Debt Collection in the Caribbean: Five Items for Your Checklist

2013-12-28 06.39.57The Caribbean is different in many ways. I am not (only) referring to its stunning vegetation, white sandy beaches and its beautiful blue and turquoise waters.

The majority of the nations in the Caribbean have cultural and economic ties with Europe, the US or Latin American mainland (like Mexico, Colombia, and Venezuela) but yet have their own social context, economy and lifestyle.

Also debt collection in the Caribbean has its own dynamics.

Here are five elements I would recommend you to keep on your checklist when you are in a situation where you are trying to collect a debt in the Caribbean.

Languages

There are almost as many languages in the Caribbean as there are nation states! I mention some of the main languages that are important from a business, professional and legal perspective: English, Spanish, French, Dutch, but also Papiamento and Creole languages.It is important to understand that depending on the island or the nation, one of these languages may apply and other might have little to no importance in daily affairs. Sometimes even on one island two languages apply but each in its respective section (an example is Saint Martin, which is divided in a French-speaking and a predominantly English and Dutch-speaking part).

Jurisdiction

Each of the nation states have their own jurisdiction. Some show similarities amongst each other – especially if they share a common historical background or if they are part of the same overseas nation or international organization (like the British Commonwealth). Others differ as much from each other as many of their (former) motherland countries do amongst each other. Some regions are fully independent and have their own jurisdiction; others are an integral part of (European) overseas nations (like Martinique which is a French overseas region and as such even part of the European Union; the British Virgin Islands which are a British overseas territory; or Bonaire which is a special municipality within the country of Netherlands, as opposed to Curaçao, which is an independent nation within the Kingdom of the Netherlands). The jurisdiction has its effect on legal systems and whether or not legal options might be a serious alternative for debt collection.

Possible offshore status

Several of the Caribbean nations are considered so-called Offshore Financial Centers (OFCs). Examples are the British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Curaçao, Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Panama,and increasingly, Belize. This means that your claim may be on a company constituted in a Caribbean nation, whereby a trust company or fiduciary services provider manages that company, but whereby the actual decision makers or owners of the business are overseas. This has its impact on debt collection options and likelihood of success in claiming and enforcing payment, both amicably and legally.

Networking options

Networking in the Caribbean or working with local representatives, agents or lawyers is crucial and beneficial for you if you are looking to collect a debt in the Caribbean. Crucial because of the diversity between the Caribbean nations: as pointed out before, each nation has its own languages and jurisdiction. Beneficial because of the small size of the majority of the countries, which means that it can be relatively easy to reach your debtor quickly and directly (almost everybody knows each other or knows someone who knows…). Also, since Caribbean nations are generally small of size, and local business is heavily dependent on the outside world (financial services and tourism), service providers are international-minded which is helpful for you as an outsider.

Nature of your claim

As always, and the Caribbean is no exception, your chances of success are made or broken by the quality of your claim. Documentation much be in order, it should include signed contracts, order forms, invoices and filed correspondence. Also the size of the claim is important.

In order to successfully assess debt collection in the Caribbean you have to keep the following five elements on your checklist: languages, jurisdiction, possible offshore status, networking options and the nature of your claim.

If you are interested in learning more on the subject of debt collection in the Caribbean please connect on Linked-In or follow me on Twitter.

To participate in the conversation about debt collection in Latin America please join the Linked-In Group Debt Collection Latin America.

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Debt Collection in Mexico: Six Items on the Checklist for Foreigners

141206 Mexico Debt Collection 3Some foreigners who claim unpaid invoices or overdue debt in Mexico may see debt collection in Mexico as complicated, impractical or even impossible.

Others, on the other hand, may underestimate the challenges one may encounter as they compare to the relative easiness and straightforwardness of collecting in their own countries.

The truth lays, as so often, somewhere in the middle. It is perfectly possible to collect debt in Mexico, but it is fundamental to understand the country’s particular context and circumstances for debt collection.

Here is a checklist every foreigner should use as a framework when looking for debt collection in Mexico and to properly manage expectations.

Size of the claim

At the end of the day, it is all a numbers game. How much are you owed and what would be the costs of claiming and collecting it? Collections in Mexico can be expensive (especially if you go legal), time consuming, and from slow to very slow. Make sure you take a realistic approach – from an economic perspective – as to what you may expect financially from debt collection in Mexico, if time and money invested are worth it, and how far you will take it.

Nature of the claim

Are you claiming from a company or an individual? Does your claim consist of overdue invoices based on a commercial transaction or are you looking for repayment of a loan? It can make a huge difference – speaking about chances for success – whether your debtor is a company or an individual, whether you are claiming payment of overdue invoices or an outstanding loan. Legal circumstances and financial situation of your debtor make or break potential success of your case.

