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March/April Cover Stories

Who's Who in Compliance 2018

  • Written by Collection Advisor
  • Parent Category: Cover Stories
  • Category: March/April Cover Stories

Top A/R Pros Drive Compliance and Production

Compliance with federal and state regulation has made and destroyed accounts receivable organizations. It is the pillar on which respect in the accounts receivable industry rests. Collection Advisor reached out to leaders in the industry for nominations for accounts receivable professionals who not only strive to discern and adhere to regulation but educate professionals around them to improve the industry as a whole.

Collection Advisor is proud to present the Who’s Who in Compliance 2018. Each of those selected provides their response to the question: What is something first and third party accounts receivable professionals should act on regarding compliance in 2018?

adams joeJOE ADAMS CCCO, CRCP, CIA

Executive Vice President | Hampton Pryor Group
“Reviewing all aspects of their Compliance Management System to ensure that the proper controls are in place to guarantee its effectivity and success.”

bedard johnJOHN H. BEDARD, JR.

Managing Attorney | Bedard Law Group, P.C.
“Act on your data! Data is the raw material of analysis. ARM professionals hold the most comprehensive source of collectioncycle data in the marketplace. Analyze that data. Study that data. Mine the gold out of that data! Drive compliance and production using one of the very best resources you possess – your data!”

bender leslie2LESLIE BENDER

Chief Strategy Officer & General Counsel | BCA Financial Services, Inc.
“In 2018 top compliance priorities need to include data security and ongoing aware- ness training and reminders for an organization’s workforce.”

bohling ladonna2LADONNA BOHLING

VP of Special Ops | Contract Callers, Inc.
“ARM Professionals should focus on vulnerability and risk assessments; more specifically their internal and external auditing processes, their examination cadences and their remediation efforts. Weakness in ongoing protections versus the managing of potential threats systematically requires consistent improvements.”

bonitzer rickRICK BONITZER

President/CEO | Credit Collection Partners
“Surround yourself with good people; specifically, vendors. Your vendor partners should have your back from a compliance standpoint. Visit with them often and ask pointed questions about how they are keeping you compliant.”

cherner dave2DAVE CHERNER

Attorney | Moss & Barnett
“Make a commitment to converting unstructured compliance data (complaint narrative, phone calls, etc.) into structured information that can be incorporated with your account management software. Integrating usable compliance information with production data is the key to improving exception reporting and finding the needles without digging through the haystack.”

ciskey debraDEBRA CISKEY

Chief Compliance Officer | Wakefield and Associates, Inc.
“Compliance officers must become data analysts. Valid or not valid, complaints from consumers drive the enforcement activity of regulators, so use data the way they do to spot potential problem areas in our agencies, then correct practices that drive complaints. Think like a consumer and a regulator.”

dirubbio debbieDEBBIE DIRUBBIO

Collection Manager | CBHV Collection Bureau of the Hudson Valley, Inc.
“A compliance management system has an absolutely necessary place in the accounts receivable operation, but we can’t lose sight of the end game – which is, of course profitability. We shouldn’t sacrifice one for the other – balance is key.”

frost michael4MIKE FROST

Chief Compliance, Sales Officer and General Counsel | CBE Companies, Inc.
“In 2018, all first and third party accounts receivable management professionals should consider the various forms of consumer communication and how those forms of communication may align within their respective compliance management system. The manner in which we communicate is continuously evolving and innovative standards warrant immense consideration from a compliance perspective.”

grzechnik neill katieKATIE GRZECHNIK NEILL

Compliance & Litigation Counsel | ARS National Services Inc.
“While things are relatively quiet in early 2018, compliance professionals should button up their company’s change control procedures for the anticipated changes coming in 2018. A honed-in change control process will make implementing new regulatory requirements a smoother experience.”

jarman nick 2018NICK JARMAN

Owner | Right Away Consulting
“They should act on and embrace the latest technology. There is a myriad of technology available to the ARM industry that is relatively new such as VoApps, Solutions by Text, and InterProse to name a few. To succeed in the future, it is important to embrace technology in the present.”

mckeighan aliciaALICIA S. MCKEIGHAN

Chief Compliance Officer | Afni, Inc.
“The industry’s compliance focus should shift to technology solutions such as automation of compliance controls designed to decrease risk, and machine learning tools that give us more visibility to risk. The regulatory landscape may be shifting from regulation by enforcement to real rules, potentially allowing us to make technological advances that are mutually beneficial for the industry and our consumers.”

