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7th Annual Credit and Collections Conference for Utilities

Event Description and Agenda:

Many economists have described the current state of the Canadian economy as mediocre — it's not great, but it's better than most. Even so, this middling economic recovery continues to put increased pressure on utility companies to minimize bad debt as delinquencies and losses continue to rise. It is imperative that utilities become more strategic about how they increase their cash flow. Improving collections is a primary area that utility companies can and should focus on.

Few industries in Canada face the kind of scrutiny from customers, shareholders, regulators and other stakeholders that utility companies experience. To be successful with collections during these turbulent economic times, utilities need to have a wide array of effective systems and protocols in place: strong asset and technology management systems, as well as good human capital programs to recruit and retain skilled talent.

At EUCI's 7th Annual Credit and Collections for Utilities Conference: Canada, utility industry professionals will address important issues regarding the effective use of legal counsel to improve credit recovery. Credit and collections experts will speak on how best to leverage accounts receivable and bad debt management to improve the bottom line. Utilities will discuss the best methods to improve collections by using new technology and how to improve the customer experience. Suppliers to the industry will explore the latest strategies to improve performance in utility credit and collections.

 

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

8:00 - 8:30 a.m. :: Registration and Continental Breakfast

8:30 - 8:45 a.m. :: Opening Remarks

8:45 - 9:15 a.m. :: Welcome Address from BC Hydro

On behalf of BC Hydro — a provincial Crown corporation and one of Canada's largest electric utilities — Keith Anderson will welcome his power industry colleagues to Vancouver and review how the conference focus addresses this fundamental industry requirement.

Keith Anderson, Vice President - Customer Service, BC Hydro

9:15 - 10:00 a.m. :: Bringing Customer Service Back In-House

On January 1, 2012, FortisBC's new in-house customer service centres opened as the culmination of a two-year project to bring the natural gas supplier's customer service operations in-house. This session will discuss what it took to make it happen, how things are going and where the company is going from here.

  • The approval stage
  • 2 Years of planning
  • Go-live
  • Challenges and opportunities over the last 3 years
  • The future

David Slight, Manager - Collections, FortisBC

Amar Mangat, Manager - Collections Team, FortisBC

10:00 - 10:30 a.m. :: Networking Break

10:30 - 11:15 a.m. :: Billing and Collections of Regulated Delivery Charges in a Deregulated Electricity Market

1996 marked the beginning of electricity market restructuring away from the traditional regulation to a market-based system in Alberta. While the wholesale and retail segments of the previously vertically integrated utilities transitioned to open competition in 2001, the power delivery system remained regulated. As a result, new billing and collections interactions evolved between the market players. In this presentation, FortisAlberta's experience with the market-based system will be described.

Tina Dulguerov, Manager - Load Settlement and Revenue Centre, FortisAlberta

11:15 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. :: Using Technology to Enable Profile-based Credit Treatment

New technologies are providing utilities with tools to transform credit and collection practices. Smart metering increases the timeliness of consumption data, and remote disconnect / reconnect features dramatically improve the responsiveness of credit action. Similarly, advanced data analytics increases the understanding of customer behaviour, and also provides the ability to turn substantial amounts of utility data into actionable information. This session will discuss how BC Hydro is using these new capabilities to develop policies and processes that are targeted to specific customer segments and risk profiles. While these actions are primarily intended to decrease write-offs, overall customer experience can be also improved by ensuring that policies, customer communications and utility actions are fair and appropriate to the circumstances.

Daren Sanders, Senior Manager, Customer Service, BC Hydro

12:00 - 1:00 p.m. :: Group Luncheon

1:00 - 2:00 p.m. :: Effective Use of Legal Counsel in Credit Recovery

In this session, Mr. Wiebe — who brings a life time of experience both as a credit grantor, collection manager/executive and now as a senior lawyer — will provide indispensable advice and practical tips to use when selecting and using legal counsel in the credit recovery process. Topics will include:

  • How to select the right counsel and when to bring counsel into the recovery process
  • Effective use and language for legal demand letters
  • What to use counsel for and what can usually be done without professional assistance
  • Setting budgets, rates and flat fees for legal work and ensuring that your lawyer adheres to them
  • Pros and cons of having legal work performed on a contingency fee basis
  • Limits on what lawyers can do ethically and within specific regulatory environments to assist in recovery
  • Practical advice on how to get the most return on legal fee investment

Kent Wiebe, Partner, Wiebe Douvelos Wittmann LLP

2:00 - 2:45 p.m. :: Agency Management Best Practices

This presentation will provide an overview of Enbridge's Market Share and Premiership programs, which create an open, competitive environment where third-party collection agency partners can demonstrate their "will to win" and be rewarded through promotion within collection tiers and the assignment of additional market share within that tier. Collection agency performance is currently measured using traditional collection metrics (summary tracking/total recoveries as percentage of assignments). The current process does not target metrics/behaviors which are important in a competitive environment required to maximize recoveries.

