Scope 2024 - June

California Seeks to Blur the Line Between Commercial and Consumer Collections

California is the latest state to attempt to pass legislation that would include commercial collectors under the umbrella of third-party debt collection laws. Senate Bill 1286 would amend California’s Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act to extend its coverage to  any consumer or covered commercial debt or credit: (n) The terms “covered commercial debt” and “covered commercial credit” mean money, property, or their equivalent, due or owing or alleged to be due or owing from a natural person to a lender, a commercial  financing provider, as defined in Section 22800 of the Financial Code, or a debt buyer, as defined in Section 1788.50, by reason of a covered commercial credit transaction. (o) The term “covered commercial credit transaction” means a transaction between a person and another person in which property, services, or money, of a total value of no more than five hundred thousand dollars ($500,000), is acquired on credit by that person from the other person for use primarily for other than personal, family, or household purposes.

The bill has passed in the Senate and is currently in the Assembly waiting for committee assignment(s). If enacted, the new law would apply to all delinquent covered commercial debt sold or assigned on or after July 1, 2025.

A Growing Trend

We are starting to see these state bills pop up with growing frequency. Earlier this year, the proposed Minnesota Debt Fairness Act included language that would have amended the definition of “debt” in a way that would have included small business debt as consumer debt. practices without undermining the viability of the collections industry. We need to engage in open dialogue with regulators, policymakers, and debtor advocates to ensure that new rules are based on a thorough understanding of the industry’s realities. Collaborative efforts can lead to regulations that both safeguard debtors and support the essential functions of our industry. All members of the IACC live by the IACC Code of  Ethics. We govern ourselves in a fair and honorable manner, and it’s important to stress this when working with regulators and policymakers who may not understand the intricacies of our industry. And while regulations have played a pivotal role in reforming our industry, we must be vigilant against those that threaten our effectiveness and our businesses. By advocating for balanced regulations, we can continue to uphold ethical standards and ensure that our industry remains robust and capable of contributing to the broader economy.

Just as we fought and won—together with our fellow industry groups—against the proposed regulations in Minnesota, we at the IACC will fight the proposed regulations that threaten our industry in California, Virginia, and anywhere else they pop up. We are faced with this together and if we stand together, we can  improve the industry together.

A Call to Action

by Valerie Ingold, IACC President

I will typically say the thing you’re not supposed to say in our industry: I don’t hate regulations. I will say it out loud and sometimes I’ll even write about it. Looking back on where we came from—all of us collectively—it’s clear our industry was in need of certain regulations. While practices have varied widely across different cultures and periods, there has been a general trend toward more humane and regulated debt collection practices, with a growing emphasis on protecting debtors’ rights and ensuring fair treatment—and we needed that. We were known to threaten and cajole our way into payment.

Not all of us, obviously. Many of us were trying for years—most of our careers, sometimes spanning generations—to turn the tide of impressions about the industry and standards in our industry. But if you were on that side of the argument, I don’t have to tell you that our voices were lost in a sea of one bad apple after another. So, regulations came, and they came mostly for consumer debt practices. Our reputation got moderately better, though it’s still the quickest way I know to kill a dinner party conversation—telling people you’re in collections. And if you were one of the ones that had been yelling into the void about walking the line, you continued walking the line; and you got licensed where you needed to, and you left the disclaimers and statements you were required to. And at the end of the day, you made sure you and your people could be proud of the work you were doing. But it has seemed to me that every year that line in the sand between consumer and commercial gets a little blurrier.

Every year another regulation pops up that seems illconceived or written with too little input from collectors or creditors or both, and doesn’t take into account the important and crucial work our industry is doing. For some reason, it still feels like we’re yelling into the void, but more and more it’s from the other side, trying to fight  against regulations that not only have the ability to take us out but will make it so much more difficult for our clients to collect their receivables.

The truth is our industry is in danger. It has been chipped away at little by little by regulations that are too sweeping and that don’t take into account the necessity of us being able to do our jobs effectively. While the initial wave of regulations brought much-needed reforms, there is no doubt that the subsequent measures in recent years are overreaching. These overly broad regulations risk stifling our ability to operate efficiently and could ultimately harm both creditors and debtors. The delicate balance between protecting debtor rights and enabling effective debt recovery is crucial, and tilting too far in either direction can have unintended consequences. It’s important to remember that our work is essential for maintaining economic stability.

