Voices of Credit Congress: New Tools to Solve Old Problems

Credit professionals have an intrinsic thirst for knowledge. Education is power. And Credit Congress is the best event for trade creditors to attend best-in-class educational sessions all in one place, especially as the role of credit management constantly evolves.

More than 800 trade credit experts from all backgrounds, industries and experience levels gathered in Grapevine, TX this week for NACM's 127th Credit Congress and Expo. Each delegate departed the event with new skills and strategies.

Here are a few takeaways from each educational track offered this year at Credit Congress:

Technology

Data is a powerful tool that allows you to understand the truth of your business, yourself and customers, said Charles Edwards, CCE, VP of credit operations at SRS Distribution Inc. (McKinney, TX) during Dashboards, Duct Tape, Data and Beyond. "Without clean, high-quality data, nothing on the front-end part of dashboards is possible," he said. "Modeling the right data drives the right action in credit."

Dashboards allow credit professionals to keep track of accomplishments, identify areas for improvement and maintain a competitive advantage, Edwards explained. "Not having a dashboard is like watching sports with no scoreboard—its boring. Dashboards keep credit engaging and can positively impact company culture."

Construction

B2B trade in the construction industry comes with an additional layer of risk, which means construction credit professionals must be at the top of their game, said Jason Torf, Esq., partner at Tucker Ellis LLP (Chicago, IL) during Enforcing Lien Rights When a Party in the Construction Supply Chain Files for Bankruptcy. "Don't sit on your rights," he said. "These issues can be complex, so don't get caught in a reactive mode. Always stay proactive and look for signs of financial distress so you can stay ahead of other creditors that did not act until their customer already filed for bankruptcy."

Leadership

Mentorship switches the focus from book-learning to thought-learning where mentors share stories to teach lessons. "Through their experience, mentors can help credit professionals grow and learn skills not found in textbooks," said Scott Chase, CCE, CICP, global director of credit at Gibson Brands, Inc. (Nashville, TN) during Mentors and Mentees: A Rewarding Relationship. "Someone who can not only guide you but someone you can bounce ideas off of."

But mentorship is also a mutual relationship between a mentor and mentee. "It's more than just a job, it's love," said Scott Michelsen, CCE, ICCE, director of credit and collections at Kenworth Sales (Salt Lake County, Utah). "A mentor of mine talked to people and built those relationships at every opportunity. In the end, mentors become advocates that remind you not to be so hard on yourself."

Mentors also provide constructive criticism that is beneficial for career and personal growth. "You need feedback to grow without hearing what went well," said Yazmin Yepez, CBF, CCRA, CICP, credit supervisor at Mitsubishi Electric Automation, Inc. (Vernon Hills, IL). "Don't be discouraged by your lack of experience, use the experience you have and seek mentors. Ask for advice on soft skills that can potentially change your life on a day-to-day basis."

Credit Management Must-Knows

Credit management is not a static profession. The role of trade creditors is constantly evolving, which underscores the importance of fresh and cutting-edge education. Rising interest rates, geopolitical risk and new technologies are just a few factors that contribute to uncertain times for credit management, said Martin Zorn, managing director of risk research and quantitative solutions at SAS Institute Inc. (Honolulu, HI) during Credit Management in Uncertain Times.

"It's important to catch the warning signs to take action and not get burned," Zorn said. "You should be talking about what could trigger any payment terms ahead of time. If you develop your own model, you will need to assess how that model will calibrate. Have a policy around model risk management. Are your models well-defined? If you have good documentation in the model the risk will be less."

Global Credit

China has long reigned as a global trade giant, but the risk of doing business with China is increasing, said David Kinzel, vice president of structured credit and political risk at Marsh, LLC (Denver, CO) during A Look at Global Hotspots: Where Are They and What's Next? "We've seen the imports from China to the U.S. drop 17% in the prior year," he explained. "It's happening quicker than people expected, and the impact is more downstream."

Economic Update

The economy has been sending mixed signals since the COVID-19 pandemic, creating challenges for credit professionals who need to make informed risk decisions, said NACM Economist Amy Crews Cutts, Ph.D., CBE during An Economic Update: What's Next? "The Fed will keep raising interest rates until they break," she said. "We are borrowing at very expensive rates for the short term. The underlying message is we are heading for recession."

Legal Environment of Credit

Every customer has a different pressure point for what will get their attention and a response during the collections process, said Chris Jameson, Esq., attorney at Jameson & Dunagan, P.C. (Dallas, TX) during Receiverships: The Ultimate Collection Tool. "For some, that point is a demand letter from an attorney and for others, its capturing the debtor's mail," he said. "It's your job as a credit manager to figure out what that threshold is, and once you do, it can make an account that looks unrecoverable on the outside recoverable all of a sudden."

Thank you to all attendees, speakers and exhibitors who helped make NACM's 127th Credit Congress a success. We cannot wait to see you all again next year in Las Vegas, NV

-Annacaroline Caruso, Jamilex Gotay, Kendall Payton, NACM National

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Saturday, 13 April 2024

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