Marc Schillinger from eCollect talks about the significance of digitalization in receivables management process & how AI & ML are making fintech more efficient
Marc Schillinger Co-Founder & CEO, eCollect
Marc Schillinger has been working in the financial services industry for over 20 years. Before he stepped in as a CEO and Co-Founder of eCollect, he has spent five years on the board of the Lowell Group — the second-largest debt collection company in Europe — with a turnover of around one billion euros. For over 15 years at Lowell, Marc was responsible for the commercial side, business and corporate development and has expanded commercial operations into eleven countries. During his time, the company was sold several times and he worked with various private equity companies, all of which he still values very much. The lack of willingness to change in the corporate world has prompted Marc to form what he calls an "industry challenger" in the face of eCollect. The startup implements receivables management processes in a modern and digital way in order to improve the customer journey and create more value.
1. Can you tell us about your role at eCollect?
Sure! I am the CEO and Co-Founder of the receivables management FinTech company eCollect. My responsibilities are mainly connected with managing the teams in Switzerland, Germany and Bulgaria as well as securing business opportunities and expanding our services into new markets.
I have felt the need to be an entrepreneur again, which inspired me to dive deep into the tech scene. The reason why I ended up at eCollect is that my corporate clients used to ask me for a one-stop-shop solution for the holistic receivable management process. Such solution hadn’t existed at that time and that made me look at FinTech companies. eCollect offered the best prerequisites for my vision in the tech and operational area and we quickly started the exciting journey.
2. Can you tell us about your journey into this industry?
I have over 16 years of experience in the receivable management industry. Therefore, I can say that I truly know this industry inside-out. Before entering this industry, I was working in the utility and sports management sector continuously expanding business activities into new product categories and markets.
3. How have you decided to lead and co-found eCollect?
Following my previous answer, the receivable manageement industry makes most of my career. However, I saw the incredible potential of boosting receivables management processes with technology, and this is how my journey at eCollect began. As an entrepreneur, it only comes natural to me to search for innovative solutions to the challenges which clients are facing. eCollect’s mission is to implement groundbreaking technology and disrupt outdated manual processing of open claims.
In order to launch a modern and digital value chain for international corporations of all verticals, we have converted and further developed the tech eco-system into an end-to-end receivables management platform. We are headquartered in Switzerland, with operational hubs in Essen/Germany, where the multilingual call center is situated and Sofia/Bulgaria, where our tech hub is located. We are currently working with around 45 international employees.
4. How is technology disrupting traditional receivables management?
Traditional receivables management can be chaotic, expensive and time-consuming both for the creditor and the debt collection agency. Claims are processed manually, and customers are bombarded with letters and stressful phone calls.
With the help of machine learning algorithms and AI, modern receivables management platforms can fully digitalize and automize the entire receivables cycle.
Claims are automatically transferred in real-time via API integration. The system then autonomously analyzes the claim, conducts multi-channel communication and sends tailor-made (white-label) messages including pay-links to pay-pages.
Let’s say you have an open claim from a mobility company. With eCollect’s real-time platform, you can receive a link for a payment page, cover the debt and use a car again within minutes. In contrast, if the same open claim is processed by a traditional collection firm, it takes days until your account is enabled to use the service again after paying off and this could be a dealbreaker for the customer experience.
5. We recently stumbled upon the fact that eCollect is Europe’s leading receivables management platform. Can you tell us about the factors you attribute this success to?
We truly are a frontrunner in receivables management technology and services. None of our direct competitors is offering a cross-border, end-to-end, all-in-one solution for the entire receivables cycle: from (white-label) invoice creation and distribution over (white-label) payment reminders to pre-legal debt collection including underlying international payment opportunities along the work-flow process.
Furthermore, our platform provides multi-channel communication in the local language per email or even social media channels such as Viber and WhatsApp, which significantly shortens communication ways and builds up trust by targeting individually the consumer. The platform also chooses the right time to contact the debtors according to their life situation and adjusts the flow of messages accordingly to reduce stress. On top of that, the platform is able to suggest instalment plans and even stylistically adjust the message according to factors such as sex, age and occupation. For example, a senior with a bank debt will be approached differently than a teenager with online shopping debt. Even though the platform is working autonomously, the approach is highly tailored to each customer and this is one of our strongest USPs.
On top of that all our modules before the pre-legal collection stage are offered as white-label services on behalf of or client companies (the creditors). eCollect always keeps a finger on the pulse of innovation and provides over 60 different payment methods, incl. digital currencies like Bitcoin. Both clients (creditors) and customers (debtors) are given access to portals with real-time UX dashboards. With its fully in-house developed best-in-class technology, eCollect ensures business liquidity and helps customers pay open claims while preserving a good relationship with the client. We create a supportive customer journey that ends with payment and this is what makes us unique.
