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‘A client called me the grim reaper before!’ Day in the life of a bank repossession officer

“[…] Borrowers are aware that repossession is possible if payments are defaulted over an extensive period of time with no attempt or guarantee of repayment. It’s noted in the contract signed when applying for a vehicle loan. Yet, if it happens, clients feel targeted and think that I am personally attacking them or revelling in their inability to settle their debts. 

“A client has called me the grim reaper before. Another time, while asking a client when he would be able to settle, he responded: ‘But a-a, you getting on like is you I owing money!’…”

Wired868 highlights the day-to-day lives of everyday Trinbagonians in our ongoing series entitled: ‘A day in the life…’ Today, we speak with a 24-year-old bank repossession officer:

Photo: A woman has her vehicle repossessed by the bank.
(Copyright Getty Images)

How long have you been in this role? Did you choose it or did it choose you?

It’s approximately two years that I have been in this role [while] this August would mark my five-year anniversary as an employee within the banking sector. I would say I chose this position; I viewed it as a means of personal development.

Can you briefly describe the bank repossession process?

The repossession stage is the final one, so if an account reaches my desk this confirms that all other collection efforts had been previously attempted. Accounts that are transferred to the repossession queue must be actioned by the repossession officer. If all conditions for repossession have been met, then we ensure all necessary documentation is on file so that we may proceed with the process. 

A notice is sent to the default client in the form of an official bank issued correspondence. This letter informs them of the status of their account inclusive of the outstanding balance. Bailiffs are then instructed by the bank to locate the vehicles in question, so as to proceed with legally repossessing it as the bank’s property. The default clients are then notified when the vehicles have been repossessed. 

If the customer is unable to or refuses to satisfy our requirements for release of the vehicle, the vehicle is then prepped for marketing and sale. At this point, we await a bidder and when a bid is received, the offer is considered and further accepted or denied.

The bids are the bank’s opportunity to recover funds for the outstanding debt. After the vehicle is sold, it is recorded as a sale for the officer that handled the account, which then contributes to your annual target.

Photo: A bank repossession officer phones a customer.

What are your annual targets? What happens if you do not meet these targets?

Targets differ every fiscal [year]. Most times, targets increase as management pushes you to do more every year. This fiscal my target is 85 recoveries and I have met half thus far.

Fortunately, since in this role, I have always met my targets. So I would not have personally experienced the outcome of failure to do so. However, from my understanding, your direct manager gets involved [and] a discussion is held with the officer to uncover reasons for your shortcomings, and then an action plan is formulated to help you improve for the succeeding fiscal.

What is your typical day like? 

Prior to the current pandemic, each day was more physically draining than it is now. I live in Point Fortin and my job is in Chaguanas, so on weekdays I would have to get up by five in the morning just to prepare for my journey to work. 

Each day, it would take me two hours—if there’s little to no traffic—via three modes of transportation, which usually took about two hours. I usually arrived at work 30 minutes before my actual workday begins. I’m a student at UTT, so I use my free time to study in the lounge.

When the pandemic hit, our unit was given the option to work from home. While more convenient, working from home encouraged me to work extensive periods, which has proven to be unhealthy at times. I can no longer physically interact with my colleagues. However, I must admit that I adapted a more focused demeanour, as my home environment is generally quiet and very private.

Image: The funny side of working from home.

My job is in a fast-paced environment so everything I do within my workday is scheduled. Most days, I have breakfast at eight, lunch at noon, and then my workday ends at five. On heavier days, I sometimes skip lunch to complete my tasks. Then there are days when I choose to work after hours to finish urgent tasks.

Most days, I would monitor accounts that have been transferred to the repossession queue so I can determine the next course of action. Some of these actions include contacting customers via phone, email or litigators. I also engage with a lot of third-party agent and colleagues via Skype as I manage accounts from other Caribbean islands. 

It’s difficult at times because of the time-zone differences. The latter part of my day is used to complete a host of administrative tasks related to my desk, such as paying third-party invoices, completing sales reports, completing repossession orders and creating bidding spreadsheets. 

How has the Covid-19 pandemic affected your life?

For me, I would say the fact that I am unable to go out to different places to kick back and relax, as I was accustomed to… Being home has encouraged me to do and learn more, though. Recently, I started learning tasks outside of my purview but within my unit.

Image: A satirical take on banks.
(Copyright Hedgeye)

What is most challenging about your job? 

One challenge is the fact that all situations are different, so a lot of time is spent analysing and asking clients personal questions about their financial situations so as to determine the best solution for them. Sometimes, clients aren’t honest so it makes the overall process much more difficult than it needs to be. 

The most challenging thing though is the common misconceptions about my job. Borrowers are aware that repossession is possible if payments are defaulted over an extensive period of time with no attempt or guarantee of repayment. It’s noted in the contract signed when applying for a vehicle loan. Yet, if it happens, clients feel targeted and think that I am personally attacking them or revelling in their inability to settle their debts. 

A client has called me the grim reaper before. Another time, while asking a client when he would be able to settle, he responded: ‘But a-a, you getting on like is you I owing money!’ 

Repossession officers get a bad rep. I believe there is a global stigma against collection units and their efforts, especially in the Caribbean.

What is rewarding about your job?

Knowing that my professional advice to a client can help them out of further financial burden warms my heart. Additionally, the Covid-19 pandemic placed many clients under financial strain; and knowing that I assisted clients by deferring loan payments until the world started moving again was a reward in itself for me. 

Another thing that is rewarding about my job would be my colleagues and manager. I feel privileged having the opportunity to work with such wonderful people. I often hear stories about bad managers and difficult co-workers. I am grateful to not have experienced any of that. When the pressures of this job gets to me, I source comfort in my colleagues and manager whom always provide motivation and support.

Photo: A woman works remotely.
(via Atlanta Black Star)

Do you see a future as a repossession officer? What advice do you have for persons who aspire to be in that job?

I enjoy what I do but I’m always open to self-development. I am not sure where the future will lead but I am ready to see what’s in store for me.

To the aspiring bank repossession officer, I would say be focused, transparent and curious. Put your clients first and serve with pride, without neglecting the bank’s policies and protocols that you should be guided by. 

About Rheann Bernard

Rheann Bernard
Rheann Bernard is an intern at Wired868 completing her final year at Costaatt as a BA Mass Communication major. She enjoys reading, music and visiting new restaurants and has a passion for cocktail beverages.

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4 comments

  1. Never had my car taken back by the bank but I was def one of the people screaming “alyuh too wicked” when i heard it happen to a friend. This story changed my perspective… just a little bit lol

  2. This was a fascinating read. Hope to never have to meet you, lol.

  3. Earl Best

    I suspect Wired868 edited out your last question, not so?

    Am I right in thinking you asked the officer if he had an outside woman? How could you possibly have resisted the urge?