We wrapped up iA Strategy & Tech 2021 on July 15, and if you missed some (or even all) of the conference, we put together a recap here for you! Remember, the sessions are available to attendees until Sep 30, 2021.

  1. Consumer Empowerment

The underlying theme of many of the sessions at iAST 2021 was consumer empowerment. As early as the first session, “Leading Strategically Through Rapid Change,” Brad Bone (M&G Solutions) Dave Wasik (2nd Order Solutions), and Brian O’Malley (BCG), discussed how to use digital services to improve consumer experience. During their panel discussion, Brad predicted that charge offs will be up and payments will be down, potentially as soon as the second half of 2021, and how the shift to digital might cause a problem for smaller agencies who don’t make a strategic investment in that area.

Tim Collins (InDebted) Le’nore Caldwell (Spring Oaks Capital) and Carrie Coker-Aivaliotis (LexisNexis) discussed consumer preference in more obvious ways during their workshop, “Consumer Preference and How it will Shape the Future,” which tackled the preference as outlined in the new CFPB rule, how companies can use it to their advantage, and why it makes sense to start tracking and using preference now, even before enforcement of the new CFPB Rules. Of course, Joann Needleman (Clark Hill) and Stefanie Jackman (Ballard Spahr) lead a deep discussion during their panel, “Strategic Impacts and Countermeasures of the CFPB Rules,” where panelist Ami Lipman (Citizens Bank) talked about how creditors and their vendors need to work together to ensure compliance with the CFPB rules.

It’s clear, with or without the new CFPB Rule, consumers are in the driver’s seat. So, how can you make sure you won’t be left behind? Well…

2. Contact Flexibility

During “The Future of Channel Optimization,” panelists Andrew Domino and Michael Orefice (Bridgeforce) discussed with Ed Bray (Citizens Bank) and Thomas Fitzgibbon (KeyBank) not just providing consumers with channel diversity, but also appreciating what is important to the consumer when making strategic investments. Jim Beck (MRS BPO) and Mitch Young (Neustar) even further solidified this point during their workshop “When Each Call (and Email) Counts – Meeting the CFPB 7×7 Rule with Intelligent Contact Data.” Building on the theme of consumer empowerment through flexibility, Jim and Mitch outlined the importance of a diverse outbound contact strategy to both comply with the new CFPB Rules, and to increase your company’s bottom line.

One of the challenges of newer, digital contact channels like SMS, email, and web portals is understanding how to measure their success. “Is Your Digital Strategy Truly Successful?” featured a discussion with Jake Cahan (Debtsy), Justin Franklin (Cedar Financial) and Mike Cassidy (M&G Solutions) about how to best judge if your digital strategy is performing the way it should be. They also outlined how issuers can make sure they are getting the most of their vendor’s digital strategy, especially when the issuer is primarily (or maybe even entirely) digital, and how to ensure a seamless transition for their consumers.

Of course, calls are still an important part of the collections world, and “Smart Inbound Customer Handling and Call Routing Efficiency,” featured Thomas Nusspickel and Adam Veik (American First Finance) and Jim Lynch (LiveVox) discussing how to increase the effectiveness of inbound call handling as you diversify your contact channels. Operational suggestions included identifying the reasons most consumers are contacting you and determining if those calls can be handled via self service. If frequently asked questions or repetitive tasks can be handled via self service, it opens up the opportunity for agents to use their time on more complicated calls.

But maybe you want to know more about how to diversify your collections strategy more generally…

3. Strategy Diversification

The workshop “Debt Settlement Strategy” featured a discussion between Amy Perkins and Adam Cohen (Phillips & Cohen) and Carri McQuerrey-Funk (Citizens Bank) about the importance of a different type of flexibility: working with consumers via debt settlement agencies. In fact, 11 million consumers have sought help from DSAs (77% of those instances have occurred in the last 3 years!). Learning how to work with DSAs will be key in diversifying any strategy, whether it’s handled by an in-house call center, or an agency specializing in DSA treatment.

iA Strategy & Tech attendees also got the opportunity to hear Bob Deter (Crown Asset Management), Keith Walch (Spring Oaks Capital), and Rui Pinto-Cardoso (Quantum3 Group) discuss debt sale as a strategy during their session, “The Status and Outlook of Debt Buying.” According to their session, a diverse strategy often includes the sale of debt, so they outlined how to build a successful partnership with a debt buyer, and what to do to get your portfolio ready for market.

But, how do you know what types of offers you need to have available, what contact options work best for your consumers, and what options make sense for you when considering your portfolio as a whole?

4. Data, data, data

The answer to all of those questions, and the driver of all of those decisions, is data. One of the ways in which data is effectively gathered and used to build strategy decisions is through artificial intelligence, and Nick Ruiz and Susan Hura (Interactions) discussed, at length, why that is important to your business. From agent assistance to risk management, AI can help drive your business. But predictions can’t always be done with simple models, and more examples of the same thing won’t necessarily help.

“Effective data management requires a balanced and thoughtful approach,” which Brad Davis and Sascha Ohler (NeuAnalytics) discussed in detail during their session, “Data Management for Strategic Flexibility.” Brad and Sascha explained why data management is important, like forecasting and digital transformation opportunities, and they outlined some of the common pitfalls of data management, like over reliance on either technology or human resources. As Sascha and Brad said, data must be fresh, accurate, and directed in order to be useful.

As Justin Franklin (Cedar Financial) said in the final Q&A session of iA Strategy & Tech 2021:

“It’s been really interesting to see, and enlightening and exciting to learn, how the trends in the industry are leading towards this consumer-centric approach… if they are using means of communication that they prefer, then they are more likely to continue that relationship, and maybe even rebuild that relationship.”

The sessions at iA Strategy & Tech 2021 were centered around how to use preference, flexibility, diversification, and data to drive your business and continue relationships with your consumers.

Erin Kerr is the Director of Content at insideARM and the chair of iA Strategy & Tech – a conference for collections strategy executives. She is a seasoned receivables management professional, with recent experience in digital strategy and a passion for crafting digital solutions for a better customer experience.