6. What are the challenges of leading a receivables startup?
I would lie if I said it is not a challenging and sometimes exhausting job. There are multiple things that have to be taken into account in a rapidly growing startup, both in professional and personal aspects. We have teams in three different countries including different cultural backgrounds and it might get hard to get everyone on the same page especially in times of pandemic, but we are doing our best to master our teamwork. Furthermore, debt collection is a sensitive topic and communication with the debtors has to be handled with a surgical precision in order to achieve high collection rates and still don’t lose them as customers. Last but not least, as a tech startup we always have to undergo change and constantly innovate our services, which required lots of energy and a continuous process of motivating and lead the team to go the extra mile.
7. Can traditional receivables services survive if they don’t go through digitalization?
Digitalization is an absolute must nowadays. It is no longer a matter of when businesses should go digital… it is a matter of how well they are managing to digitalize their products, services and business processes! Most traditional receivable companies work on an old fashion monolith IT infrastructure and they have major problems implement digitalization features nor implementing a fully new developed core. But the pressure to do so, comes from the client side as corporates require partners with digital work-flow processes to increase and digitalize the customer journey. Also, international corporates seek more and more for a technical solution provider with tech expertise to simplify and automatizes process instead of a traditional receivables management monster.
8. How do you see receivables management transform in the future?
As in every other industry, only those who follow the recent trends and developments thrive and survive. I see the future of receivables management digitalized and automized with one client onboarding to serve in multi-national territories and I am fully convinced that with eCollect, we will continue to show good practices for future innovators in the receivables and debt collection industry. Receivable management applications for consumers to communicate and to pay need to become self-serviced including chatbots and applications towards clients need to transform into dashboards for individual reporting and controlling functions. Furthermore, receivables management companies will have to make their practices more sustainable and cut on unnecessary paper consumption for letters and administrative paperwork. On average, a tree produces 8,333 sheets of paper. Imagine how many trees are destroyed for an average of 300.000 customers who receive around 2-5 letters before paying debt off. We avoid that by running the whole process fully digital and only send out letters in exceptions.
9. How would you summarize eCollect’s growth over the last decade? It would be great if you can throw in some highlights for our audience?
In the last 12 month, eCollect has undergone an incredible growth transformation which was recognised internationally. We have won several awards like WINNER of the 2020 Visa Innovation Programm, Top 10 FinTech companies in Switzerland 2020, WINNER of the 2021 “Digital Economy & Security” of the Tech Rocketship Awards by the UK Department for International Trade (DIT), elected Member of the Swiss National Startup Team, and WINNER of the 2021 world’s largest pitching contest Unicorn Pitches Event for the G/S/A region. Additionally, eCollect nominated for 2021 Best FinTech Companies in Switzerland by Daily Finance and for The FinTech Power 50 award, which we are very proud of. These recognitions by top-notch international experts demonstrate the unique international service and tech offering of eCollect and assures us we are on the right path!
10. How do you prepare for an AI-Centric world?
We are working on risk analytics, context-based routing and autonomous communication. AI is a complex technology that requires experience and expert knowledge and our teams deal extensively with it. We are lucky to have built a tech brand within our industry which succeeds in attracting top-notch AI experts. We combine AI-based and human-led communication, and our strength is that we can smoothly map the transition and thus gradually increase the efficiency and quality of manual communication This allows us as a company to scale with the power of AI and to keep our core team strong and efficient.
11. What are the major developments you are planning, in recent time?
We are working on improving our context-based routing: this process individually guides debtors through the process and decides on whether a machine is able to answer an email independently or the case has to be forwarded to an agent. Routine tasks will be completely eliminated, and the employees will primarily deal with special cases. I see mayor developments in the way people pay their duties and therefore we need to adapt to these developments, and we will also have a deeper look into the blockchain technology to evaluate if this something to work with.
12. Can you tell us about your team and how it supports you?
I am lucky to have an amazing team of experts and crazy talented individuals – which you need in this tech world – and all of them greatly support the organization to be successful. Each of my team members plays an important and outstanding role to orchestrate the success of the organization. I see my team as a highly motivated and skilled group of amazing people who always focus the client’s needs. I have deeply embedded “The Client First Mentality” in our organization to solve problems and think about solutions always from the client side. Technology is what drive us forward, but people will always be at the heart of what we do.
13. What movie inspires you the most?
The Last Dance – documentary about Michael Jordan. He is one of my greatest inspirations in life ever since I was a kid. He triggered my passion towards sports not only because of his talent, but also because of his admirable dedication, hard work and competitiveness. If you look at his moving career, his winning philosophy and his desire being different and the best, you can transmit parallels into management and business life.
14. Can you give us a glance of the applications you use on your phone?
I have the LinkedIn mobile app – always a pleasure to see what industry leaders are up to and what trends are being discussed. Jira and Slack are of course an undivided part of my home screen since I like to be easily reachable for my team wherever I am. Last but not least, I am a big fan of investing.com and other trading apps as I am a strong believer of the capital markets.
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