With a new decade commencing, there is no shortage of retrospectives. I believe 2019 will be remembered as a critical transformational year for the debt collection industry. Long-percolating patterns and pressures firmly coalesced around permanent shifts in digital consumer behavior (hello, TikTok!), late-cycle upticks in consumer credit default (the trough was actually WAY back in 2015), dramatic changes in technology for the industry, and meaningful new regulatory guidance. The industry has shifted from “whether” to lean into these shifts to “how and when”.
The 2007-08 great financial recession is long behind us, but it reverberated substantially for the industry. But it’s my view that the industry is poised for its next pivot. For any who attended CollectTech 2019, Gordon C. Beck expressed this sentiment almost exactly. Change, the good kind, began brewing last year and shows no signs of stopping. New technology and new conversations carry us into a new decade.
At Katabat, we saw momentum building throughout 2019. The question swirling around the omnichannel conversation is no longer if but how? Lenders began to “lean in” to the digital transformation, with talk about cutting-edge technologies and revised regulations breeding excitement rather than caution. Interest in technology investment was strong across all of our 1st party and 3rd party segments; 2019 was the best we’ve had signing new clients and helping them take a truly omnichannel, digital-first approach.
We continue to aggressively invest in our technology platform. Our Katabat 9.0 release included enhanced security features, additional payment platform integrations, improved client communication, and better measurement capabilities. The platform continues to be powered by machine learning, supporting customized email and text messages and allowing clients to continuously fine tune their outreach.
Additionally, we introduced a standalone mobile payment portal called EasyCollect—an easy-to-use digital-first portal that lets lenders and debt collection agencies simply log into the portal, upload past-due account information, choose basic parameters, and then choose compliant messaging templates for numerous channels. This represents the type of simple, digital communication that borrowers prefer—and results in more repayments, more quickly than traditional methods. Now, the industry is beginning to see that omnichannel communications are not only easy and effective— in short – they are the future.
In 2019 the Consumer Protection Finance Bureau (CFPB) published its notice of proposed rulemaking, providing much-needed updating to the regulatory framework. The overwhelming consensus is for proactive adoption of digital communications. In fact, the larger challenge for buyers is to sort through the myriad of technology options and build out the right technology strategy. As a board member of the InsideARM iA Innovation Council, I look forward to the numerous events on the calendar that will further advance conversations about how new regulations and new technologies can and must converge.
All in all, the past year marked an exciting turn in the road for the debt collection industry—one worth remembering. I’m excited for the year ahead and believe our clients and the industry writ large feel the same way. It’s time for lenders and agencies alike to embrace the change that’s been brewing and take advantage of the opportunities at hand. I know Katabat will.