The Great Rewiring of Financial Services: Consumer Debt Collection

Perusing the hot financial services startups on AngelList today, I noticed Finovate alum TrueAccord (FS2015 link) in second place across more than 8,600 companies. TrueAccord’s core service, a digital-first approach to consumer debt collection, is a great example of the profound changes occurring all around us. Every transaction, every process, every customer interaction (and every job), is being rewired for the digital world.

Think about the typical non-digital collection process at large lenders and other merchants. A series of annoying calls that were both stressful for the recipient, who is often in the middle of some life crisis, and awkward for the financial institution, especially if they had an ongoing relationship with the customer outside the delinquent credit account. Both sides were easily riled, leading to combative communications that were the opposite of transparent, honest and collaborative. And really, it’s almost impossible to rationally assess repayment options on a phone call you are desperate to not have.

Compare that with the 3-step digital debt collection process (outlined below). Consumers receive a well-crafted email message inviting them to begin a dialogue to work together to solve the problem. While many recipients will avoid the emails, just as they avoid phone calls, and snail mail, those that are truly interested in resolution can review their options in the privacy of their own web browser (or phone), and select what works best for them.

Step 1: Email to delinquent customer with giant Resolve Now button

Step 2: Choose a repayment plan. Note the variety of choices with the amount “You Save” at the bottom for faster repayment.

Step 3: Make first payment via credit card or bank transfer

My take: Obviously, not everyone will respond to the kindler and gentler digital approach. Deadbeats and fraudsters are still deadbeats and fraudsters. And non-responders will continue to receive harshly worded voice messages from hardened collectors. But for the forgetful and/or the well-intended, laying out their options visually in a safe and neutral manner is a great improvement for the customer relationship, which will pay dividends over time.

Author: Jim Bruene is Founder & Senior Advisor to Finovate as well as
Principal of BUX Advisors, a financial services user-experience consultancy. 

Online Banking & Lending Tools at FINOVATE

Much of what we cover at NetBanker falls under the traditional "marketing 4 Ps": product, place, price and package. But, there are also hundreds of important things going on behind the scenes that can make or break a company's Web presence. We are lucky to feature two important tools at our upcoming FINOVATE conference Oct. 2 in NYC.

Online Account Opening from Andera
During the past two years, few areas have received more attention within banks and credit unions than the tricky business of online account opening. It's an absolutely critical element of turning a profit online but also an area rife with risk, error, and the potential for turning away potential new business. We are pleased to have Andera on stage, a company we are seeing more and more of as we drill down through the offerings of major credit unions. The company is a major force in online account opening with more than 125 clients including: Alliant Credit Union, Associated Banc-Corp, General Mills FCU, American First FCU, Toyota Federal Credit Union, First Mid-Illinois Bank & Trust, Energy First Credit Union, CSCEFCU, Service Credit Union, and Bank Rhode Island. Its recent alliance with Yodlee (press release here) opens up even more opportunities. We look forward to seeing its account-opening process in action at FINOVATE.

Web-based Collections from Online Resources
I first met Online Resources in 1992, when its national sales rep visited Seattle to show us their cool smartphone-based banking service. I was new in my R&D assignment looking at alternative delivery methods for US Bancorp, and I really thought there would be a market for this hybrid call center/online banking solution. Of course, that was before the Web burst on the scene three years later. Luckily, Online Resources didn't have all its eggs in the telephony-based basket and adapted quickly to become a leader in Internet banking and electronic payments. The company is a two-time OBR Best of the Web winner, in 2003 once for its novel MoneyHQ premium online banking service and via acquisition of InCurrent which, in 1998, took home one of our first awards for its futuristic online credit card management service. 

At FINOVATE, Online Resources will be showing its Virtual Collection Agent. I have not yet seen it in action, but from the briefing it sounds like a smart way to improve actual collection yields while maintaining the customer relationship during a very tricky time.