It is telling indeed that Household International, one of the leading marketers of consumer credit, has proclaimed 1996 "the year of the collector."
During the course of the year, an industry frenzy to get money out the door has given way to a rush to make sure the money will come back.
Consumer lenders of all stripes are tightening underwriting standards, bolstering collection efforts, and experimenting with technology designed to head off problems.
This supplement to the American Banker examines the heightened interest in consumer credit quality. On this page, leading economist Lacy Hunt delves into the forces that have pushed credit quality to the fore. The package goes on to explore the responses of a host of players - from Household and American Express to Golden 1 Credit Union, from bond raters and Fed governors to pioneers of artificial intelligence.
Consumer credit quality may never become a full-blown crisis, as some have predicted. But that does not reduce the topic's importance. After all, a staggering 1.1 million Americans are expected to file for bankruptcy this year, and credit card delinquencies are already runnning at record levels. And that's during an economic expansion.
More fundamentally, it can never hurt lenders, in good times or bad, to reflect on the task of getting back the money they are owed. This supplement is intended to afford just such an opportunity.