Nov. 24, 2013
Reykjavik, Iceland (debitum.biz) — As part of our series of interviews with leading international figures on the global debt collection scene, we put our clutch of questions on the personal and professional sides of the debt collection industry to Czech collector Petr Slapnička.
Slapnička has been specializing in domestic and international debt collection since 2005 and is managing director of DC GROUP Ltd., one of the first ports of call for quality debt recovery services on the Czech market and worldwide.
DEBITUM.BIZ: How did you end up in debt collection?
SLAPNIČKA: Before starting my own collection business, I worked eleven years for Coface as the head of the credit reports department. So for my whole professional life I have been close to debt collection.
DEBITUM.BIZ: What would you say are the three most important qualities for an effective debt collector?
SLAPNIČKA: Fairness, discipline and the desire to educate.
DEBITUM.BIZ: How do your family and your friends view your job?
SLAPNIČKA: At the beginning nobody understood my decision to start a collection agency because this profession was not very popular in our country. However, over the course of time, they have become more and more convinced that professional debt collection is a serious, respectable job.
DEBITUM.BIZ: Why do you like your job?
SLAPNIČKA: I like my job because a debt collection agency is an intermediary between creditors and debtors and seeks to help both parties. Debtors save money when they opt for a low-cost, out-of-court procedure (even though they don’t often admit this fact). On the other hand, creditors get the money that they otherwise would probably have lost.
DEBITUM.BIZ: How do you view creditors and debtors?
SLAPNIČKA: Creditors and debtors are entities that essentially have the same rights. We always respect the principle of debtor inviolability and adhere to all legal codes. However, from time to time, creditors have unrealistic ideas about the collection process and methods used.
DEBITUM.BIZ: Can you describe your job in three sentences?
SLAPNIČKA: In addition to my obligations as managing director, I have also many responsibilities as head of technical development. For example, I am responsible for the planning and development of our information systems and I also check and modify collection processes for a wide range of projects.
DEBITUM.BIZ: What is the most striking or memorable debt collection story you have come across in your experience?
SLAPNIČKA: For example, once we collected quite a large amount for Henkel (producer of cosmetics, detergents, etc.). The debtor in question was a network of hairdressing salons. Lacking cash or bank deposits, the network was on the verge of bankruptcy. The only viable way for us to collect was in the form of cosmetic stock. So, for about two weeks, our offices were brimming with thousands of shampoo bottles, hair sprays, and other cosmetic products!
We also often receive funny answers from debtors. For example:
Sorry I can’t pay, I don’t have any money. I am a very poor man… Don’t bother me I am now on holiday in Australia.
Yes I will pay soon. Today I am going to rob a bank…
Yes, I will pay. But please send me a copy of the invoice to the email address Prague, Lipova 2, Czech Republic…
DEBITUM.BIZ: What would you say is the most challenging issue for Czech debt collectors in the year ahead?
SLAPNIČKA: This would have to be the new law we are currently drafting in tandem with the Czech Association of Collection Agencies. Until now, there has been no regulation of the debt collection industry. The proposed law aims to ensure fairness and to enhance the industry’s image by implementing a strict regulatory regime.
DEBITUM.BIZ: What new law or laws does the Czech Republic need in order to improve the situation of creditors?
SLAPNIČKA: The proposed new law is quite complex. Above all, we are striving to legalize the collection costs that can be collected by creditors. The law is also designed to improve the overall standards of the collection environment. It forces collection agencies to register their operations and to adhere to the strict ethical codes of the national collection association.
DEBITUM.BIZ: How do changes in interest rates influence debtor behaviour?
SLAPNIČKA: We don’t actually see a direct relation between debtor behaviour and interest rates. Though the interest rates decreased rapidly over the last year, debtors still couldn’t meet their obligations. The main reason for this is that the banks introduced stricter rules when the global crisis hit in 2008.
DEBITUM.BIZ: How has computerization influenced your company?
SLAPNIČKA: Since the beginning of our operation, we have tried to build a quality information system. All processes are strictly planned and documented. Our customers are used to exchanging information electronically and to having online access to our system. What we are preparing for in the near future is a universal integration module for an ERP system. This will allow automatic data exchange between our server and our client’s server through web services.
DEBITUM.BIZ: Is it easy for you to find new employees with the right profile for debt collection?
SLAPNIČKA: Not at all. Finding quality people is one of the most difficult tasks we face. Because our services are based on good infrastructure and good employees, we concentrate our efforts on recruitment and training processes.
DEBITUM.BIZ: What role do on-site visits play in your company and in the Czech Republic?
SLAPNIČKA: Our company specializes in making personal visits to debtors. That’s why we also provide these subservices for other collection agencies too. We have developed a large network of on-site collectors as well as unique software which can effectively distribute work for them. On-site visits are becoming more and more important as part of the collection process in our company and our country.