“Collections is not something that you do to somebody. Collections only works when it’s collaborative”: Jeoffrey Begin, Head of US Collections at BMO

  • Jeoffrey Begin, Head of US Collections at BMO details how the bank has changed its focus in Collections away from a single transaction and towards the customer.
  • The customer-centric approach to Collections allows the bank to build consumers' financial health but it also requires them to be responsive to changes in their behavior due to factors such as technology.

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“Collections is not something that you do to somebody. Collections only works when it’s collaborative”: Jeoffrey Begin, Head of US Collections at BMO

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Our monthly Banking Briefing analyzes the latest developments within the banking industry.

Notes from the desk: Welcome to the Banking Briefing, in this edition we peel back curtains from the Collections function at BMO. Dive into how the bank has pivoted from a bank-centric to a customer centric strategy that allows the firm to assist customers when collecting payments and how technology is changing the way Collections operates.

“Collections is not something that you do to somebody. Collections only works when it’s collaborative”: Jeoffrey Begin, Head of US Collections at BMO

by Rabab Ahsan

Collections is an integral but often overlooked part of banking and customer experience. When customers have missed payments or are approaching delinquency it’s Collections that acts as a bridge between the customer and the bank. This work can appear harsh or even cutthroat, because the bank may be calling customers when they are facing financial difficulties and effectively adding to their burdens. 

Fortunately however, there has been a pivot away from a more bank-focused Collections strategy to a customer-centric one in the past few decades, according to Jeoffrey Begin, Head of US Collections at BMO. “Collections is not something that you do to somebody. Collections only works when it’s collaborative, when it’s a customer service role,” he said. 

Evolution: From servicing the bank to serving customers

There is an arm of the bank that gives customers access to their money via  cards and checking and savings accounts. Collections is the arm that is in charge of getting payments back. Sometime in the past, this group was no more than an outbound call center, according to Begin. The task was straightforward, if not the most sensitive: Get customers on the phone and collect the payments that are due. 

But the function has evolved to be less about the bank and more about customers, according to Begin. “It’s much more solution oriented today,” he said. Which means the call center agent today is trying to find how they can assist and enable rather than just getting the customer to act. This can translate to a payment modification or it may be about offering financial health resources, which BMO does through its partnership with the fintech SpringFour

“When we talk to people, you’ll be surprised by how much they open up to a stranger on a call, because they’re really desperate to talk to somebody and explain to them what’s going on in their lives. If a family or parents are dealing with a two year old child who’s got a tumor in the brain, the last thing that they’re thinking about is how they’re going to pay for the mortgage,” said Anuj Vohra, Head of North America Collections, B2C Operations at BMO Financial Group, in my conversation with him last year. 

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