Joseph Dimeo, Collection Manager, Enbridge Gas

2:45 - 3:15 p.m. :: Networking Break

3:15 - 4:00 p.m. :: Understanding Collections of Final Bills: Know your Assignments and Portfolios

Quite regularly, assumptions are made as to the level of recoveries that collection agencies should be achieving. These assumptions are generally based on historic trends, yet every so often the expected results can surprise or disappoint Clients must be aware of the composition of their assignments and expected behavior, and in turn communicate these changes to their business partners, both internally and externally. On the other hand, have upstream acquisition changes adversely affected the creditworthiness of customers? Have deposit requirements changed, therefore increasing average final balances? Are additional services and products bundled together, thus creating a final bill with a much different composition? Understand how recoveries of final bills, and expectations thereof, actually start from the day the customer is acquired and dictated by their lifecycle as a customer. This session will demonstrate how knowing what results are expected and why communicating the latter is the key to success.

Steve Antonoglou, Senior Manager Credit and Debt Management, Direct Energy

Scott Turner, Senior Director Credit and Debit, Direct Energy

4:00 - 5:00 p.m. :: Collection Tools: Vendor Panel Discussion

Technology drives accountability at utilities: "It's not what you expect, it's what you inspect". Performance-based reporting at the agency and placement level are driving forces for the utility company to maximize recovery dollars and — equally important in today's environment — ensure compliance. This session will give attendees a chance to ask direct questions of industry vendors about technology, reconciliation, agency management and reporting.

Moderator:

Mike Wenzlaff, Manager Business Initiatives & Credit & Collections, BC Hydro

Panelists:

John Kim, Executive Vice President, Principal, Credit Bureau of Canada Collections

Lee Schumacher, Marketing Manager, Equifax

Robert Myers, Director, Global Connect

Francois Sauvageau, President, CTL-WDW

Angela Hawkins, Service Delivery Operations Lead, Accenture

5:00 - 6:00 p.m. :: Networking Reception

Thursday, April 30, 2015

7:45 - 8:15 a.m. :: Continental Breakfast

8:15 - 9:00 a.m. :: Managing Through Change: A Collections Transformation Process

Over a 16 month timeline, Nova Scotia Power instituted significant changes to modernize its over-all collections experience. Through appropriate planning, testing, and multi-stage implementation, the company was able to transform the collections processes while delivering an improved experience to its customers.

NSPI will share in their experiences in identifying opportunities, leveraging technologies, and employing timely communication to manage effective change for both customers and employees.

Richard Stilwell, Senior Supervisor, Payment and Collections, Nova Scotia Power

9:00 - 9:45 a.m. :: Driving Right Collection & Payment Behaviours in Commercial and Industrial Collections

Commercial and industrial (C&I) accounts represent a significant portion of an utility's revenue. Traditionally, greater focus has been on residential account collections. Minimizing C&I collections can have a significant negative impact on bad debt. This session will detail how NB Power has dedicated resources to properly capture and respond to changes in C&I accounts, which has resulted in a positive impact on the management of arrears and improved payment behaviours.

Jean-François Jutras, Supervisor, Customer Analytics, NB Power

9:45 - 10:00 a.m. :: Morning Break

10:00 -10:45 a.m. :: Utility Credit & Collections Roundtable

In this moderated panel discussion, utilities will discuss successes and challenges relating to credit and collections. This roundtable session will also provide attendees and panelists the opportunity to brainstorm ideas for developing new program initiatives specific to utilities.

Moderator:

John Kim, Executive Vice President, Principal, Credit Bureau of Canada Collections

Panelists:

Daren Sanders, Senior Manager, Customer Service, BC Hydro

Steve Antonoglou, Senior Manager Credit and Debt Management, Direct Energy

Jean-François Jutras, Supervisor, Customer Analytics, NB Power

Joseph Dimeo, Collection Manager, Enbridge Gas

10:45 - 11:00 a.m. :: Leave for FortisBC Call Centre Tour

11:30 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. :: FortisBC Call Centre Tour

Conference attendees will engage in a tour of FortisBC's Customer Service Centre, in nearby Burnaby. The Centre went live on January 1, 2012, after the company decided to bring Customer Service back in-house. The Burnaby Customer Service Centre in Burnaby houses approximately 200 employees, consisting of 100 billing representatives and 100 call centre representatives. In addition to touring the facilities, attendees will hear from the leaders who support the FortisBC customer experience. This interactive experience will provide a forum to ask questions related to workforce planning, contact centre management, billing operations and collections. The building is LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certified, which supports the Fortis Value of conducting business with respect and care for our local natural environments.

1:00 - 1:30 p.m. :: Return to Hotel and Conference Adjourns

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