By: Wendy Elieff, SVP, Client Service and Marketing, CU Recovery & The Loan Service Center
As we experience the unprecedented impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the U.S. economy and unemployment rates, an unfortunate result is the expected increase in delinquencies – which means an even busier collections department than usual for credit unions.
Over the years, most collection departments have conscientiously gathered information about service providers, infrequently used data and helpful peer contacts. However, this information might be located on the supervisor’s desk, in a file cabinet, or on sticky notes around the workstation, and may not be readily available to collectors when needed. Add to that the uncertainty of how often the data is updated and the key question becomes: “How reliable is the information we have collected?”
Maintaining Compliance and Staying on Top of New Resources
Is your credit union struggling to achieve and maintain a solid compliance strategy when it comes to collections? Here are some best practices to get started.
- Develop a desktop resource manual and have one person in charge of its modification as new information is received.
- Include up-to-date information on all service providers in the credit union coverage area, such as repossession agents and legal services.
- Add pages that cover areas of collection involving general procedures, such as mortgage or credit card non-payments.
- Detail an escalation process for each area in the event the collector cannot achieve the desired results.
- List reliable online information resources.
- List peer contacts that can be helpful for general or specific situations.
- Provide either a copy of the manual at every collector’s desk, or an online version in a central location.
- Include important information changes during staff meetings.
Keeping Resources Available During Non-Normal Times
Given the current environment in which many credit union employees are working remotely from each other, increased communication and support from the management team are essential in handling a surge of delinquencies while maintaining productivity. Whether the separation is by design or circumstance, here are some key tactics for success.
- Invest the time to update and maintain overall collection operations to match how collectors will interact with each other when working remotely.
- If the staff is working from home, establish remote work guidelines, including any technological assistance or tools they may need.
- Supply staff with clear, written, up-to-date policies.
- Communicate regularly by email, phone and video conference to share new information and best practices among the group.
- Establish a centralized location for information, such as the resource manual and critical updates.
A recent article in Collection Industry News states that “Even before the pandemic began, Americans’ debt was on the rise, increasing by $1.5 trillion between 2008 and 2019,” and explains the coming reality as Americans confront the economic consequences of the outbreak, including a potential surge in debt, bankruptcies and defaults. Credit unions recognize the economic cycle and false sense of member confidence due to the amount of stimulus dollars being poured into the economy. Keeping your credit union’s staff resources up to date and relevant will help your collection department prepare for any changes in workload.
Wendy Elieff oversees the success of the Client Service and Marketing teams in CU Recovery and The Loan Service Center, a PSCU subsidiary. Wendy has worked for CU Recovery for the past 20 years. She is responsible for developing, implementing and monitoring cohesive marketing strategies to increase brand awareness. She is also responsible for building and maintaining client relationships by staying abreast of and responding to changes in the credit union marketplace.