Quality of the claim

Key for success of debt collection in Mexico is how “clean” or complete your file is. Contracts, order forms, order and delivery confirmations, invoices, (email) correspondence, contact details of your debtor, address details, age of the outstanding balance, it is all fundamental for the success rates of debt collection in Mexico. If you file is complete, it will no doubt increase likelihood of success. Be realistic in expectations management and as a rule of thumb, just do not waste your money and time on even considering going legal if your file lacks supporting documentation for the claim.

Leverage

Use the leverage that you may have. If your debtor is a company who has taken products or services from you, and there might be a commercial interest to (eventually) continue buying your products or using your services, use that leverage to enforce an amicable solution, like a payment plan with monthly instalments, a settlement payment or otherwise monetary or material compensation. If your debtor is an individual, although probably using leverage might be less straightforward, he or she might want to come back and again buy products or continue education (colleges, universities), or will need a clean credit history. When using your leverage it is important that you show flexibility and approach the situation with a solution-minded attitude.

Network

If you look for debt collection in Mexico, use your network. Directly, if you have your contacts at agencies, law firms or representatives, or indirectly, referrals from business relationships or companies that do business in Mexico, businesses that are operating in the same markets and may have run into similar issues. From personal experience, I cannot stress how important it is to work on the basis of referrals in Mexico, more than in many other countries I am familiar with.

Location

And finally, the location. Mexico is a big country with highly developed urban areas (Mexico City, Monterrey, and Puebla, for example) and on the opposite, professionally speaking, highly remote places. And unfortunately, some areas of Mexico have been hit heavily by political or societal instability. In principle there should be no problems to pursue your debt collection case in Mexico’s urban areas. Trying to collect in more remote areas may be challenging or in worst case, practically impossible. And sadly enough, be aware that some of your debtors (or clients) might be hit by the issues the country is nowadays facing.

When looking for debt collection in Mexico foreigner should have the following on their checklist: size of the claim, nature of the claim, quality of the claim, leverage, network and location.

These aspects determine the chances for succes and are the basis for proper expectation management.

If you are interested in learning more on the subject of debt collection in Mexico please connect on Linked-In or follow me on Twitter.

To participate in the conversation about debt collection in Latin America please join the Linked-In Group Debt Collection Latin America.

Debt Collection for Trust & Fiduciary Services: Five Aspects to Prevent Overdue Accounts

140827 blog amicable collections 7Collecting in trust and fiduciary services can be a complicated matter. Mobility of clients, liability issues, contracts management, and impact of jurisdictions are amongst the reasons.

Below I point out five aspects to focus on, which will help prevent overdue accounts in the trust and fiduciary services sector and will eventually decrease write offs.

Due diligence and compliance

Make sure that it is clear to you, as the service provider, who the ultimate beneficial owner (“UBO”) of the client company actually is. Which are his or her commercial and legal records, what is his or her domestic business about, and what is the size of the business.

Contract management

Make sure that the management agreement (in combination with possibly a letter of indemnity) for the company is clear on liability on the UBO’s side for overdue invoices and costs, and that it is set out that you will charge interest and collection fees to the beneficial owner as guarantor.

Relationship management

In the commercial relationship, you should make your interest matter. At all times build up a personal relationship with the client directly, even if the deal is brought to you by an intermediary. You should know contact details like domicile, email, telephone, cell phone and Skype. Update contact info constantly.

Receivables management

Don’t wait too long with taking action if a client company stops paying invoices. Experience has learned it will only get worse. If a client shows bad payment behavior, ask if and were possible for a costs and expenses advance before carrying out further work for the client company and its UBO.

Jurisdiction

Please be aware of the jurisdiction your client is in and adjust your contract management and receivables management accordingly. There can be huge differences between countries as to the effectiveness of a contract. In addition, some countries may be subject to foreign currency exchange rate restrictions which may complicate payments. Other countries have laws that differ substantially for countries which typically host trust and fiduciary services providers.

While acknowledging the difficulties in collecting in the trust and fiduciary services sector, if the focus is on, and one combines efforts on, due diligence and compliance, contract management, relationship management, receivables management and jurisdiction, the trust and fiduciary services provider may prevent as much as possible overdue accounts, and at the long run decrease write offs.

If you are interested in learning more on the subject of debt collection for the fiduciary service sector please connect on Linked-In or follow me on Twitter.

To participate in the conversation about debt collection in Latin America and the Caribbean please join the Linked-In Group Debt Collection Latin America.