying to innovate in collections. Because debt collection laws are so dated, there’s a lot of interpretation involved. If the initial answer is “no, we can’t do that,” don’t take your ball and go home. I say broaden the debate; seek input from peers, industry experts and others who have had proven success. This is the single biggest missed opportunity I see in our industry.  Rarely do we talk to each other for the greater good.

Prioritize - Let’s be real; Not all change, no matter how shiny, is equal. I’ve had the greatest success with large scale transformations when I took the time to build a value-based prioritization matrix. Start by listing the capabilities you need and score them against your product lines and your criteria; estimated loss impact, expense reduction, customer value, ease of implementation (funding, regulations, technology), dependencies, etc.  

TIP: DO NOT get analysis paralysis here. High-level swags and some good intuition at this stage will not lead you astray. It’s as easy as 1, 3, 5. By using one of these three numbers to rate the degree of impact each particular criteria have, you keep it simple and have a built-in weighing system.

Build a Case - A common myth is that collections is strictly a cost of doing business. This is especially common on the creditor/lender side of the equation -- but couldn’t be further from the truth. If your strategy for getting technology funding is to walk in and say “c’mon, trust me,” you probably won’t get very far. Do the work: Size your impacted population, outline your assumed performance improvement, and then pull that through the roll rates to estimate reduced losses (or expenses, or improved experience, etc.). The ROI is often so clear that smart leaders will pounce!

TIP:  Don’t limit your ROI to loss reduction or expense reduction. The less quantifiable, but impactful, benefits to customers, colleagues, operational risk should also be included.   

Prove It (test, test, test) - People sometimes glaze over when I talk about this, but if you’re still reading you’re probably with me. It’s one thing to make solid assumptions in the business case, but if you can’t back it up post-deployment, you’ll lose buy-in and credibility. Think proactively about how you’ll test each of your strategies, always keeping an unchanged portion of the portfolio clean for comparison. If we want to dispel myths about being a cost center, we need to take the time to prove the value. Test and control gets it done every time.

Each of us is constantly at different stages of development, and there is nothing to lose by learning from each other. 

Driving transformational change is by far the hardest work I’ve ever done. It requires a great deal of planning and perseverance. 

We’ll talk about these strategies and more at our first annual Strategy and Tech Conference in Austin, TX June 10-12th. Join us to see live demos of the hottest tech in collections, as well as in-depth sessions to help you advance your collections strategy and technology.

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About the iA Innovation Council

The iA Innovation Council is a collaborative working group of product, tech, strategy, and operations thought leaders at the forefront of analytics, communications, payments, and compliance technology. Group members meet in person several times each year to engage in substantive dialogue and whiteboard sessions with the creative thinkers behind the latest innovations for the industry, the regulators who audit and establish guardrails for new technology, and educators, entrepreneurs and innovators from outside the industry who inspire different thinking. 

Learn more at www.iainnovationcouncil.com

2020 members include:

Absolute Resolutions Corp.

AllianceOne Receivables Management

Alorica

Arvest Bank

Attunely

BBVA

Beyond Investments

Billing Tree

Capio

Citizens Bank

Crown Asset Management

CSS Impact

Enhanced Recovery Company

Exeter Finance

FICO

Firstsource Advantage

Frost-Arnett Company

Healthcare Revenue Recovery Group

Hunter Warfield 

InvestiNet

Katabat

Livevox

MRS BPO

NCB Management Services

Neustar

Ontario Systems

Performant Corp.

Phillips & Cohen

Professional Finance Company

Radius Global Solutions

Revenly

RevSpring

RSIEH

Spring Oaks Capital

State Collection Service

TCN

The CMI Group

TransUnion

TrueAccord

Unifund CCR


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