By Scott R.Tillesen, Experienced VP in Global Credit 

The Three Essentials

Credit professionals need to be productive, fast, and consistent in the function they perform. Productivity is the measurement of the effectiveness with which people are applied to the tasks. Being fast is a measurement of the speed in which decisions are made and the speed in which the credit staff responds to internal and external customers. Consistency is a measurement of how well credit policies and practices are applied to the customer base.

The main objective is to pull together all of the needed data into one application that is available to anyone on the credit team who is involved with the customer account

The achievement of these three objectives can be greatly improved by using a customer information portal. The main objective is to pull together all of the needed data into one desktop application that is available to anyone on the credit team who is involved with the account. Information will come from your existing ERP system, manual input by the credit staff, information provided by customers, and information obtained from outside sources.

The various types of information gathered fall into various categories:

  • Basic Information includes – name, address, website, risk rating, account origination date, last review date, next review date, credit limit, available credit, and terms of sale.
  • Accounts Receivable Data includes – account balance, ageing, payday history, last payment date, open items, open orders, and orders released but not billed.
  • Security Information includes – credit insurance coverage, personal guarantees, cross corporate guarantees, letters of credit, security filings, or any other kind of security – including expiration dates.
  • Financial Statements includes – images of statements as obtained from customers or public sources, key data stored as data for use in scoring models.
  • Associated Accounts includes – related data for accounts either formally or informally associated with one another, i.e. when credit extension is considered on an aggregate basis.
  • Contacts includes – names, titles physical addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses for owners, officers, and credit contacts.
  • Notes includes – a record of account strategies, customer promises, issues, and customer contact in an ineducable form. Notes should be automatically date stamped with the identification of who made the entry.
  • Documents includes – financial statements, credit applications, legal agreements, security, and customer announcements.

Design and Development

The design of a portal needs to take into consideration the limited space of a computer screen. High priority information needs to be arranged on a summary screen, while information needed for a deeper dive can be on screens accessed from a row of tabs. Care should be taken not to overuse scroll bars that slow down the navigation process.

The development of a portal is dependent on IT resources, and perhaps some out of pocket expenditures, but most importantly it is dependent on the credit management team to have the vision and thought leadership to promote the creation, development, and utilisation of a customer information portal.

An information portal approach to customer account management can improve the consistency of management of accounts in the portfolio, the accuracy of tracking security, the productivity of the staff, the speed of decision making, promptness of customer payments, and a reduction in the amount of bad debt incurred.

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