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Collection Industry Hiring Practices Informative - This explains a lot!

Review by Mad Eye Moody on 2005-07-25
I yanked this article from a Collection website - does this really suprise anyone - NOTE - it's a company called NCC...NOT NCO.
I could go on for hours about this one...but read the article through all the way...it's worth it.

Employees owe a debt to NCC
BY JOSH BRODESKY staff writer

It is probably safe to say bill collectors hold a place in the public’s eyes and hearts somewhere just below tort lawyers, telemarketers and grammarians.

But at debt collection agency NCC, a division of Commonwealth Financial Systems Inc, there is a soft underbelly beneath the hard-nosed letters and pestering phone calls that ask so many to pay their dues. For many of its employees, NCC is a salvation. A place that offered a second or third chance to those who have hit rock bottom.

Many NCC employees have struggled with substance abuse in the past, and some have been arrested for petty drug dealing or minor assaults.

There are single mothers, as well as a spectrum of races, nationalities and education levels. It is a place where professionals with advanced degrees rub elbows with co-workers with GEDs.

“We do consider ourselves a second-chance employer,” CEO John Kotula said. “We’re willing to take a look at (almost anyone).”

Not quite anyone though.

Because employees at the agency handle sensitive, private information, NCC does perform criminal background checks and will not hire people with histories of fraud or white-collar crime, Mr. Kotula said.

Still, considering the nature of the business, it seems a degree from the graduate school of hard knocks is the most valued asset an NCC employee can have.

“I have people with master’s degrees from the streets,” Mr. Kotula said.

Inside its doors are people like Troy Smith, who moved to Scranton from New York City in 1995 and had a history of petty drug arrests before cleaning up. Or Michelle Morgan, a single mother of three, who Mr. Kotula has helped with flexible scheduling and occasional rides to work.

Or Ron Martin, who moved to Scranton from Plainfield, N.J., four years ago. Two years ago, Mr. Martin almost died from alcohol poisoning, and Mr. Kotula sat with him

around the clock in the hospital for two days straight.

“This guy was flatlined,” Mr. Kotula said.

Grateful for the care, Mr. Martin returned to work the day the hospital released him. He’s been sober ever since.

“We’re here to take second chances and develop strong agents,” Mr. Kotula said. “The times it doesn’t work, we cut ties quickly. We hire people with the desire to change their lives.”

HOW IT CAME TO BE

Mr. Kotula has a bachelor’s degree in business from the University of Scranton and the mien of a street fighter. He is originally from New Jersey and is the son of The Rev. John Kotula, a Polish National Church priest.

He said he was raised with the motto that “If you give, you get it back.”

And as his business has grown, he has given: To the Friends of the Poor, to his church St. Stanislaus PNC cathedral, and to his employees.

In 2001, NCC was a small collection agency owned by Michael Confitti when it was purchased by Commonwealth Financial Systems, and Mr. Kotula became the CEO. Over the last two and a half years, the company has grown from 20 to 140 employees, collecting more than $13 million in combined delinquent taxes and garbage fees for the city of Scranton along the way.

The debt it collects for the city makes up about 7 percent of NCC’s business. The bulk of the agency’s work, about 50 percent, is done through the purchasing of debt from credit card companies. The agency buys the debt at a fraction of its value.

“I hope the people in the city of Scranton really recognize this as a growing part of the economy,” Mr. Kotula said.

Yes and no.

The agency has been called before City Council at least three times for complaints about its aggressive collection tactics, according to Times-Tribune archives.

Most recently in 2004 for letters threatening a negative credit rating and a lawsuit, mistakenly sent to residents who had paid their bills.

The erroneous letters were largely the result of poor city record keeping, but their tenor raised eyebrows.

However, for those the agency has assisted there is nothing but praise.

“A lot of places here won’t hire people with records or that have had abuse problems,” said The Rev. Ray Johnson, pastor at Salvation Apostolic Temple. “But they give them a chance there.”

Rev. Johnson said he has referred numerous church members to NCC over the years, with three members currently employed there.

“They support our church by supporting our people,” Rev. Johnson said.

The agency has a similar relationship with Friends of the Poor.

Over the past few years, Sister Adrian Barrett, IHM, and chief executive of Friends of the Poor, said she has referred at least 12 people to NCC.

“They take an interest in the employees, and they teach them (life skills), too,” Sister Barrett said.

Other referral sources are Lackawanna County Adult Probation and Parole, local churches and Scranton-Lackawanna Human Development Agency, Mr. Kotula said.

For the past two years, NCC has funded Friends of the Poor’s Christmas shopping excursion, taking about 50 children to KMart and then Smith’s Restaurant, 1402 Cedar Ave., for dinner.

“I think the world of that firm,” Sister Barrett said. “That’s what I call a working relationship, and it’s a meaningful one because it’s not a group that is going to move out of town.”

NCC’s office maintains a light ambiance. Hip Hop plays in the background, a basketball hoop is set up at the end of the call center, and potential bonus checks hang from cubicle walls. As Mr. Kotula toured the space, he introduced each of the employees, at times talking about the obstacles they’d overcome. In the midst of the tour, he paused to look at the office.

“We have turned a ton of people’s lives around,” he said, almost surprised by the thought.

The employees within earshot agreed. Headphones donned, poised to make their next calls, they nodded their heads yes and smiled.
Comments:5 Replies - Latest reply on 2005-07-26
Posted by Anonymous on 2005-07-25:
Well Mad, as far as I know, as I look at my 'newly' retained online credit report, they are 'sharks'. The name will remain 'NCO' until you prove me wrong. Tons of charity work does not equal ethical business practices.
Posted by DebtorBasher on 2005-07-25:
They should leave collecting up to those who qualify without a "background" record...and bring back the chain gang for those who do.
Posted by Anonymous on 2005-07-25:
Hip hop music? Basketball hoops? Nice portrayal of the employees without stating their ethnicity. Sounds like a "boiler room" operation to me. This is a "forum topic" NCC=NCO? No. Single mothers?
Posted by Mad Eye Moody on 2005-07-26:
NCC isn't NCO - different company. However, it's amazing that someone can hire based on "Masters Degrees from the Streets." It's amazing that these are the types of people with access to countless SSN's, addresses, phone#'s, and credit reports. This second chance crap is great PR for this company, but in reality these people are hired because they're extremely expendable. This guy can get a few bucks worth of collections out of them allowing them to be as nasty as they please. That is until someone brings it to court, and then he can fire them. After that he can put another "second chance" in the same desk for another three months. Who is he really helping by setting up a "second chance" to fail again? Hmmm...who could it be...WHOOOO could it beeeee
Posted by DebtorBasher on 2005-07-26:
Things that make you go ... hmmmmmmmm

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