Tax Season

Whatever you thought you knew about the collections cycle—throw it out. Long observed trends have been disrupted, and the industry is still trying to adjust its expectations. After 2 years of the pandemic, the only thing that is certain is uncertainty. 

Typically, when consumers get their tax refunds, they have used a portion to pay down debts. For this reason, pre-pandemic February and March were very lucrative months. Enter the great disrupter, COVID-19. It’s no secret that individuals were struggling with personal finances during the height of the pandemic. Relief packages helped countless families, but the government aid has further implications.

Tax Season

Through the 2021 calendar year, under the American Rescue Plan, parameters were made looser so that the program could better provide for those struggling. The upper age bracket to have a child qualify for the Child Tax Credit, went from 16 to 17. Additionally, the credit increased for ages 17 and under from 2,000 to 3,000 dollars and for those under 6 it increased from 2,000 to 3,600 dollars. In short, this meant more funds for those who qualified. Another change was that from July through December of 2021, half of the credit that would normally have been paid during tax season was paid early to those that qualified in the form of monthly installments during those aforementioned months. The early payout likely means a lower payout during tax season.

Experts across the board have stated that people may need to adjust their expectations. The number anticipated may not be the number individuals receive. Those who expected higher returns may struggle. 

In addition to the Child Tax Credit, those who accepted the offer to pause student loans will see a dip in their returns, as they cannot write-off any student loan interest. 

Due to these factors, it is likely that the industry may face lower liquidation rates for months that were previously successful. But MRS has never shied away from a challenge. 

Co-CEO Jeff Freedman said, “Lower liquidation is a reality that we will have to deal with. Stimulus money in 2020 and part of 2021 that had an enormous positive impact is actually hurting the industry now as a result of much lower placement volumes.”

The past few years certainly haven’t been easy. The pandemic and Reg F have both had astronomical impacts on the industry. 

What is necessary in times like these is unwavering customer care and propulsive innovation. Though we cannot change the volume, we can stay true to our values despite the obstacles.

“Our use of our digital tools can help us manage expenses a little better but the tools obviously cannot help us with lower placement volume and placements are like the fuel that fires the proverbial engine in our industry,” said Freedman.

The question circling everyones’ minds is when will volume increase? Though it is yet to be determined, some predict as early as the fourth quarter of 2022. More likely, the industry will experience the volume increase in 2023.

A shift in the way we view the calendar in the industry may be in store, or maybe we’ll gradually return to normal. The fact is that no one knows at this point. Regardless of what lies ahead, MRS’s will forge ahead.

Sources:

https://www.cnbc.com/2022/01/03/dont-count-on-that-tax-refund-yet-why-it-may-be-smaller-this-year.html 


https://www.cbsnews.com/news/tax-refund-2022-heres-who-will-get-a-bigger-refund-or-a-smaller-one/

Privacy Law Redux

Over the past decade, there has been growing concern and heightened awareness over a consumer’s personal information. Consumers want their private data to stay private. Consequently, the legislature has followed. 

Delaware

Lawmakers are considering a bill regarding data broker regulation. The goal of the bill is to provide information to consumers about how their data is being used by data brokers. Furthermore, the bill proposes data broker registration and would force all data brokers to respond to a myriad of questions about how they use personal information that would then be published for the public. 

Illinois

The Do Not Track Act has been proposed by Senator Cullerton. This law refers to individual tracking online, and although it is not a broad privacy bill, we could see more legislation regarding privacy in the future from this state. 

Massachusetts 

Lawmakers are still considering the Massachusetts Information Privacy Act which focuses on consumer data privacy. Though a hearing was held late last year, no further hearings have been scheduled. 

Mississippi

The Mississippi Consumer Data Privacy Act will likely be reintroduced by Representative Angela Turner-Ford.

New York

Like Massachusetts, New York lawmakers are still considering bills regarding consumer privacy. Last year, the New York Privacy Act made it out of the Senate, but no further. This year, it has been amended and reintroduced.