Without the ability to collect debt, the entire credit system could falter, leading to higher costs and reduced access to credit for everyone. We need regulations that are fair and balanced, not ones that hinder our ability to communicate with debtors or recover legitimate debts. In collections, though our job requires us to do things that can be perceived as harsh, we strive to treat people with respect and fairness. The key lies in finding a middle ground where regulations protect debtors from abusive practices without undermining the viability of the collections   industry. We need to engage in open dialogue with regulators, policymakers, and debtor advocates to ensure that new rules are based on a thorough understanding of the industry’s realities. Collaborative efforts can lead to regulations that both safeguard debtors and support the essential functions of our industry.

All members of the IACC live by the IACC Code of Ethics. We govern ourselves in a fair and honorable manner, and it’s important to stress this when working with regulators and policymakers who may not understand the intricacies of our industry. And while regulations have played a pivotal role in reforming our industry, we must be vigilant against those that threaten our effectiveness and our businesses. By advocating for balanced regulations, we can continue to uphold  ethical standards and ensure that our industry remains robust and capable of contributing to the broader economy.

Just as we fought and won—together with our fellow industry groups—against the proposed regulations in Minnesota, we at the IACC will fight the proposed regulations that threaten our industry in California, Virginia, and anywhere else they pop up. We are faced with this together and if we stand together, we can improve the industry together.

Amid Legal Challenges CFPB Extends Compliance Dates for Small Business Lending Rule

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has issued an interim final rule to extend compliance dates for a rule requiring lenders to disclose credit applications they receive from small businesses, lending decisions and demographic data “in light of court orders in ongoing litigation.” The rule is to implement Section 1071 of the Dodd-Frank Act directing the bureau to adopt regulations governing the collection of small business lending data.

The final version was released in March 2023 to “to increase transparency in small- business lending, promote economic development, and combat unlawful discrimination. ”Members of Congress are divided on the rule along party lines, and Republicans in the House and Senate have passed resolutions to overturn the rule. Legal challenges, one in the Eastern District of Kentucky and one in  the Southern District of Texas, fought enforcement of the rule because the constitutionality of the CFPB’s funding structure was under review by the U.S. Supreme Court and therefore the bureau shouldn’t have the authority to enact the regulations.

Judges in the Kentucky and Texas cases granted plaintiffs’ injunctions to put the small business lending rule on hold until the Supreme Court decision in Consumer Financial Protection Bureau v. Community Financial Services Association of America Ltd. was issued. The Supreme Court has now issued  its decision in the funding structure case, leaving the state cases open to resume and requirements for compliance with the rule to continue. While it was pending, the Supreme Court decision was connected to many challenges to CFPB actions and a delay in some actions by the bureau as well—such as the small business lending rule.

The bureau is also expected to advance its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the Fair Credit Reporting Act, announce its final rule on a registry of nonbanks with enforcement actions and announce a rule to create a registry on supervised nonbank entities with arbitration agreements in their contracts. More information about the small business lending rule compliance date extension is available at www.consumerfinance.gov/1071- rule/.

From the Web: 'AI Set to Transform Debt Collections in US'

IACC President Valerie Ingold, managing director of Commercial Collection Corp. in New York, was recently quoted in an article on artificial intelligence. She shared with the  reporter why she is excited about artificial intelligence technology moving into the debt collection industry. “When you started a collections agency, you used to need a phone and a filing cabinet. We’ve progressed from there, but we’re slow adopters,” Ingold said. “With AI, ChatGPT and the advances, I think it’s really going to level the playing field for us. We’re on the cusp of it. This is the future.”

Read the whole article here.

The Social Network: Using TikTok-Style Training to Make Stronger Connections

By Kelli VanCleave

In today’s workplace, trainers are tasked with captivating a multigenerational audience that craves quick, accessible, informative and entertaining learning experiences. There is also the challenge of training employees remotely. Social media apps may just be the answer in these situations. While TikTok shouldn’t be used as a direct learning application, the platform offers invaluable lessons on creating content that resonates with employees.

Let’s explore two training strategies inspired by TikTok that you can adapt for corporate training.

The Art of Microlearning

TikTok has become a masterclass in microlearning by transforming complex ideas into bite-sized learning experiences.

Lesson 1: Keep it Short and Sweet

Training modules must be concise, focusing on a single key concept or skill at a time. This approach helps to prevent mental overload and increases information retention.

Lesson 2: Break it into Parts

When the training topic is more complex or extensive, break it up into short, interesting parts. Do what the TikTokers do and conclude a training module with a teaser, such as, “There’s so much more to explore on this topic, so look forward to part two!” or adopt a more casual tone: “Got loads more tips where these came from—hit like and follow for the next chapter!” This tactic not only manages learner expectations but also builds  anticipation for future learning sessions.

