The 1985 film Back to the Future may have predicted video calls, drones, wearable and biometric capabilities, but the reality of artificial intelligence has eclipsed even wild imagination, Qualco UK MD Christian Jacob told delegates as he opened the first ever Qualco Live conference on 28 September.
The inaugural event, held at Mercedez-Benz World, showcased the possibilities offered by artificial intelligence and automation in the world of collections. Keynote speaker Ian Whitfield led a whistle-stop tour of innovation across all sectors, followed by an in-depth look at the applicability for debt collection and advice for organisations keen to step into that realm.
Meanwhile, expert speakers from Qualco’s panel of collections specialists highlighted the importance of bespoke approaches in areas such as deceased collections, insolvency cases and litigation.
Tim Webb of Phillips & Cohen explained the need to train staff to handle deceased collections – so they understand the stages of grief and the challenges of achieving closure financially and emotionally. With an ageing population and increasing levels of debt in the over 65 age group, this is something creditors and collections cannot afford to ignore or do badly, said Webb.
Likewise, rising levels of individual voluntary arrangements (IVAs) in England and Wales pose a significant administrative challenge to creditors. Robert Beat and Steve Walsh made a plea for technology to be used to tackle this and provide consistency.
Also in the specialist showcase, James Devane of Moriarty Law covered the implications and practical realities of the Pre-action Protocol on debt claims, days before it came into effect.
Experts from Qualco’s head office in Greece spoke to delegates about the power of analytics. Given the improvements in technology and automation analytics models can be used across all elements of the collections process instead of a few strategic areas. The presentation by Panayis Fourniotis Pavlatos included the first glimpse of a modelling done on a UK utilities portfolio in Q2.
Ian Davies, sales director of 1st Credit, took to the floor to explain how the debt buyer has achieved unprecedented net promoter scores for the past four years – with results in the mid-40s, an astounding achievement for a debt collection company.
Finally, panellists from across the industry debated the issue of income and expenditure forms, asking what can be done to improve the expensive and time-consuming process. Lively debate demonstrated the challenges posed by the issue, with speakers unable to agree how to solve the issue for both businesses and customers without an industry data-sharing initiative or a reduction in the number of I&Es required.
Jan-Michael Lacey, head of sales at Qualco UK, closed the day with a reminder of the huge volumes of data required in the debt collection process, the flow of that data between parties and the opportunities for ensuring this is honed and targeted. Across all subjects the theme of data management and enhancement was consistent.