The Ups and Downs of Collections

LAS VEGAS — What goes up, must come down. While some attribute this well-known saying to Sir Isaac Newton in 1665 or 1666 after he pondered why an apple fell straight down from a tree and never went sideways or some other direction, the saying actually goes back about 200 years and has been used since then to describe — in a somewhat colorful manner — that all trends must end. Nothing good — or bad — lasts forever. It seems as though RMA International’s 2022 annual conference is serving as the unofficial end of the good times that the accounts receivable management industry has had for the past few years, thanks to economic stimulus payments, debt moratoriums, and people just spending less money during the pandemic.

While there are still some who are cautiously optimistic that things might not get that bad or that if they do, they won’t last that long, most will concede that inflation and the state of the economy is making it harder for consumers to continue making ends meet. While that means more debts available to be collected — and sold — it also means that consumers are less likely to have the means to make payments on those debts.

The silver lining for some companies is that the investments they have made — expanding the communication channels used to try and get in touch with consumers, improved modeling and analytics to help identify the best accounts to collect and the best times to try and collect on them, further mitigating the risks of doing something or saying something that could lead to a lawsuit — will likely buffer a downturn in overall collections.

One other interesting dynamic that is exciting to see is that the anticipated downturn in collections is leading many to start thinking creatively about ways to help consumers pay down their debts. One industry professional asked the question yesterday — how can you help consumers pay their debts when they don’t have any cash? Asking questions like that is what will also help the industry identify new ways of working with consumers and might hasten the return to the good times that the industry has enjoyed in recent years.

Sessions yesterday focused on a number of important topics, including those related to credit reporting, identifying UDAAP risks, and how artificial intelligence is changing collections.

More sessions are scheduled for today, which will end with the highly anticipated Cabana Crawl.

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