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Symend, an engagement platform targeting financially at-risk customers, today announced that it closed a $43 million extension to its series B round, which it says will be put toward expansion in the Asia-Pacific, Latin America, Europe, Middle East, and Africa markets. The series B+, which was led by Inovia Capital with participation from new and existing investors, brings the company’s total funding to date to over $100 million.
A June 2020 survey Symend conducted found that 28% of Americans were late on bills due to the pandemic. But even before the pandemic, the U.S. had a delinquent debt problem. A 2016 whitepaper from the Association of Credit and Collection Professionals International found that debt rose from $150 billion to over $600 billion in the previous five years. During the same timeframe, collection agencies — who take between 20% to 50% of money recovered — had an annual success rate of 7%.
Symend’s products employ AI and machine learning to automate processes around debt resolution for telcos, banks, and utilities. CEO Hanif Joshaghani cofounded Calgary, Canada-based Symend in 2016, along with chief strategist and chief marketing officer Tiffany Kaminsky, with the goal of ensuring that customers who’ve fallen behind on bills are treated with empathy.
Symend’s cofounders say they’ve personally experienced the negative impact of debt on both themselves and family. Joshaghani grew up in a household frequently targeted by calls from debt collectors. And as a young adult, Kaminksi ran into trouble with collections with her first credit card.
“[W]e are seeing a massive uptick in enterprises that are committed to investing in solutions that will ensure they are better prepared for the future, better the lives of their customers, and drive better business results for their core operations during both good and challenging times,” Joshaghani said in a statement. “By leading with empathy, Symend not only empowers customers to resolve past due bills before they reach collections but, over time, positively impacts behavior to guide customers out of the negative cycle of debt and increase overall financial wellness.”
Symend combines behavioral science and analytics to help service providers and financial institutions develop individualized consumer debt remediation programs. With workflow and campaign automation tools, managers can engage with customers at points during recovery that might drive the biggest impact with the least amount of friction.
Symend’s behavioral scientists develop flows that treat past-due customers in alignment with in-house systems and brand standards, incorporating risk and behavioral data into iterative customer segmentation. Symend claims to optimize its toolkits with experimental testing and scientific validation and to adjust strategies based on what’s working. Beyond this, it takes into account compliance and regulatory requirements in the regions where it operates.
On the data science side, Symend enhances existing customer data with the goal of increasing customer engagements, learning from behaviors with insights from cross-industry benchmarks. It also taps performance data and machine learning to inform future campaign strategies, with fast testing of multiple variables to drive higher resolution rates.
It’s up to Symend’s clients to choose which tactics they want to use for all or a portion of their delinquent customers. For example, they can configure the platform to lean on traditional outreach methods to create payment plans and limited-time payment discounts. Or they can connect at-risk customers with financial planning tools and resources and credit rehabilitation platforms.
Symend says it has processed 10 million customers across North America and that its platform has helped clients, which include two-thirds of the major telecommunications providers in North America, achieve 5 to 15 times in-year return on investment. Moreover, the company says its customers on average see increased self-resolution rates and are able to reduce third-party collections costs and lower call volumes.
“We are proud of the positive role that Symend has been able to play throughout the global pandemic, starting with consumers,” Joshaghani added. “By engaging customers with empathetic communications, self-serve tools and flexible repayment options, Symend has helped leading enterprises provide customers with a positive experience in an otherwise highly uncertain and stressful time.”
Symend has offices in Toronto and Denver, in addition to its Calgary headquarters. After growing from 50 people to over 250 in 2020, the company expects to double in size in 2021.
“We are big believers in Symend’s mission to add lasting value to enterprises, by helping their customers avoid collections. Their approach is differentiated and effective because it combines behavioral science and data science to drive a personalized approach for each customer,” Inovia Capital partner Dennis Kavelman said in a statement.
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