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In PDCflow’s ongoing interview series, Thriving in Third Party, we shine a spotlight on agency owners and managers like Kelly Parsons-O’Brien, Aron Tomko, Cathie Bustos and others who are flourishing within their businesses.
We also like to speak to ARM educators and experts such as Harry Strausser III and Joann Needleman, to get a different perspective of the industry’s challenges. We’re closing out 2019 with another such industry expert interview. Take a few moments and get to know a little more about Jan Stieger – CAE, CMP, Executive Director of Receivables Management Association, International.
Executive Director of Receivables Management Association, International.
- How long have you been at RMAI? What led you to the ARM Industry?
I started at DBA International (the name prior to changing it to RMAI in 2017) in January 2011. I came to the ARM industry in an unusual way, although maybe just unique, as I don’t think anyone goes to Kindergarten and answers the question of what you want to be when you grow up with “I want to work in the receivables management industry!”
I started my career right out of college working for the California Optometric Association as an intern in their government affairs division. I stayed there for 15 years and worked my way up to senior management. I left and went to work at the California Pharmacists Association for six years. Then a friend called and let me know she was leaving her position as the Executive Director of the California Association of Collectors (CAC). After being at CAC for 10 years, in order to grow professionally in the association management field without having to learn another profession, I was lucky enough to become the Executive Director of DBA International.
- What changes have you seen in this industry in your career?
Well, this question could be multiple pages long! Change is a constant in many professions. But I have to believe the ARM industry leads them all with the changes that have occurred in the industry since 2010. Between the creation of the CFPB, and technology, not much hasn’t changed.
While living through the changes has sometimes been difficult and frustrating, I think that the results we are seeing are positive. The issuance of the CFPB NPRM debt collection rule is a prime example of how years of educating regulators coupled with the importance of the industry “self-regulating” will have a positive effect on the industry possibly for decades to come.
- How has the RMAI adapted?
One of the things I enjoy most about working at RMAI is the nimbleness and willingness to adapt the association to best meet industry and member needs. Starting in 2011, the Board took a bold step to change the management structure of the association and has continued with bold steps going forward.
The creation and implementation of the RMAI Certification program (which establishes best practices in the industry) was only possible because the Board was willing to hold themselves and all RMAI members to a higher standard. Another example was the name change, which was a natural “next step” after the Certification program. The new name better reflects who we are and the broad membership that we represent.
- The RMAI holds a conference every February. Why should professionals in the industry attend? What do you think will be the focus and/or highlight of your 2020 conference?
It is, of course, the best conference of the year! Being the first major event of the year, industry professionals come together and truly set the tone for the year. With growing attendance now for the last three years and the growth in our exhibit hall and networking events, the conference just simply gets better every year.
New for 2020 will be “The Buzz” – a technology lab providing hands-on assistance with establishing social media accounts and learning how they can grow your business. We've added networking events – including bringing golf back by popular demand. Educationally, clearly data privacy/security and electronic communications will be areas of focus. I’m thrilled that we will have a truly international panel with representatives from Europe, the UK, Australia, and for the first time, Africa.
- What is your proudest moment in business?
I’m very proud of the relationship we have built at the Federal level, especially with the CFPB. The references to the RMAI Certification Standards in both the SBREFA outline and the NPRM demonstrate that consistently taking the right action, quietly promoting the value, and being thoughtful and deliberate in our actions, pays dividends in the long run.
- In life?
Wow, hard to say. But whether personally or professionally, I live my life the same way. I consider myself a generous and caring person and value my friends and family. I’m never the “life of the party,” but I am a sincere and caring friend – and for that, I guess I’m most proud of the circle of friends I have.
- What changes (if any) is the RMAI preparing to help their members transition to the CFPB’s proposed new rule once it becomes final?
It is difficult to prepare for the unknown as none of us knows what will actually be in the final rule when it is published sometime in 2020. But, having said that, the establishment of quality compliance departments and education of individuals is how RMAI can best prepare our members. Programs on electronic communications, disclosures, telephonic communications, etc. will all be compliance and operational programs we will provide our members. RMAI members will find value in our programs not only by learning how to be compliant, but also from practical programs on how to operationalize the Rules.
- How important do you think electronic communication will become under this new rule?
In short, critically important. I often will say that in 20 years, when people read the rules, they’ll laugh that we were talking about phone calls, just as we laugh at the references to telegrams. Communication technology will continue to change, and I believe the next few generations will not be using telephones as a primary method of communication.
Email, text, website chat boxes, machine learning, AI, will all be the norm. I think what we do know is that there will be new communication channels that we can’t even imagine yet developed. I think the challenge for regulators will be to create rules that stay current with whatever new technology is developed.
- What was the last great book you read? (Or movie or TV show you binge watched?) Why was it great?
This may sound shallow, but I watched “Rocket Man” a few months ago. I was pleased that it didn’t gloss over Elton John’s tough times and gave more meaning to several of his songs. No one gets through life without facing problems. The way we overcome our challenges is more important and is a test of who we are.
- What are you most looking forward to over the next year? (professionally, personally or both)
I’ve gone through some personal tough times recently and quite frankly, I’m looking forward to calmer waters ahead. I’ve learned a lot about myself during this time, and I hope to spend the next year or so better defining who I am and what is important to me.
Professionally, I hope to continue working with the board leadership to set strategic goals that advance the industry in general and help RMAI members compete in an ever-changing market. I’m confident as we refine our message and educate stakeholders on the value the industry plays in the US credit based economy, the industry will gain the respect it deserves and will continue to be a valuable segment in the credit ecosystem.
About Jan Stieger
Jan Stieger, CAE, a 30-year veteran of association management, serves as Executive Director of Receivables Management Association International (RMAI), the trade association representing 550 member organizations in the accounts receivables industry. Jan brings a wealth of experience in financial services, strategic planning, regulatory and legislative issues, international affairs, and credit and risk management. In 2018 and again in 2019, Jan was recognized as one of the 25 most influential women in the accounts receivables management industry.
Prior to joining RMA in 2011, Jan spent ten years leading the California Association of Collectors (CAC), the state affiliate of ACA International. She previously served in leadership roles with the California Optometric Association and the California Pharmacists Association.
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