Lesson 3: Casual is the New Formal

The authenticity and immediacy of on-the-fly recordings resonate more with learners, mirroring the spontaneous and genuine nature of content they consume daily on platforms like TikTok. This style reduces the pressure to produce polished, studio-quality videos and encourages a more personal and relatable learning experience.

Engagement Through Entertainment

TikTok offers a treasure trove of insights and perspectives that extend beyond the traditional boundaries of organizational learning. It’s a platform ripe for educational exploration, providing access to a wide array of knowledge and viewpoints.

Lesson 1: Explore Multiple Perspectives

Encourage participants to search specific topics such as “debt collections” or “credit reporting” on TikTok. This exercise can expose learners to the consumer perspective on these topics, enriching their understanding. Debrief as a group, and then introduce the industry’s viewpoint on the same topic, addressing and clarifying any misconceptions encountered. This dual-perspective approach broadens learners’ horizons, offering them a big-picture view of the industry.

Lesson 2: Enhance Soft Skills Through Peer Learning

Identify soft skills that are key to the learner’s success in their job role—be it rapport building, negotiation, persuasion, or emotional intelligence. Divide learners into groups, assigning each a different skill to explore on TikTok. Allow them sufficient time to immerse themselves in the content, then have them prepare a brief, 10-minute presentation on their findings to the entire class. This segment is designed for learners to teach each other, sharing any new and interesting advice they’ve discovered. The discussion encourages participants to consider how these insights can be translated into practical applications.

By embracing TikTok as a learning tool, trainers can create a more engaging, informative, and interactive learning environment. This approach taps into the vast pool of knowledge available on the platform and fosters a collaborative learning culture that values peer insights and real-world applicability. While directly incorporating TikTok into corporate training programs may not be feasible due to privacy and security concerns, the platform’s underlying principles offer a blueprint for creating a new kind of training.

Kelli Van Cleave will be presenting the session, Speak Easy: The Prohibition on Poor Communication, at IACC’s Mid-Year Collections Conference in San Diego this July.

New Member-Get-a-Member Program

 IACC is committed to growing its membership. We are excited to announce that we’re now offering a referral credit bonus to anyone who refers a new member and is accepted into the IACC.

Program Benefits

  • For every approved new member you refer, you will receive $250 in IACC credit.
  • If that new member renews for a second year, you will receive an additional $100.
  • There is no limit to the number of referrals you can submit—we welcome as many new members as you can provide.
  • You can use this credit toward membership dues, education programming, convention registration, or directory upgrades.

The Fine Print

  • You must be listed as the referral source on the prospective member’s application to receive the credit.
  • Credits expire after two years.
  • You must email IACC or call (952 )925-0760 to redeem your credit.
  • If the credit is used for registration to an event or educational programming, please contact the IACC staff before you register to ensure application of your credit.
  • You cannot split a credit. For example, you can’t take a $250 credit and apply $125 toward a convention registration and $125 toward dues. The full value must be applied.

Learn more about the program right here.

From the Web: 'Faster Payments Poised to Drive Faster Growth for Small Businesses'

A recent Pymnts article shared that small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs), which represent 99.9% of all American businesses, frequently find themselves waiting on  payments. According to the article: “The historical reality for SMBs is that they have been underserved by financial institutions, which don’t quite know where or how to place them, resulting in fragmented solutions that provide small businesses with incomplete views of their finances, cash flows and payments.  The situation leaves many SMBs struggling with operational inefficiencies and has resulted in an increasing demand for safe and convenient payment methods that provide greater visibility. Instant payments will ‘improve the quality and speed of commerce and the overall cash flow of one half of our economy’ as smaller firms benefit, Enigma Technologies Co-founder and CEO Hicham Oudghiri told PYMNTS in December.

As PYMNTS Intelligence found, the smaller the business, the greater its uncertainty around payments tends to be. Faster payments bring with them more certainty than traditional, delay-filled payment methods tend to. Separate findings included in the PYMNTS Intelligence study ‘How Instant Ad Hoc Payment Costs Impact Small SMBs’ revealed that SMBs are increasingly turning to instant payments as a way to ensure certainty and visibility over and around their operations.

More than 8 in 10 SMBs said they now receive instant ad hoc payments in exchange for the goods and services they provide. In appreciation for this speed and convenience, 57% of SMB receivers said they’re even willing to pay a fixed fee for instant payments.”

Read more here.

Legislative Update: FTC's Ban on Noncompete Contracts

By Wanda Borges

On April 23, 2024, the Federal Trade Commission promulgated its Noncompete Rule, which was published in the Federal Register on May 7, 2024. The rule will take effect on Sept. 4, 2024, unless a court enters an order staying the rule.