needleman joannJOANN NEEDLEMAN

Leader – Consumer Financial Services Regulatory & Compliance | Clark Hill PLC.
“2018 presents a unique opportunity for first and third parties to establish long-term regulatory clarity. Industry must be actively engaging federal regulators now to craft workable and reasonable guidance in order to avoid compliance disruptions with every administration change.”

strausser harryHARRY A. STRAUSSER III

Scholar, Fellow, MCE, IFCCE, CCCO ARM Industry Consultant | Interact Training and Development
“Active participants in the collections industry must pledge a compliant culture in 2018 as the very foundation of their organization. A company grounded in a solid, compliant mindset assures respectful relationships with consumers, acceptance by regulators and ongoing corporate growth and survival.”

strickler nicoleNICOLE M. STRICKLER

Partner | Messer Strickler, Ltd.
“Letter review, letter review, letter review. I cannot stress enough how important it is to have your letters reviewed by outside counsel, preferably someone who regularly defends consumer claims. Defense litigators are generally the first to become aware of the new theories being advanced by consumer counsel. Moreover, lawsuits based upon letters have seen a noticeable uptick in the last year.”

reed alexALEX REED

SVP, Operations | CBE Companies
“We must shift from focusing on pure operational efficiency to contact efficacy: reduction of wrong party contacts, and even preempting contact with low yield and compliance-risky debtors. Targeting the right yield – avoiding those that come with baggage.”

thomas anneANNE THOMAS

Chief Compliance Officer | Cavalry Portfolio Services, LLC
“Continuous improvement is what a Compliance Management System should achieve. Communication and education are crucial components for compliance pro- fessionals in order to help drive this goal. Equally important, is a strong compliance monitoring program – this allows senior management, compliance and audit to an- swer the question – “How do you know?”

Skip Tracing Private Eye

altes sunsetAn extensive network from which to draw intelligence and support can be one of the greatest tools a professional can possess. This is especially true in skip tracing. Perhaps it is why Falcon International has focused much of its philosophy around it.

Falcon International not only established a strong network but also implemented techniques that have kept them running strong for some time. In this issue’s Agency Spotlight, Collection Advisor sat down with J. Patrick Altes, president of Falcon to talk about what it takes for a skip tracing/repossession agency to stay competitive.

How did you get started in skip tracing and how did Falcon come to be?

Falcon International was initially a private investigation agency, and in fact, it still is. Back in the ‘50s, banks would use private investigators to repossess cars, and Falcon got into the repossession business through that process. We still do a lot of investigation and skip tracing work for various attorney firms, trying to locate heirs and the like. For a number of years, we were an investigation resource for CBS TV’s “48 Hours”.

What kind of skip tracing/recovery does Falcon focus on? Why?

There are hard-core skip tracers out there, like Ron Brown, Millard Land, or Alex Price. These guys are industry legends. They might spend countless hours on a particular case, and can find a car anywhere in the world, but they charge accordingly. Conversely, it seems that many auto lenders are unwilling to pay a repossession agency for even basic skip tracing…although I believe they should. Why? Well, we have access to virtually every skip database that the major skip tracers do, and have skilled investigators on staff. However, the fact is that these data sources are expensive, and we only tap into them for clients willing to pay for this extra effort. We do some light to skip work on a lot of accounts just to verify we’re looking at a good address, to save fuel; but it doesn’t make sense to run up a big database bill researching a tough skip account if the creditor doesn’t offer an incentive to do it.

Does Falcon work cases on a “contingent” basis?

altes j.patrickI believe this is the biggest mistake a repossessor/tracer can make...accepting contingent assignments. I know that many good skip tracing firms accept work on a no-hit-no-fee basis but this is far, far different than a repossessor physically working an account.

Sure, the skip tracer invests time, and fees for database searches, and they can charge a pretty decent fee with a “hit”, but, this is different than having people in a truck rolling through neighborhoods knocking on doors in an effort to produce information.

This system really has become very abusive and dangerous. Since they don’t have any financial “skin in the game”, an unscrupulous client can send the repossessor to check an address that might be a long shot, or years old, or the address of old Uncle Bernie who hasn’t seen the customer since they were in grade school. Also, some clients admit that the presence of an $80,000 repo truck in a relative’s driveway acts as a motivator for the customer to pay current (“some repo guy contacts Aunt Alice! I better pay my car payments!”), more than a call from a collector 3,000 miles away.

