“If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance a lot less.”
This quote has been attributed many times over the last several decades to General Eric K. Shinseki, the Army’s 34th Chief of Staff. In June of 1999, he took the helm of the Army and promised to transform its legacy technology into something advanced and nimble. He faced a lot of resistance.
Does this sound familiar?
The collection industry has a lot of legacy processes and technology. There is bureaucracy, and there is a fear of change – especially due to regulation and fear of lawsuits. Yet, the world has changed in many ways right around the industry. Those who wish to be around in ten years should probably get about doing things differently. In spite of the pain. Some are already ahead of you. A few debt collectors and technology companies are doing things differently. Yes, with compliance in mind -- but differently, nonetheless. And they have not been sued out of existence.
Invest first or generate revenue first?
I get it. I’m a business owner too. I’m constantly faced with the question – do you invest in advance of the revenue or do you get the revenue first, in order to justify the investment. Can you advance the current business at the same time as you are reinventing it? Turns out, you have to.
In 2013 we created the Consumer Relations Consortium (CRC), a membership group for larger market participants to discuss best practices and to have their say with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as it worked to write clarifying rules for the industry. We took a different approach. Among other things, we proactively engaged with consumer groups.
In 2017 we realized we needed to innovate again and get creditors and technology firms into the mix. We saw the writing on the wall. Technology was clearly going to become even more critical to the success of the industry than it already was. And because you can’t move forward with just one leg of the stool, we needed all of the stakeholders involved. So, we tiptoed into the waters by starting an innovation council within the CRC. We started having conversations about things we saw coming, like robocall blocking and labeling (over two years ago) and data privacy, and the challenge of managing consent, and artificial intelligence.
Survival in the future depends on thinking differently and being at the forefront
Today, the iA Innovation Council has graduated from the umbrella of the CRC. It is a membership group for organizations that understand their ability to survive depends on thinking differently and being at the forefront of consumer communications, analytics, payments, and compliance technology. This means active engagement, with collaboration at the whiteboard to solve problems, and discussions with innovators from outside the industry. It means finding ways to give your strategy a true edge.
In conjunction with the iA Innovation Council we are launching this article series to feature posts from members who offer new thinking. Stay tuned for next week’s post by Attunely.
Stephanie Eidelman is CEO of the iA Institute and Executive Director of the iA Innovation Council.