What is the Non-Compete Rule?

The final rule provides that it is an unfair method of competition for persons (remember that “persons” includes corporations and other artificial entities) to, among other things, enter into non-compete clauses (“non-competes”) with workers on or after the final rule’s effective date. With respect to existing noncompetes—i.e., non-competes entered into before the effective date—the final rule adopts a different approach for senior executives than for other workers. For senior executives, existing noncompetes can remain in force, while existing non-competes with other workers are not enforceable after the effective date. “Senior executives” are defined as workers earning more than $151,164 who are in a “policy-making position.” However, the FTC ban prohibits new noncompete agreements to be entered into or  enforced with all workers, including senior executives after the effective date. Noncompete agreements in connection with the bona fide sale of a business are excepted from the FTC ban. The FTC ban is not applicable to agreements that contain “forfeiture-forcompensation.” At least, not at this time. This federal rule supersedes any state law that allow non-compete agreements.

What Led to This Federal Rule?

Lawsuits have been abundant over the years seeking a court determination whether a non-compete  agreement is or is not enforceable. These battles began in the English courts and have continued in America under both common law assertions and as alleged violations of the Sherman Antitrust Act prohibiting “unfair competition.” The FTC’s position is that noncompete agreements “block workers from freely switching jobs, depriving them of higher wages and better working conditions, and depriving businesses of a talent pool that they need to build and expand.” The FTC opines that the elimination of noncompete agreements will promote “greater dynamism, innovation, and healthy competition.” All of this is done, theoretically, in order to lower costs to consumers.

A Few Definitions to Note

A “non-compete clause” is defined as a “term or condition of employment that prohibits a worker from, penalizes a worker for, or functions to prevent a worker from (1) seeking or accepting work in the United States with a different person where such work would begin after the conclusion of the employment that includes the term or condition; or (2) operating a business in the United States after the conclusion of the employment that includes the term or condition period.” A “worker” is defined as a “natural person who works or who previously worked, whether paid or unpaid, without regard to the worker’s title or the worker’s status under any other state or federal laws including but not limited to whether the worker is an employee, independent contractor, extern, intern, volunteer, apprentice, or a sole proprietor who provides a service to a person.”

What Should You Do with Your Workers?

This new rules requires employers to give specific notice to their employees who have signed an agreement containing a “non-compete clause;” and the FTC has provided this template for such notice: A new rule enforced by the Federal Trade Commission makes it unlawful for us to enforce a non-compete clause.

As of [DATE EMPLOYER CHOOSES BUT NO LATER THAN EFFECTIVE DATE OF THE FINAL RULE], [EMPLOYER NAME] will not enforce any non-compete clause against you. This means that as of [DATE  EMPLOYER CHOOSES BUT NO LETTER THAN EFFECTIVE DATE OF THE FINAL RULE]:

  • You may seek or accept a job with any company or any person even if they compete with [EMPLOYER NAME]
  • You may run your own business even if it competes with [EMPLOYER NAME] • You may compete with [EMPLOYER NAME] following your employment with [EMPLOYER NAME]

The FTC’s new rule does not affect any other terms or conditions of your employment For more information about this rule visit https://www.ftc.gov/legallibrary/browse/rules/noncompete-rule. Complete and  accurate translations of the notice and certain languages other than English, including Spanish Chinese Arabic Vietnamese Tagalog and Korean are available at https://www.ftc.gov/legallibrary/browse/rules/noncompete-rule.

Lawsuit Commenced to Block the Noncompete Ban

On April 23, 2024, immediately upon the FTC’s issuance of the final rule, Ryan, LLC, a global tax service and software provider, filed a lawsuit in the Northern District of Texas, Ryan v. FTC, No. 3:24-cv-00986, challenging the FTC’s final rule on the following legal theories: 

  1.  The FTC lacks authority under Section 6(g) of the FTC Act to issue substantive rules at all, as opposed to procedural rule. 
  2. The FTC lacks the authority to ban non-competes by declaring them an unfair method of competition. 
  3. If the FTC Act is interpreted to authorize the agency to issue the rule here, it would be an unconstitutional delegation of authority
  4. The FTC’s Commissioners lacked constitutional authority to vote for the rule because their statutory removal protections are incompatible with the President’s exercise of his executive power.
  5. The FTC acted arbitrarily and capriciously in that the enforceability of non-compete clauses should be determined on a case-by-case basis under the rule of reason because they can be a mutually beneficial, negotiated term of employment.
  6. The FTC acted arbitrarily and capriciously in failing to sufficiently consider alternative proposals.
  7. The FRC acted contrary to law by retroactively invalidating non-compete clauses without individualized consideration like that envisioned by the Fifth Amendment. The Ryan lawsuit seeks a declaration of its rights, an injunction if needed to enforce that declaration, and an order vacating and setting aside the rule.

