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Since the Dodd-Frank Act was passed, you’ve no doubt worked tirelessly to build a comprehensive compliance management system (CMS) that meets the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) expectations and those of your clients. Regardless of whether your CMS has been tested by a third-party risk assessment, a CFPB examination, or consumer litigation, I think it’s fair to say none of us could have predicted a global pandemic that would put CMS’s to the ultimate test.

As I write this, there are several bills circulating in Congress that could have big implications for the ARM industry. Almost daily, states across the nation are imposing their own rules in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In nearly every conversation I have with ARM leaders, I can sense the anxiety.

But here’s the good news. The fallout from the 2008 financial crisis handed us a new regulatory body that has indirectly prepared the ARM industry for this unprecedented event. You just need to make sure that as you transition more of your staff to remote work, your compliance controls follow.

5 Keys to Managing Compliance in the COVID-19 Era

Boards of directors and executive leaders across the industry have been thrust into a sea of new operational and compliance challenges they might not have contemplated. Decisions are often made through the lens of quick risk analysis and business continuity.

However, as you weigh the business impact of your operational response to COVID-19, you must also evaluate the associated compliance risks. You need to be proactive in mitigating consumer harm risks to avoid another windfall of regulatory actions and litigation. Here are five ways your CMS can help you mitigate those risks.

1. Track all compliance metrics closely, and COVID-19 metrics separately.

Board of Director and/or executive reporting has likely increased since the beginning of the pandemic. In your meeting agendas and minutes, be sure to document compliance metrics including but not limited to:

  • Complaint trends
  • Dispute trends
  • Call monitoring trends
  • Compliance audit trends
  • New state restrictions
  • Federal regulatory changes
  • Emerging risks due to the COVID-19 impact
  • Audit results
  • Testing results of new workflows

I would encourage you to separate COVID-19 related metrics from your typical reporting to help adequately analyze and respond to the compliance risks related to this specific crisis.

2. Test all workflow changes before implementing them widely.

Leadership may be eager to change systemic workflows in response to client, state, or other restrictions imposed during this fluid situation. When these changes are made, don’t skip the critical step of testing. The unintentional consequences of any one change could cause your company greater harm in the long run.

3. Be sensitive to consumers’ personal hardships.

As consumers face income loss or uncertainty, experience COVID-19 personally, or care for someone else, ARM companies may see an increase in consumer complaints. It’s important that you evaluate your response to these complaints to ensure that they are handled with empathetic care.

4. Ensure remote agents are adequately managed and supported.

With a significant portion of the industry working from home, your compliance monitoring tools should be evaluated to ensure you’re getting a meaningful picture of what your agents are hearing and how they’re responding to consumers.

Practical steps you might take include:

  • Changing up your word/phrase search in your speech analytics tool
  • Manually reviewing more calls
  • Increasing live call reviews utilizing the whisper feature
  • Providing immediate feedback to agents

In addition to stepping up call monitoring and coaching, you’ll want to ensure proper status changes, notations, and updates are being made in accordance with your policies and procedures.

5. Shore up your auditing controls.

Changes in your employees’ work location may also put a strain on your auditing controls. It’s more important than ever to have those controls in place for incoming consumer communications, payment processing, call frequency, credit reporting, and dispute response management as well as any new systemic processes put in place as part of your COVID-19 response.

In These Challenging Times, Stay Focused on Your Future

COVID-19 is not the first pandemic our nation has experienced, nor will it be the last. As you work to address current challenges and concerns, consider how changes you’re making today related to policies, procedures, and training can help you build the foundation for a stronger, more successful business long term.

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Disclaimer: Ontario Systems is a technology company and provides this blog article solely for general informational and marketing purposes. You should not rely on the content of this material for any other purpose or as specific guidance for your company. Ontario Systems’ advice, services, tools and products described herein do not guarantee compliance with any law or industry standard. You are ultimately responsible for your own company’s actions and compliance efforts. Because everyone’s situation is different, you must consult your own attorneys, accountants, and/or other advisors to obtain specific advice on your company’s compliance, legal, tax, regulatory and/or other business needs. Despite Ontario Systems’ efforts to provide current and up-to-date information, you need to recognize that the information contained herein may become outdated quickly and may contain errors and/or other inaccuracies.

© 2020 Ontario Systems, LLC. All rights reserved. Information contained in this document is subject to change. Reproduction of this publication is not permitted without the express permission of Ontario Systems, LLC.

Posted by Sara Woggerman

As the lead in-house Compliance Consultant for Ontario Systems, Sara Woggerman provides consulting solutions for banks, collection agencies, and other financial service providers to prepare them for regulatory examinations, manage litigation risk, and improve the consumer experience. Sara has spent over 11 years in the accounts receivables management industry, managing nearly 200 collection service providers for debt purchasers and serving as the relationship manager to creditors.
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