A little over a year ago, I attended the Receivables Management Association of Canada’s conference in downtown Toronto, Ontario. I had the pleasure of being in the company of credit managers, CFOs, and the leading management of law firms, collection agencies, bankruptcy trustee firms, and national financial institutions. At the start of the conference, standing off to the side of the reception foyer, I noticed a younger man with a CBC Radio name badge. I struck up an animated conversation about relational databases with this fellow, and had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of Jesse Hirsh, an entertaining an intelligent writer and speaker.
Jesse, as I found out in our conversation, was the first speaker for the RMA conference that night. Shortly after our conversation, he took the stage, and addressed a room of well over 200 people, speaking about the evolution of the internet. He verbally laid out the transformation of the web, from its roots to what it is becoming, an intuitive and collaborative environment, personalized to individual’s needs. Jesse explained that the internet and global community has become a form of neo-feudalism, where the aristocracy are those who can command attention of others. I enjoyed listening to him, and he was quite animated and emphatic about his beliefs and ideas.
I also heard at least half of the room’s eyeballs glaze over.
I am no millennial – I am in the clutches of middle age. However, it’s my observation that the management of the credit and collection industry is becoming older than other industries – the technology, telecommunications, social media, and marketing circles are all being governed by a younger generation, while ours remains in the hands of my generation (or even older).
In five years, it is predicted that the land line will disappear. In Canada, over half of our population under 35 exclusively use a cell phone. Those cell phones are being used for email and instant messaging more than actual calls. I see very little movement by the credit and collection industry to keep up with this evolution of our population. While I was at the conference, I was shocked to hear a manager of a collection agency (and a sizeable one) explain to their bank client that their company had no interest over Electronic Fund Transfers (EFTs), over receiving old fashioned cheques in the mail – really? I wonder if he noticed that the bank manager who was also involved in the conversation was as flummoxed as I (he was another old guy like me, but I think he knows where the world is going).
Our industry can be dragged into the 21st century, or we can jump -- look at Wonga, a UK creditor making inroads to Canada. They are a lender that allows you to borrow funds through their website. You can borrow and receive funds, all from your smart phone, without speaking to a person or visiting a physical location. Take a look at it here: https://www.wonga.ca/how-it-works.
What will change in the next few years is the way consumers are contacted, and can make arrangements on outstanding accounts. The days of a series of final demands in the mail is coming to a close. While collection laws currently remain silent on SMS texts and emails, it was a topic brought up more than once at the RMA conference. The three provincial collection agency registrars in attendance were unable to give a definitive answer, as they are the administrators of the collection laws, not the authors.
I believe it is time to unglaze those eyes, and start thinking about engaging our younger generations. Read Jesse’s blog over at http://www.jessehirsh.com/blog, and think about setting up your company to take EFTs, integrate the ability to issue SMS texts to your software package, set up email integration into your contact management software, or start creating a corporate social media presence and be ready to respond to what consumers have to say about you and your brand.
If you have any questions or suggestions for me, even though I’m old, I’m interested to hear what people have to say – I can be reached at my office at 226-444-5695.
Thanks kindly,Blair DeMarco-Wettlaufer
Kingston Data and Credit – www.kingstondc.com