Four associations filed similar suits subsequent to the Ryan suit, but those additional suits have been stayed by order of U.S. District Judge J. Campbell Barker of the Eastern District of Texas until the Ryan suit is concluded. The court noted that the subsequent plaintiffs are free to join the first-filed action. Ryan has sought a stay of the effectiveness of the FTC noncompete ban pending the outcome of its lawsuit. A hearing on the motion for a stay of the effective date and preliminary injunction was set in June and a decision on that motion is tentatively set to be issued prior to July 3.

Corporate Bankruptcies Surge as Hopes for Lower Interest Rates Fades

U.S. corporate bankruptcy filings in April rose to their highest levels in a year, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence, which reported 66 new
bankruptcy filings in April, up from 61 filings in March. “The pace of bankruptcies has accelerated since the start of the year, though the 210 filings recorded over the first four months of 2024 is marginally lower than the 224 recorded over the same time frame in 2023,” the S&P article noted. “Fading hopes of lower interest rates are likely contributing to the increase in filings, as companies that may have held out hope for rate cuts at the beginning of the year come to terms with the reality that they will remain higher for longer.”

Change Healthcare Cyberattack: The Fallout Continues and Lessons Learned

By Jonathan Goldberger

The February 2024 cyberattack on Change Healthcare, a major health insurance claims processing company and subsidiary of United Healthcare Group (UHG), sent shockwaves through the healthcare industry. The fallout has been significant and far-reaching, highlighting the vulnerability of systems to cyberattacks and the potential for widespread disruption.  In addition, it is a wake-up call for all businesses regardless of cybersecurity maturity – vulnerability is continuous, and risk reduction is only through rigor and a constant cybersecurity culture. 

The initial attack resulted in the compromise of the personal health information (PHI) of potentially millions of Americans. Change Healthcare processes claims for numerous health insurance providers, including UHG. This breach exposed sensitive data, including names, social security numbers, medical diagnoses, and treatment information.

The immediate aftermath saw widespread disruption to healthcare operations nationwide. Many providers were unable to submit claims or receive payments, leading to financial strain and delayed care for patients. Pharmacies struggled to process prescriptions, and patients faced difficulties accessing their medications.

The response from Change Healthcare and UHG was met with criticism. Lawmakers grilled UHG executives over the company’s lack of preparedness and transparency. Provider advocates questioned UHG’s commitment to conducting breach notifications on behalf of all affected consumers.

The cyberattack also raised concerns about the security of healthcare data more broadly. The incident underscored the need for robust cybersecurity measures and greater collaboration between stakeholders to protect sensitive information. It also highlighted the importance of contingency plans to ensure continuity of care in the event of a cyberattack.

As the dust settles, several key lessons have emerged from the Change Healthcare breach:

  1. The human factor cannot be overlooked. Cyberattacks often exploit human vulnerabilities, such as phishing scams and weak passwords. Organizations must invest in training and awareness programs to educate employees about cybersecurity risks and best practices.
  2. Cybersecurity-regulated industries, such as collections, are prime targets for cyberattacks. The vast amount of sensitive data held by healthcare, finance and other regulated organizations makes them attractive targets for cybercriminals. The interconnected nature of these industries further exacerbates the risk, as a breach in one organization can have cascading effects on others.
  3. Cyberattacks can cause significant disruption to operations. The Change Healthcare attack demonstrated the potential for cyberattacks to cripple critical industry functions. This disruption lead to delayed care, financial strain, and compromised patient safety.
  4. Collaboration is key. Regulated industries must work together to share information and best practices to strengthen cybersecurity defenses. This includes collaboration between providers, payers, technology vendors, and government agencies.
  5. Preparedness and transparency are crucial. Organizations must have robust cybersecurity measures in place and be prepared to respond quickly and transparently in the event of an attack. This includes having contingency plans to ensure continuity of care and clear communication with affected individuals and stakeholders.

The Change Healthcare cyberattack serves as a stark reminder of the growing threat of cyberattacks to an industry like healthcare, finance, collections, etc. While the full impact of the breach is still unfolding, the lessons learned will undoubtedly shape the industry’s approach to cybersecurity for years to come.