Oregon

Like Delaware, Oregon is considering data broker legislation, requiring brokers to register and be regulated. 

Virginia

Last year, Virginia passed the Consumer Data Protection Act with the goal of giving consumers more control over their personal data. A joint commission wrote an open letter suggesting numerous changes to the law that are reflected in the following amendments: right to cure and potential penalties, exemption for nonprofits, and deletion requests. The right to cure and potential penalties revises enforcement so that actual damages can be recovered for aggrieved consumers. Exemption for nonprofits would in effect expand the number of organizations that are exempt under the law. Lastly, deletion requests assists a consumer having their data deleted specifically from companies that have received the data indirectly. 

Washington

The Washington Privacy Act has been carried over from last year. Similar to Delaware and Oregon, Washington is considering an act which will regulate data brokers as well as form a privacy commission. 

Consumer Privacy is a top concern for lawmakers across all states. Nearly every state has or is in the process of implementing some form of privacy statute. What we in the collections industry can learn from this is that consumers want to feel secure. 

It is a fine line to walk, avoiding third party disclosure while demonstrating the legitimacy of a contact, but with the right controls in place and a compliance first mindset, the complexities can be mitigated. 

MRS handles sensitive information on a daily basis. Embedded into our business are controls that insulate, encrypt, and protect each consumer’s data that we receive. Helping a customer resolve their debt while providing them with the security that their information is safe is paramount. MRS is up to the task. 

Sources:

https://legis.delaware.gov/BillDetail?LegislationId=79022

https://legiscan.com/IL/text/SB3081/2021

https://malegislature.gov/Bills/192/SD1726

http://billstatus.ls.state.ms.us/2021/pdf/history/SB/SB2612.xml 

https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2021/A680

https://www.oregonlegislature.gov/lpro/Publications/Issue%20Brief%20-%20Protecting%20Personal%20Information.pdf

https://www.wilmerhale.com/en/insights/blogs/WilmerHale-Privacy-and-Cybersecurity-Law/20220124-virginia-legislature-proposes-amendments-to-its-consumer-data-protection-act#:~:text=Virginia%20lawmakers%20are%20considering%20multiple,the%20law’s%20non%2Dprofit%20exemption.

https://app.leg.wa.gov/billsummary?billnumber=1850&year=2022

The Next Generation

Gen Z and Debt

While it might sound absurd to raise the topic of debt since the youngest Gen Zers are only 10 years old, it’s never too early to look to the future. With the cost of living on the rise1, wages remain the same. University tuition is raised each year and for many, the prospect of becoming a homeowner is a distant dream.

Gen Z encompasses those born from 1997-2012, an age group that has grown up on both the luxuries and harsh realities of technology. With a myriad of resources at their fingertips, Gen Z has the potential to be the most financially literate generation ever. We may scoff at the educational value of YouTube and TikTok, but a lot can be gleaned if you look in the right places. There are two sides to every coin—you can watch a video of a girl flaunt making a minimum payment on her credit card, just as easily as you can watch another girl explain why you should open a Roth IRA now. Technology is not inherently good or bad, and while many have gone into debt due to targeted advertisements and influencer sponsorships2, it also provides plenty of resources that nurture education3

Alongside technology dictating the habits of many Gen Zers, the impact of the 2008 financial crisis cannot be discounted. Senior Enterprise Consultant at Experian Gavin Harding said, “Gen Z grew up during the Great Recession. After seeing the hardships their parents went through, many are determined to pave their own way.”

And while paving their own way might give rise to an extremely entrepreneurial generation, financial literacy is key. Even if Gen Z better manages and budgets, many will still enter into the debt cycle, but they will also be empowered to resolve that debt.

Currently, the majority of Gen Z debt comes from credit cards4, a statistic that is likely to shift as more Gen Zers enter college and take out student loans. Similar to Millennials, Gen Zers avoid phone calls and it is reasonable to assume that they will prefer to handle debt through digital channels as well. 

