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The Past: People have been borrowing money and buying things on credit for a long, long time. Back in the day, many lenders felt very comfortable sending out a bank employee to collect on past due accounts and, oftentimes, to repossess collateral. There was a time where auto repossession insurance, bonds, associations and licensing did not even exist. The practice of in-house auto repossessions is a rarity in this day and age, but, once in a while, it still happens.

At some point (I am told in the mid 1950’s – old timers, feel free to comment) lawsuits, assaults and the hassle of doing it themselves became an issue, and lenders began using outside contractors to perform their auto repossessions. This system worked quite well for years and years, and deep business relationships developed between lenders and the local repossessor. This relationship resulted in loyalty and trust between the two, and owning an auto repossession business was quite profitable. The lenders were happy to pay fees for professional services, and not only paid for the basic repossession, but also for other services the repossessor performed. These fees included key cutting, mileage, storage, investigation and skip tracing, condition report and photos, transport to auction and, oftentimes, extra for accounts where a lot of time was spent in getting the collateral picked up. They nearly always paid a close fee.

One major lender (that I will not call by name), in my opinion, broke the local adjusters down by bringing up the dreaded “C” word – contingent only. An all-inclusive fee was forced upon the repossession company owners by this company and, by not collectively saying “No”, this industry began to slide down a slippery slope. Other lenders slowly but surely began to follow this contingent-only trend and, although some stood their ground and said “No”, a majority did not. This allowed the lender to adapt a practice of setting the repossession fees, rather than the repo company owner setting his own fee.

In the 1990’s, debtors became more mobile and more lenders were having their “paper” spread across all 50 states. There were also a lot of mergers and acquisitions of smaller banks, and large nationwide banks became the norm. Lenders began to add more adjusters to their vendor list, and this is where I believe the personal relationship between lenders and local adjusters began to vanish. Juggling thousands of agents became a daunting project and emails, faxes and proprietary systems replaced the old-fashioned telephone update.

The Present: In a day of technology, the personal touch this business used to have is all but gone. We now have mobile phones, VOIP systems, land lines, fax lines, email, and instant messenger programs, and yet I see less communication in this business than ever before. I see lenders that have no idea who the adjusters they use really are. Oftentimes, there is no contact information or issuing customer service representative name on a repossession order. Without that, how can an agent call to request more information or give an update? Recovery rates are down, fees are down, operating costs are up, and a majority of repossession company owners are not taking a stand to keep this industry great.

The Future: The future is yet to be seen. You, the auto repossession company owners of today, are this industry’s future. To start, you need to conduct yourselves honestly and professionally at all times. You can right the future of this industry by educating yourselves and learning to be better business owners. You need to work united together to mold this industry into whatever you would like it to be. This means taking a collective stand to work for fees that make your company profitable and worthwhile.