All cybersecurity regulated industries (like collections) must prioritize cybersecurity as a critical component of patient care. This includes investing in robust security measures, fostering collaboration, and promoting a culture of cybersecurity awareness.

Jonathan Goldberger is the senior vice president of  security practice & strategic sales at TPx. He will be presenting the session,  Transformative AI and Its Profound Impact on  Information Security, Cybersecurity, and  Compliance, at IACC’s Mid Year Collections Conference in San Diego this July. 

IACC Emerging Leader Spotlight: Brinen LeFevre

IACC’s Emerging Leader Program is a leadership development group for both associate and agency collection professionals that are early-careerminded. The program is designed to build skills for future leaders in our member companies and for the association by targeting different topics of growth within an organization, training concerns and how to help build your career as a leader. Here, we talk with Emerging Leader Brinen LeFevre, operations & marketing manager for Kearns Brinen & Monaghan, Inc.

Where did you grow up? Where did you go to school?

I was born and raised in Dover, Delaware. From there, I made the trip down South to attend the University of Georgia to study marketing with a focus in digital analytics. Currently, I am finishing my master’s degree in operations management at the University of Kansas.

Who have been your strongest influences in your life?

The strongest influences in my life have been my parents, my coaches from sports growing up, and the connections I have made along the way. My parents both come from very different backgrounds but went through their fair share of adversity. From them I have learned resilience, mental toughness, and  a strong set of ethics and values that drive the direction of KBM today. I was blessed to have many amazing coaches growing up and often they would preach about life off the field as much as life on it. Chris Davis is one of the biggest influences I had. A coach at the University of Georgia and a leader for the Organization Athletes in Action, Chris  taught me the deeper value of leadership and how the things we see as dividers are often places we can find common ground. He imparted to me the value of connection and how it drives passion and results.

How would you describe yourself using 3 to 5 words?

If I had to narrow it down to just a few words, I would say curious, passionate, determined  and empathetic.

What was your first job?

My first job was actually working with KBM. As a family business, I came in to work every summer since I can remember. Holding nearly every position at the company in some way, I credit that to being the foundation of commercial collections.

How long have you been in the collection industry?

Technically, roughly 18 years. With all the time spent at my parents’ office growing up, I was  submerged in this industry for as long as I can remember. After graduating college in 2020, I took a full-time role here and have not looked back since.

How did you end up in this industry?
This is probably one of my favorite questions to ask people, because no one grows up saying, “I can’t wait to be a debt collector!” However, I kind of did with seeing how much my dad talked about it. I knew I wanted to go to college and get experience outside of KBM before returning, but COVID-19 had different plans. I had a job at a marketing agency in Atlanta lined up in my senior year, but as  the pandemic hit I lost the opportunity. I moved back home with the intention of taking a role at KBM for a shorter term so I could build my work portfolio, but I began to fall in love with this place more and more each day. The rest is history!

What is your current role in your company?

I am the Operations & Marketing Manager, overseeing our company’s efficiency in both our  Sales & Collection departments.

What other roles have you played in your current company?

I have held nearly every role at our company in some capacity since I was a kid. This gave me a well-rounded view of not just how KBM operates, but the industry as a whole.

What are your strengths?

My strengths are in leadership and sales. I truly believe in the idea of servant leadership and its effectiveness. I always admired the leaders in my life who were down in the trenches with you doing the hard work and problem solving. To me, if someone was willing to invest in me and my work then I would always give them everything I had. It always made me believe that they would never ask me to do something that they wouldn’t do, and that is something I try to impart on everyone I work with. I mainly see that within our sales team, where I still make sure I am making calls to clients and bringing on new clients like everyone else.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

In five years I see myself at the helm of KBM, taking it to new heights while also growing my own family. Growing the company and my family simultaneously will come with its own challenges, but I know I have the support of many friends and mentors to get me where I need to be.

Where do you see your company in five years?

KBM is primed for major growth in the next five years. With the addition of many new large clients and an incredible team that keeps growing, I see us making major waves in the commercial collection space and expanding offices to numerous different locations.

What do you find most challenging about collections?

Two aspects of this industry that have been particularly challenging actually go hand-in-hand for me: the perception of the industry and quality hiring. Outside of our space, collections can be a taboo word that would make most people cringe. Thoughts of horror stories flood people’s minds and they immediately associate that with me, KBM, and our industry as a whole. In reality, those horror stories are not as common as they are portrayed to be. Bad actors in our industry often close shop as quickly as they open, and their lack of ethics make for more black marks that plague the collection industry. So getting someone to take a job that has that public perception on it can be more challenging than selling a new client. We do a very challenging job that requires a very unique skill set, some of which can be taught but some are innate. Maintaining quality collection teams while balancing culture and results is a challenge for nearly everyone.

