The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all sectors of the economy. For a few companies, including those in the digital media, in-home exercise and online delivery spaces, opportunities have expanded. But survival has hung in the balance for many other companies as they have had to reimagine the concept of the workplace seemingly overnight.
When the pandemic first hit, most Mergers & Acquisitions (M&A) assignments were put on hold. Companies on both the buy and sell sides of the transaction couldn’t figure out what the new environment would look like. The question for many was, “Am I buying or selling?” Now that we have settled into the new normal more than three months later, M&A transactions have been picking up.
The clear driver behind this increased M&A activity has been the Work From Home (WFH) movement.
During our work with companies entering the M&A space today, none have expressed the opinion the “work at home” concept will go away after the pandemic is either solved or diminished either by herd immunity or a vaccine. This has been the case even though challenges have included data security, information flow, human resource management and capital allocation. What we are hearing from these companies is the WFH movement is here to stay.
How companies solve WFH will help to determine which have a future.
Companies that were not able to get work from home fully established, as the pandemic spread through the economy – and then going further to add the bells and whistles needed to be successful today – will have issues going forward. Companies that were able to pivot and quickly get up to speed on WFH have won a key battle. They are growing and getting more client opportunities, which are leading to greater profitability.
Since mature accounts receivable management (ARM) businesses, unlike debt burdened-revenue challenged IPOs, are valued based on how much profit they generate each month and each year, this is leading to higher valuations.
Don’t waste the COVID-19 crisis.
No good crisis should be wasted, including COVID-19. Even as the pandemic eventually decreases, double down on your WFH learnings and capabilities. What’s more, challenge yourself, your business partners and your staff to expand upon these capabilities. While this may have been an unwelcome education, it can prove to be a valuable one.
Fast forward technology.
Prior to the pandemic, technology had been an afterthought for many ARM companies. It was not considered to be a driving force for these businesses. Following the initial days of the pandemic, technology has become the primary area of focus for ARM companies.
Any ARM company doing work for a large financial institution will watch its business slip away if technology isn’t among its priorities.
Choosing the what, how, when and legality of technology.
Technology is expensive and complicated, so you will want to get it right. A major challenge for ARM companies is to figure out what is the right technology to deploy and how to deploy it.
Technology can also be controversial. In choosing technology, companies will need to not create a lot of legal action as a result of trying to do something that is more innovative. Even with all the omnichannel options available from technology providers, what you can use and when can you can use it is the big question on the debt collection side.
What can we expect from a change in the White House?
ARM companies won’t have a choice but to continue automating and figuring out how to leverage technology. Whoever eventually occupies the Oval Office, the consumer is driving new communications strategies. If consumers don’t want to be spoken to over the phone and prefer to communicate via text, chat or e-mail, they will drive how the market shifts.
We don't see the ARM business going backward, regardless of administration. This will certainly be true for people working from home. We see consumers increasingly wanting multiple communications as an option, in particular for the debt collection area.
Privacy concerns should remain at the forefront.
While consumers may be driving the market to provide greater convenience through technology, privacy considerations compel companies to guard against data leakage and theft. This is and will continue to be a delicate balancing act for ARM companies. Consumers want speed and convenience while also wanting their confidential information to be kept safe.
ARM companies that are making a significant investment in technology today will be winners in the future.
Michael Lamm is Managing Partner of Corporate Advisory Solutions and a strategic partner to the iA Innovation Council.
Joann Needleman is a Member and Leader of the Consumer Financial Services Regulatory & Compliance Practices Group, at Clark Hill PLC, and host of the podcast Credit Eco to Go. Joann is also a member of the iA Legal Advisory Board.