This practice puts the consumer’s privacy at risk in the process, as a repossession field agent may not be up to speed on the latest in the GLBA, as he or she goes about knocking on doors of distant relatives, references, or neighbors. It also causes the repossessor to burn tens of thousands of dollars in fuel each year, chasing these “free” longshot addresses.

Articles about how bad this practice is have been highlighted in the Huffington Post, on Credit News, a white paper by the National Consumer Law Center, and many many websites. This is, by far, the most abusive practice in the industry today.

What does Falcon do to keep its tracers happy and driven?

Skip tracing...and the actual auto recovery....are both inherently exciting and rewarding. If you ask a skip tracer or recovery agent, they’ll tell you that being “in the hunt” on these accounts is super interesting.

What sort of credentials/accreditations does Falcon have and what would you recommend a fledgling skip tracing company obtain to be successful?

We are a member of Time Finance Adjusters, who we believe to be the best national trade association for the repossession industry. We receive yearly training on issues like the GLBA [Gramm-Leach- Bliley Act] and the TRPA [Telephone Records and Privacy Protection Act]. [This is] especially important since many of our contacts are associated with a debtor. I think it would be helpful to be part of a national or international private investigation association; we’re members of the World Association of Detectives, and that provides an instant network of investigators literally around the world. And, here in Florida you would need a private investigation agency license (Class A) and have at least a Class C license holder on staff.

What is Falcon’s philosophy when it comes to establishing and maintaining contacts?

That’s a great question. An investigation agency is only as good as its contacts. Every investigator needs to be aware of the network that is already part of their circle of friends and beyond…part of their “Six Degrees of Separation” network (read about this here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Six_degrees_of_separation). I had a good example of this recently. A client of ours wanted us to do some tracing on the island of Pohnpei in Micronesia in the

South Pacific. I had never been there, and there certainly aren’t private investigators or skip tracers on this tiny island. But I did have friends from here in Florida who had visited there over the years to go surfing. Through them I was able to work with a local businessman who was well connected and offered the help I needed. Sometimes you just have to think creatively about networks you might already have in place.

What is Falcon’s most valued software/technology in the skip tracing/recovery process?

I don’t think it’s any one thing. We are drawing from all sorts of sources of information, but the real power is in the power of deduction...the ability to make sense or draw inferences from the information we are seeing. There is a whole host of technologies that we draw upon...ALPR [Automatic License Plate Readers] camera hits, database information, Facebook posts, Twitter feeds, Google Earth...but if you can’t make some deductions from what you’re seeing, you’re not going to be successful. That’s why people are finding this new TV series “Sherlock” so compelling; the power comes from putting together various bits of “random” information. There’s no single silver bullet that I am aware of.

Skip tracing and repossession have come into the spotlight due to reality TV. Do you think this has improved public opinion of the industry or made the public more wary when they receive a call or visit from a tracer?

Reality TV has really done a number on the repossession business. Because of the falsehoods portrayed on these shows, the consumer thinks the repossession might result in physical altercation, when in fact, that’s the last thing on the repossessors mind. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard of repossessors being asked, “You’re not going to beat me up, are you?” Our goal is to make the process as risk-free as possible. We actually make sure we hire only even-tempered, well-mannered recovery agents. In this business, being aggressive only makes matters worse.

As far as skip tracers, the Great Recession made “debtors” out of millions and millions of good citizens. By and large the people we’re pursuing aren’t criminals or deadbeats, but regular folks who are either embarrassed by their situation or are hoping for a change in their fortunes in their near future. They’ve been hammered by bill collectors and skip tracers for five years; the American public has grown more wary of people making contact with them regarding their debts or those of their relatives. For example, you would not believe how common it is that people refuse to even answer the door anymore.

How is Falcon involved in the community?

AltesI have a blog, and I recently wrote that creditors would be surprised if they went to a repossession convention. By and large, they would see a demographic not unlike their own…intelligent, educated, professional, but also local baseball coaches, Chamber of Commerce members, Kiwanis Club members. Falcon employees are the same, regular people involved in their community.

What is one tip you would give skip tracers in the current skip tracing environment?

Know the laws.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I really love hanging out with my wife. We’ve been married for 32 years, and we still have a great time. We’re involved in our church (I play guitar and bass in the band), and are involved in the lives of our four kids and their families. Being a native Floridian, I still surf on a regular basis, and still am involved in surf photography.

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