Nov. 26, 2013
Reykjavik, Iceland (debitum.biz) — Clichés of debt collectors and the debt collection industry abound. Debt collectors as cutthroat agents who will go to any length to exact their pound of flesh? Debt collectors as a pack of ravenous vultures feeding on the body of a dying animal?
Such popular images are of course more than a little unfair, as debtor collectors are simply trying to recover their client’s money before others claim it for themselves. And, as Egyptian debt collector Laila Saleh testifies, debt collection involves the very human dimension of helping someone out of a very difficult financial spot.
Saleh is director of and shareholder in TCM Egypt, a Cairo-based, joint-stock company founded in 1999. TCM Egypt is a market leader in domestic and international debt collection, in trademark protection, and in carrying out background checks. Providing amicable and legal solutions with equal verve and professionalism, it is the only agent in Egypt that operates both locally and globally.
DEBITUM.BIZ: How did you end up in debt collection?
SALEH: I had been working as A/R manager for IBM Egypt and liked the job very much. Then the opportunity arose to work in debt collection for private businesses in 2003 and I immediately took it. I have been working for TCM Egypt since then.
DEBITUM.BIZ: What would you say are the three most important qualities of a debt collector?
SALEH: Persistence, good judgment and versatility, especially when it comes to relating to debtors.
DEBITUM.BIZ: How do your family and friends view your job?
SALEH: They think my work is interesting, actually.
DEBITUM.BIZ: Why do you like your job?
SALEH: My job gives me the opportunity to get to know a diverse range of people and, as a result, to enlarge my database. I have developed a significant number of good relations in my time as an international and domestic debt collector, relations that have also proven very useful for other kinds of business. I have also won many partners and friends around the world by being a member of prestigious international networks such as TCM Group.
DEBITUM.BIZ: How would you define your relationship to creditors and debtors?
SALEH: A creditor is a client to be respected and served with all my capabilities.My relationship to a debtor depends very much on his/her intentions towards the client.
DEBITUM.BIZ: Can you describe your job in three sentences?
SALEH: I would describe my job as interesting and challenging. It gives me the opportunity to network with individuals and entities both at home and abroad. It also allows me to help individuals and companies tackle and ultimately overcome their financial difficulties.
DEBITUM.BIZ: What is the most striking debt collection story in your experience?
SALEH: A couple of years ago, a big case of about half a million dollars was taken against a debtor of high rank in Egyptian society. For a number of reasons this person had become insolvent. I was convinced that he was not a crook and on a personal level I found it hard to drag him to court for a jail sentence. Though it was not part of our suite of services, we arranged a meeting with successful Egyptian businessmen in an effort to help the debtor. By selling a piece of the debtor’s land, we managed to bring the case to conclusion. The debtor and I are still good friends and he has started to regain his position of strength on the local market.
I love and am proud of this story. The experience let me see beyond the cliché of a debt collector as someone who is harsh, ruthless and Machiavellian, and showed me the truly human dimension of the profession.
DEBITUM.BIZ: What would you say is the most challenging issue for Egyptian debt collectors in 2014?
SALEH: This has to be issuing new laws for trade debts to be handled in faster and more efficient ways than they are through normal legal channels.
DEBITUM.BIZ: What legal instruments or aspects of the legal system does your country need in order to improve the situation of Egyptian creditors?
SALEH: Special commercial laws and specialized courts.
DEBITUM.BIZ: How do interest rate changes influence debtors’ behaviour?
SALEH: Under Egyptian law, collectors cannot force debtors to pay interest unless it is clearly written and accepted within the formal contract between the parties involved.
DEBITUM.BIZ: How has computerization influenced your company?
SALEH: As we are a medium-sized company, we have intensified computerization in accordance with the number and nature of our clients and with the volume of work.
DEBITUM.BIZ: Is it easy for you to find employees with the right profile for debt collection?
SALEH: Not really, no. But we can find individuals of good calibre and train them as needed.
DEBITUM.BIZ: How successful are on-site debtor visits in your country?
SALEH: Our agents’ on-site visits are for the most part successful. Some debtors also come to our office to negotiate their case.