Thriving in Third Party Debt Collection: An Interview With Lauren Valenzuela

Thriving in Third Party: An Interview With Lauren Valenzuela

In accounts receivable, it's important to stay informed about upcoming legislation and other changes that will impact business (especially during major disruption, like the events happening this year).

Lauren Valenzuela has been watching the trends and staying up-to-date with the latest in AR compliance as part of her job as Corporate Counsel, Performant Financial Corp. We had the pleasure of speaking to Valenzuela about her career and her thoughts on the upcoming privacy and compliance concerns facing the industry.

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Lauren Valenzuela

Corporate Counsel, Performant Corp
  1. Can you tell me about your background in the accounts receivable industry?

I have been working in the accounts receivable industry for about 8 years. I went in-house as corporate counsel at a collection agency, where I oversaw legal, compliance, and training. I loved, loved, loved the synergy between compliance and training – it also gave me the opportunity to partner with the collection floor from a different perspective than just “compliance” and it was a lot of fun.

I was at my last agency for six years until I joined Performant. During my time in the industry, I have taken advantage of every opportunity to learn from others and to also give back when I can – such as teaming-up with colleagues in the industry to present and share at industry conferences, webinars, or meetings.

  1. What is your main concern right now as Corporate Counsel at Performant? 

There is a lot going on in our industry right now. It is hard to narrow it down to one main concern. I have got privacy and cyber security on my mind, as well as innovation. How does our industry and our company innovate during a time like COVID-19?

COVID has been very disruptive, but in that disruption lies great opportunity for our industry to think differently about how we connect and communicate with consumers going forward.

  1. In your opinion, what is the biggest change coronavirus has brought to the industry?

Wider spread acceptance of collectors working from home has been a major change. If you would have asked me a year ago if collectors could work from home, I would have said “no.”

Out of necessity, our industry had to figure out how to deploy a remote workforce in order to keep operations going – and many in the industry were able to leverage technology and security protocols to make it happen.

  1. Is Performant making any changes in preparation for the upcoming final debt collection rule? Does the recent SCOTUS ruling regarding the CFPB change any of these plans?

It is hard to predict what will be in the final rules. However, the proposed rules have informed our industry when it comes to communicating with consumers through email, for example. It seems like the impacts of the SCOTUS ruling are still shaking out, so we are just going to have to wait and see.

  1. Last year you were a panelist on a webinar put on by the CAC, discussing the California Consumer Privacy Act. How do you see the CCPA impacting the accounts receivable industry now that it is in effect? 

The collections industry is no stranger to protecting consumers’ privacy. For decades we have been following the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and the FDCPA has protecting consumer privacy at its core. However, the CCPA has ushered in a new privacy regime and I think its biggest impact for our industry will be on our data collection practices. Our industry has the tendency to collect data in an unstructured manner (e.g., capturing information in free form account notes), and the CCPA is making us revisit this.

  1. What resources do you recommend for professionals in the ARM industry in order to stay up-to-date on regulations and laws impacting the industry?

There are many informative industry blogs, including PDCflow’s blog. Others that I also follow and find informative are insideARM, AccountsRecovery.Net, and Ballard Spahr’s Consumer Finance Monitor.

Other resources I recommend are industry conferences and meetings (even if virtually). This is where you get to meet colleagues in the field, exchange ideas and experiences, and this is extremely valuable. I also recommend that professionals join trade associations/groups and take advantage of any communication platforms they offer.

Early in my career, asking others questions through industry trade groups was so helpful! For example, ACA International offers a communication hub for members to dialogue, and insideARM has iA Research Assistant. Research Assistant has many resources for professionals and has peer groups where you can talk compliance with other professionals.

  1. What is the proudest moment in your professional career?

Last year I was recognized as a Top Women Leader in Accounts Receivable by Receivables Advisor. That was an incredibly humbling experience to be recognized amongst so many incredibly bright and talented women in the industry.

  1. In life?

This is a tough one! Probably graduating from law school. I am the first in my family to obtain a law degree, and when I graduated it was such a celebration for not only me but for my family.

  1. What do you see as the biggest opportunity that will come out of the challenges 2020 has brought to the industry?

I think there is a big opportunity in improving self-service options for consumers, as well as figuring out how to better communicate with consumers generally. Contrary to popular belief, debt collectors are in a unique position to help consumers get the information they need to make informed decisions about their debts during this time.

The challenge lies in getting people to simply engage with debt collectors. Our industry relies heavily on making outbound phone calls. However, with the proliferation of scam calls, consumers are reluctant to answer the phone from numbers they do not recognize, and also many people simply do not like to speak on the phone.

Our industry must think differently about consumer engagement and communication. Herein lies the opportunity – figuring out how to engage with consumers, perhaps by offering self-service options which create a positive and seamless experience for the consumer.

About Lauren Valenzuela

    Lauren Valenzuela is Corporate Counsel at Performant Financial Corp., where she advises on compliance with consumer protection laws, government regulation, licensing, litigation defense, and transactional matters.

    Prior to joining Performant she was General Counsel and Director of Compliance for Collection Technology, Inc.

    Lauren is an ACA certified Credit and Collection Compliance Attorney (CCCA), and has presented for ARM-U, American Collections Association (ACA) International, the California Association of Collectors (CAC), the Consumer Relations Consortium, and AccountsRecovery.Net, as well as provided compliance commentary and analysis for such organizations. She has been recognized as a Top Women Leader in Accounts Receivable and was nominated for Receivables Professional of the Year by Receivables Advisor magazine in 2019.

    She has served on ACA’s Federal Affairs Committee and currently sits on ACA’s Judicial Committee. Lauren is a magna cum laude graduate from Syracuse University, College of Law, and is a member of the California State Bar.

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