Selling your debt vs. hiring a debt collection agency

By on June 25th, 2020 in Industry Insights

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, a recession is looming, and consumer debt is on the rise. In order to prepare for the wave of consumers unable to pay money owed, companies need to decide how to manage their past-due accounts. 

Debt sales play a unique role in the collections industry, as choosing between selling to a debt buyer and placing accounts with a third-party debt collector can make or break a brand. Here’s what you should know about selling your debt portfolios and how you can recover late payments before you decide to sell.

What is a debt buyer?

A debt buyer is a company that purchases debt from lenders for a fraction of the full value of those accounts. The value of a portfolio is evaluated based on several factors including the age of the debt and the volume of accounts. All debt buyers are not created equally, as some may also own fully functional debt collection agencies.

Once a business sells its past-due accounts to a debt buyer, the debt buyer can:

  • Sell the accounts to other debt buyers
  • Send it to debt collection agencies
  • Collect on the accounts themselves (if they are a licensed debt collection agency) 

Selling your debt to a debt buyer

Pros of selling your debts

The most common reason that a company may choose to sell off debts to a debt buyer is that it can provide a quick influx of cash. Some consumer accounts may go unpaid for years, and older debts can be difficult to collect on. For smaller businesses, selling past-due accounts to a debt buyer can be especially helpful, as every late payment can feel like a larger detriment. 

Cons of selling your debts

Once the sale of debt is complete the debt is now owed to the debt buyer. Many consumers may not be aware of this transition, and the new owner—whether a new third-party agency working on behalf of the debt buyer or the debt buyer themselves—now represents a new business’s brand to the consumer. This puts pressure on businesses to choose a reputable debt buyer that will handle their accounts and consumers with care.

Compliance concerns

This change in account management can have legal and compliance implications if the debt buyer violates any collections laws. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) holds lenders accountable for compliance violations of third-party vendors.

While some debt buyers are extremely clear in detailing their compliance adherence, there is not a guarantee the buyer that acquires your accounts will be the last person to own it. This potential compliance risk should be paramount when deciding on any new vendor. Lenders should be especially cautious when deciding on a potential debt buyer.

Brand risk

New vendors, operating under their own standards, bring additional risk to your brand reputation when they begin to manage your consumers’ accounts. As mentioned before, consumers may not separate the debt buyer from the debt they owe. Maintaining your business’ brand reputation, even in collections, should be a key part of any business decision. 

Original creditors forfeit control over the methods of communication with their consumers when the sale of debt is complete. If a business does not choose wisely when selling its debt portfolio, the business is risking negative brand experiences that can potentially dissuade consumers from working with or buying from the company again in the future.

Short-term gains

While selling your debt can offer money for your business faster than a long-term debt collection strategy, it also means losing potential revenue later. Debt buyers pay for portfolios at a fraction of their total value, and if you’re able to build a consistent, long-term strategy you can recover closer more of the value owed. 

Hiring a debt collection agency

Pros of hiring a debt collection agency

Debt collection agencies, especially digital-first debt collection agencies, offer longer-term liquidation solutions for lenders. Debt collectors are able to work in conjunction with your existing consumer experience process and can strategize with you to meet collection goals. While some debt buyers have dedicated debt collection teams, third-party debt collectors remain a more active part of your own consumer life cycle. 

In addition, as the debt collection industry slowly begins to digitize, more powerful debt collection solutions are becoming available. Digital debt collection tools offer improved regulatory compliance, a better consumer experience, and improved liquidation rates relative to traditional call-and-collect debt collection strategies. 

Cons of hiring a debt collection agency

Working with a debt collection agency is still another vendor to add to a growing list. Debt is a regular piece of the consumer lifecycle, however, and all lenders should have a collection solution on hand. Some companies choose to build full in-house collections teams, but proper training can still be both time consuming and resource-intensive.

What solution works best for you?

Selling your debts may offer some immediate relief, and there are many companies that offer excellent service and care. Regardless of which debt vendor you decide to use, be wary of potential bad actors and do your research to understand the best fit. 

In an ideal world, consumers would be able to pay their bills in a timely manner, and lenders would not have any debts to collect on. Unfortunately, unexpected hardships and changes in income can put even the most financially-literate consumer in a difficult situation. Debt is a necessary part of any business, and it’s imperative that businesses choose the right option for themselves and their consumers. 

Do you still have questions before you make your choice? Talk to our team today. We can answer your questions.