What do you enjoy most about the collection industry?

There is nothing that brings me more joy than letting a client know that we collected an account that drastically impacts their business. I have been on countless calls with new clients who talk about how vital it is that their debt gets collected and that it could shut down their business. To turn around and hand them a check that saves their bottom line while hearing the joy and shock in their voice will never fail to bring a smile to my face, no matter how many times I hear it.

What’s the best/worst thing to happen since you started working at your company?

The best and worst thing to happen to me while working for KBM has been dealing with technology evolving and the process it takes to enact change. We had been running off a local server for some time and the age of it finally started catching up to its functionality. The time to make the leap to cloud-based software became apparent and immediate. Leading this change has put many gray hairs on my head, but the amount of collaboration and vision from our management team to see what we were doing before and how we can improve on a new platform gave me a whole new perspective on strategy.

If you could change one thing about our industry, what would it be?

I want to see our industry fully embrace an omni-channel approach to communications with debtors and clients alike. The days of just phone calls and letters are ending quickly, but that doesn’t discount their value. Instead, I would encourage everyone in the industry to communicate with clients/debtors in the channels that they spend their time in. Things like social media, texting, email, and various applications/software are often neglected or shortly adopted and then forgotten. Regulations do not always make this the easiest, but we are in the profession of being creative problemsolvers at the end of it all.

What do you wish other people knew about collections?

I wish people could see the amount of good this industry does on a global scale. The loudest voices are the ones who are negatively affected, which will never change, but I think if people could see the number of businesses and people we help (clients and debtors alike), we could see a real shift in how the world sees us.

What might someone be surprised to know about you?

It’s kind of funny, but for as long as I can remember, my dad did not allow any pets in the office. When he wasn’t coming around the office as often anymore, I would sneak my new puppy into the office on the days I knew he was not going to be at the office. I kept that up for a little while until eventually getting caught, but now my two dogs come to the office with me a couple times a week and have been promoted to our Chief Morale Officers!

What would you tell someone who is thinking about getting into the collections industry?

The best thing you can do is to remain curious about the business world. You will need to develop an insane breadth of knowledge about various industries to be successful, but that is not all. The more you develop your depth of knowledge in those industries, the more versatile and successful you will become.

If you weren’t doing what you currently do for work, what would you be doing instead, or what would your life be like?

If I could change jobs, I would love to take a college football coaching position. I played football my whole life, and I love helping people become successful in their passions and life in general. I have a tremendous amount of respect for coaches and athletes alike, so I could easily see myself getting amped up on a sideline and developing strategy for a team.

Are you involved with any nonprofit organizations or charity groups?

We are involved in various sports development organizations and initiatives. Sports can be an outlet for so many to escape a hard day and develop character. One of my favorite things we do is donating to Chris Davis & Athletes in Action, a Christian sports organization that empowers athletes to grow their faith and worship in the sport of their choosing.

New: On-Demand IACC Education

IACC has begun adding our recorded webinars to a Learning Portal for added convenience. You will now be able to log into the IACC Member Portal and follow the links to purchase the recorded webinars. Some of these webinars will also be eligible for credit toward your Certified Commercial Collector (CCC) recertification. There will be a note in the Member Portal for any that are applicable. Any CCC eligible webinars will have a short quiz at the end that is required to receive credit. As we continue to record our webinars, we will make them available and announce their addition to the store. We hope to have our full slate of CCC webinars uploaded by early next year.

If you haven’t started the process to have your collectors become CCC certified, what are you waiting for? It’s never been easier to begin!

Available Webinars:

  • Collection Calls and Telephone Techniques Part 1
  • Collection Calls and Telephone Techniques Part 2
  • Skiptracing & Cybertracking in the 21st Century

All three webinars are available for purchase in the IACC Member Portal

An Interview with the Board

Featuring Bob Tharnish, Senior Vice President, Attorney Network Services, ABC Amega

Robert TharnishHow did you get started in the commercial collection industry?

After my three-year stint as a U.S. Army Ranger, my wife, Lou, and I moved back to Buffalo, New York, from Ft. Benning, Georgia (where we met). We were both in a military intelligence unit and served as POW Interrogators. I needed a job, and one of my high school classmates was working as a collector at ABC. He told me they were hiring, so I went for an interview and started my career in debt collection in December 1978.

