Consumer credit originated within the automotive industry almost a century ago, but it wasn’t until the massive surge in credit that followed World War II that the collection industry as we know it today started taking form. What was viewed by most outsiders as a cottage, back office, labor intensive, last resort industry has truly blossomed into a technologically sophisticated, data rich, highly regulated, and essential component of the U.S. economy with very distinct barriers-to-entry, thanks to critical developments that defined accounts receivable management in the 2010s.
In January 2020, Kaulkin Ginsberg hosted Part I of our three-part webinar series on the current state of affairs in the U.S. accounts receivable management (ARM) industry. We first looked back at the meaningful events and developments that shaped the last decade.
Major Developments that Defined Accounts Receivable Management the 2010s
- On the economic front, the ARM industry has recovered from the Great Recession, the most pervasive recession the ARM industry has ever experienced.
- The regulatory blitzkrieg that emerged in response to the financial collapse – starting with Dodd-Frank in 2010 and the formation of the CFPB in 2011 – continues to shape the activities of ARM companies today.
- Collection models changed abruptly, going from focusing on maximizing net-back performance, to a compliance driven model designed to keep credit and collection professionals away from class action lawsuits and federal investigations.
- The ARM industry was, and still is, highly labor intensive, but early indications of a technology explosion started emerging last decade when the investment community started paying attention to ARM-focused technology companies, resulting in the sale of Ontario Systems, CUBS, and RevSpring to name a few.
- One of the markets that grew the quickest in the last decade was student debt. The U.S. Department of Education, once considered the plum client of the ARM industry, operated in disarray for nearly 5 years, resulting in the shuttering of some of the largest ARM firms, major revenue losses for those agencies that survived the loss, and accelerated growth among the restricted agencies and subcontractors who obtained a contract.
- Service providers and debt buyers that relied on financial services clients saw account placements dry up, leading to a round of consolidation this industry hasn’t seen since the private equity acquisition binge of the 1990s and 2000s
- New markets also started emerging as client opportunities for ARM companies last decade, including streaming media, fintech, and e-commerce, causing major disruptions and new opportunities.
- And for the first time ever, true barriers to entry started forming last decade, adding value to established players and making it nearly impossible for start ups to grow quickly.
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