Though it is impossible to predict the full extent of debt for a generation that is still in middle school, we can observe trends and plan the best way to accommodate future financial resolution. 

In an increasingly digital world, it is imperative to have digital solutions. Incorporating multiple platforms through which consumers can resolve debt has been a game changer for digital generations. Millennials prefer digital channels, and Gen Z will as well, at an even higher rate. 

Gen Zers are digital natives, as such 95% use a smartphone5. Additionally, over one third of Gen Z transactions are made on a mobile device. The figure below demonstrates not only the power, but the necessity of connecting with this generation through the platform that they feel most comfortable: often text and email. 

Additionally, these digital tools will need to satisfy tech-savvy users. Gen Z has been signaling for years that their preferred communication channels are digital and MRS has been listening.

Though the majority of Gen Z has not yet entered adulthood, they are the future, and we must be thinking about how they will operate and how to best service them. 

Recognizing the needs of burgeoning Gen Z is crucial. MRS is a forward thinking business, with innovation and customer care at the core of everything we do. We know that stagnancy is defeat and good for now is not good enough. MRS continues to pioneer digital solutions that create real results. We know we’ll be ready for the next generation—will you?

Sources:

1 https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2021/06/11/cols-j11.html

2  https://www.vox.com/the-goods/22436051/social-media-credit-card-debt-instagram-tiktok

3  https://www.opencolleges.edu.au/informed/other/social-media-usage-provides-educational-benefits-research-shows-4836/

4 https://newsroom.transunion.com/gen-z-drives-credit-card-industry-rebound/#:~:text=Consumer%20performance%20has%20remained%20strong,0.5%25%20YoY%20to%20%24727%20billion

5  https://99firms.com/blog/generation-z-statistics/#gref

Kevin Mendenko Joins the MRS Team as SVP of HR

CHERRY HILL, NJ, JANUARY 10, 2022 — MRS is pleased to welcome Kevin Mendenko to the company as Senior Vice President of Human Resources. Mendenko has 12 years of experience in Human Resources throughout various industries including Supply Chain & Logistics, Retail, and Charitable Donations. In his most recent role, Kevin served as the Vice President of Human Resources for GreenDrop LLC and 2nd Ave LLC, where he was responsible for creating a Best in Class HR Service Center. 

Mendenko will be leading the Human Resources team, working closely with all departments to further develop and deploy strategies to ensure success across the organization. His expertise includes implementing Human Resources Technology, Automating Processes and Procedures, Employee Relations, Staffing/Recruiting, etc. Under Mendenko’s leadership, we are confident that the HR team will flourish and grow. 

CFO Jim Curham says, “MRS welcomes Kevin Mendenko as Senior Vice President of Human Resources. We look forward to great contributions from Kevin and the HR team in fostering our continued ascent as the premier technology-enabled provider in the accounts receivable management and business processing outsourcing market. Kevin’s demonstrated experience and accomplishments in the specific areas critical to MRS’s growth—process automation, benefit plan design, and recruiting and retention—will enhance MRS’s reputation as the employer of choice best poised for growth in a rapidly evolving customer centric market.”

Kevin Mendenko, MRS’s new SVP of HR

Mendenko says, “I’m excited to join an organization as welcoming as MRS BPO. From the moment I first spoke to Jennifer Barquero, to the interview process, to my first day, MRS BPO already feels like home. I am excited to work with the HR team to help our company grow and evolve. I look forward to working with everyone in the MRS family.”

ABOUT MRS BPO, LLC

Founded in 1991, MRS has served the accounts receivable management needs of companies within the Financial Services, Governmental, Student Loans, Telecommunications, and Utility sectors for 31 years.

MRS BPO, LLC is a full service accounts receivable management firm based in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. The company’s unique combination of experience, technology, and compliance management processes allows them to provide industry-leading debt recovery solutions while enhancing their client’s brand and reputation. For more information on MRS BPO, LLC, visit them online at http://www.mrsbpo.com.