I found that the skills I learned as an interrogator served me well in my early career as a bill collector (I like to share that with two interrogators as parents, our five kids didn’t get away with anything growing up!). My original plan was to get in good with a client and then go to work for them to put my degree in business management to use. Forty-five years later, I’m still at it with ABC. My employment anniversary is Dec. 18, 1978, and my wedding anniversary is Dec. 17, 1977, so I often joke that Lou has put up with me for a year and a day longer than ABC!

 

How long have you been a member of the IACC?

It’s been a while now—I don’t recall when I first became involved. I think it might have been Bob Ingold who first encouraged me to get involved with IACC. It was Bob, Bill Mann and Jim Bessenbacher who encouraged me to become a board member.

 What professional accomplishment are you most proud of?

Co-leading the team at ABC that designed and developed our proprietary collection system. I also led the team that worked on ABC becoming certified by COPC.

 

What does a typical workday look like for you?

Since the start of the pandemic in 2020, we have all been working remotely. The bulk of my typical day involves working large collection files. I also manage our worldwide attorney network, so I often become involved in helping our legal team interface with our attorneys. I also tend to be the go-to person when our collection staff needs help addressing an issue, has questions about our system or procedures, etc.

 

What has been the biggest challenge of your career and what have you learned from that?

Dealing with clients that either don’t understand the collection process or have unrealistic expectations. I’ve learned how to diplomatically deal with such clients by becoming an “educator” (especially for our international clients who don’t always understand the U.S. collection/legal process).

 

How do you inspire your employees?

I tend to lead by example, which is one reason I still handle collection files. I want to stay up-to-date on the ever-changing collection landscape and the everyday challenges faced by our collectors. Handling files (along with the other hats I wear) allows me to do so.

 What has been the most rewarding aspect of serving on the IACC board?

By far, it has been serving with such talented and dedicated members of the debt collection industry.

 

What do you see for the future of the collections industry and what role do you think IACC or your company will play in that?

I’m not much of a crystal ball guy, but I believe the two biggest challenges we will face are continued increases in the regulation of our industry and new and additional ways to use automation, both by creditors and agencies. We will address the first challenge by continuing to participate in industry trade organizations, such as IACC, to keep our views in front of the legislators who ultimately design and vote for such regulation. IACC should continue to stay on the forefront of doing so. We will continue to meet the second challenge by looking for new ways to use automation, as we have always done during my tenure (we were one of the first commercial agencies to automate and allow clients to access our system to see what our collectors were doing on their claims). IACC has always been helpful in that regard.

Welcome IACC's New Affinity Program Participant

The IACC Board of Directors and Affinity Committee are very pleased to announce a new participant in our Affinity Program, Maxyfi!

Maxyfi is a cloud-based collection software/CRM specializing in third-party debt collection. Unlike existing systems, we offer an all-encompassing solution, bridging the gaps left by conventional systems. Our state-of-the-art technology integrates omni-channel communication and AI-powered digital capabilities like Client Portal, Debtor Portal, Payment Portal, etc. Traditional agencies often rely on a patchwork of subsystems, leading to inefficiencies, increased costs, and compromised data integrity. Maxyfi’s innovative approach empowers agencies to effectively engage with debtors while offering them digital and AI-driven tools to resolve their outstanding debts independently.

Maxyfi Software Solutions Offers:

• Customer Portal
• Client Portal
• Mobile App
• Quick Reporting
• Easy Client On-Boarding
• Secured and Encrypted User Data
• Promise Tracking
• Follow Up Tools including text, email, WhatsApp, calls, and letters
• AI-powered Skip Tracing

IACC Special Discount
• A 60-day, no commitment, free trial for IACC members. During the trial period you will work with a dedicated support manager to provide training and support activities.

For questions regarding the services available through Maxyfi or if you are interested in their services, please contact Ashraf Ali at ashraf@maxyfi.com with subject line “IACC 60”

IACC's Certified Commercial Collector Program

For over 40 years, IACC has promoted excellence through the training and education of commercial collection professionals. IACC believes that collectors must be knowledgeable about a wide variety of issues for their agency to compete effectively in the challenging commercial collection industry. Whether you have new collectors to train or experienced collectors to motivate to higher levels of performance, the IACC Certified Commercial Collector (CCC) program is an affordable tool to help you reach these goals.

IACC is pleased to recognize the following member who has achieved their CCC recently:
• Michael Peszko – Commercial Collection Corp of NY
• Veneise Bennett – Students Loan Bureau
• Heather Akers – Account Adjustment Bureau, Inc 

To begin the process of becoming an IACC Certified Commercial Collector, register for the study guide and exam on our website.

Questions? Send us an email at iacc@commercialcollector.com.