Is it time to update collections models and strategies?

Published: April 24, 2009 by Jeff Bernstein

2007 and 2008 saw a rapid change of consumer behaviors and it is no surprise to most collections professionals that the existing collections scoring models and strategies are not working as well as they used to. These tools and collections workflow practices were mostly built from historical behavioral and credit data and assume that consumers will continue to behave as they had in the past. We all know that this is not the case, with an example being prioritization of debt and repayment patterns.

Its been assumed and validated for decades that consumers will let their credit card lines go before an auto loan and that the mortgage obligations would be the last trade to remain standing before bankruptcy. Today, that is certainly not the case and there are other significant behavior shifts that are contributing to today's weak business models.

There are at least three compelling reasons to believe now is the right time for updates:

  • It appears that most of the consumer behavioral shift is over for collections. While economic recovery will take many years, more radical changes in the economy are unlikely. Most experts are calling for a housing bottom sometime in 2009 and there are already signs of hope on Wall Street.
  • What is built now shouldn't be obsolete next year. A slow economic recovery probably means that the life of new models will be fairly long and most consumers won't be able to improve their credit and collections scores anytime soon. Even after financial recovery (which at this point is not likely over the short term for many that are already in trouble), it can take two to seven years of responsible payment history before a risk assessment is improved.
  • We now have the data with which to make the updates. It takes six to12 months of stability to accumulate sufficient data for proper analysis and so far 2009 hasn't seen much behavioral volatility. Whether you build or buy, the process takes awhile, so if you still need a few more months of history in will be in hand when needed if the projects are kicked off soon.