When Dennis Punches founded International Collectors Group in 1967, he had a vision. What if he was able to bring together the leaders from the largest debt collection agencies once a year to discuss market conditions, share ideas, and to get to know one another on a personal level so they could potentially conduct business throughout the year? No committees. No rigid structure. He formed a group of professionals whose sole mission was to get together regularly and benefit from each other’s experiences. What a great concept.
Originally named “Men of Ideas,” Dennis was able to convince the market leaders of that generation to get together for a few days and the group took hold. Those who know Dennis know that he has the personality to pull this off. If you don’t already know Dennis, please let me take a moment to introduce him. When I met Dennis in 1991, he was the President and CEO of Payco American, the largest collection agency in the world at that time. We worked on a few M&A transactions over the years including their acquisition of Furst & Furst, a leading commercial collection agency. Payco, a publicly traded collection agency that was ultimately acquired by OSI, was among the most prolific buyers of collection agencies of its time.
The group, renamed International Collectors Group, still gets together annually. Some of its original members are still involved including Dennis and Mel Shaw of USCB in California. International members over the years included Australia’s Collection House, Europe’s Intrum Justitia, and Canada’s FCA International to name a few. In the states, members included FM Services, National Revenue, CBT and Omnium Worldwide. Now I know how the recipient of an Academy Award feels when they know they missed someone during their acceptance speech.
Over the decades, the membership changed and so did the name. One thing remained constant, the group found a way to stay together and meet once a year and has done so for over 45 years. What a track record!
Concerted efforts are currently underway to expand the group’s presence to include the largest ARM professionals in the US and other credit economies across the globe. Participants will include CEOs from the largest first and third party collection agencies, collection law firms and debt buying operations. In the US, members will come from major market sectors including banking, telecom, healthcare, government, student loans and commercial. Outside the U.S., the focus will be on the largest ARM companies in particular credit driven countries. Discussions will focus on big issues that affect all collection professionals regardless of their location, including technology advancement, collection processes, credit expansion, and cross-border opportunities.
A steering committee has been formed to guide the group’s re-emergence. Jim Richards, CEO of Capio Partners and an active ICG member for years, is on the Steering Committee along with Dennis Punches and the group’s current President Dave Jones of Pristav Collection Agency in Russia who is hosting this year’s meeting. I am actively involved with this important group to assist the steering committee in their efforts.
There are two constants in the accounts receivable management industry. The first is change. The second is ICG.