Executive Corner: An Interview with VP Marian Sangalang

Any given day, Vice President Marian Sangalang can be found helping a coworker, developing software, or delivering speeches across the globe. Passionate about her work, the ARM industry, and her family, Mrs. Sangalang is a trailblazer. Find out more about her role within The Bureaus and her rise through the industry in our Executive Corner interview.

Q: Tell a little bit about your career path and how you ended up at The Bureaus.

Mrs. Sangalang: At age 18, I was a very young single mom living in South Carolina. I needed a job, so I became a bill collector. The owner of that agency taught me how to collect debt. At that time in South Carolina, there was no legal avenue when trying to collect debt from a consumer, but the owner was a huge proponent of payment arrangements. He taught me how to be an ethical bill collector and set up a budget. After 3-4 years, I moved to Peoria, Illinois, and became a General Manager for Credit Bureau Accounts. They transferred me to Jacksonville, Illinois and it was there that I learned about affidavits through our primary client, the Illinois Department of Revenue. I wound up doing court appearances on behalf of the Department and I learned an incredible amount of information. After time, I moved to Evanston, Illinois and left management to focus on being a mom. That’s when I came to work for The Bureaus as a Collector. I worked my way up from Collector to Marketing, Collections Manager, Internal Strategic Planning, and my current position as Vice President. I just celebrated my 22nd anniversary with the company in August. I love my job. Our owner has afforded me the opportunity to learn everything. I even met my husband, Aristotle, here 22 years ago.

Q: Tell about your position within The Bureaus- what are the core components?

Mrs. Sangalang: I manage everything relating to systems, data, and payment posting. I also manage our issuer interfaces and our relationships with the larger banks. That’s almost a full time job in and of itself. Those relationships are a very key piece of what I do here at The Bureaus, Inc.

Q: You often speak at conferences around the country (and the world), what are you most passionate about within the industry?

 Mrs. Sangalang: For me, passion comes from something that I know. A topic I am very passionate about is cyber security. It affects so much of our industry. We are in charge of millions and millions of accounts that hold immense amounts of information. Cyber security affects every bit of that. I’m also passionate about the number of women who have moved into a decision-making role within the ARM industry. In the last three years, that number has nearly doubled. Historically, this has been a predominantly male influenced industry. As a blonde haired, green-eyed woman from the South, it was a struggle. You couldn’t be wrong and you had to know your stuff. These women currently breaking through are passionate and have worked hard. It’s a new order within our industry. I see the women coming up through the ranks and it’s wonderful.

Q: What do you like most about your job?

 Mrs. Sangalang: I love everything about my job. We are a smaller company but a very large debt buyer so that means that I wear many hats. Sometimes it’s difficult to go from broken server to broken mouse, but it keeps every day from being boring. I just managed the installation of a new phone system in The Bureaus and it’s going very well. I like data, but I also enjoy troubleshooting, finding things that are not right or could be better, and making programs better. I truly enjoy everything I do at work; as with anything, some days are better than others and that’s OK.

Q: Who depends on you at The Bureaus? Who do you depend on?

 Mrs. Sangalang: Here at The Bureaus, we all depend on each other and we work closely together. Each person is like a spoke in a wheel. Our key employees have each been here over 10 years. Our turnover rate is extremely low. We’ve made some changes in our hiring process and our retention rate averages 11 years. We added the Rainmaker Assessment to our hiring process. The Bureaus, Inc. requires all Service Providers (agencies and law firms) and potential employees to take the assessment to see if they are a good match for our company’s culture and our employees. We focus very much on people who strive for results. The assessment tells us if you are a good fit for our culture. It’s been great for the way we do business.

Q: What makes The Bureaus distinct from the rest of the businesses in the ARM industry?

 Mrs. Sangalang: We have a very different philosophy on how we approach the collection of accounts. The Bureaus believes that bad things happen to good people and that working together to find a solution is in everyone’s best interest. When we changed our business model in 2008 and started outsourcing the majority of our placements, it was challenging to find agencies who were compatible with our philosophy. A lot of agencies were pushed to collect as hard and fast as they could, while our approach is to set up payment arrangements rather than go straight to litigation. Ultimately, the agencies who stuck with us realized that we were correct. We like to give the consumer every opportunity to pay the debt before considering legal action. That’s one thing that makes us different from others in our industry. It works for us.

Q: From who or what do you draw inspiration? Who would you consider a role model?

 Mrs. Sangalang: I have so many people who have made a difference in my life, but I wouldn’t consider them role models or any one person a particular inspiration to me. When I started in this industry, I was 18 and a single parent trying to do the best I could. I was given opportunities over the years by a few good men in our industry. During my early career in this industry (the 80’s and early 90’s), women were not in high level positions within the companies I worked for, so we were all working extra hard to be the best in an environment that simply wasn’t ready for us. I am an analytical, out of the box thinker and that allowed me to work myself to where I am. For me, my industry colleagues (men and women) who have sacrificed and worked hard to achieve their goals- those are the people who inspire me, every day. Unless debt collection is your family business, no one grows up wanting to be a bill collector. We all just wound up here. You have to have passion for what you do; I found that passion in this industry.

Q: What are you most proud of or what is your biggest success?

 Mrs. Sangalang: I am most proud of my daughter. She is just amazing and she is my biggest success. We grew up together and life could have taken a different turn. I couldn’t be prouder of the woman she is.

Q: What was the best piece of advice you have received?

 Mrs. Sangalang: Just do the right thing, always. And be kind to others as you have no idea what battles they are fighting. These apply to so many facets of life. Just be a good person. I truly believe that.

Q: Lastly, what is the best book you’ve read this year?

Mrs. Sangalang:  John G. Miller’s QBQ! The Question Behind the Question: A Hands-on Tool for Practicing Personal Accountability at Work and in Life is an outstanding book that I love. The Bureaus requires all of our new employees to read it on their very first day at work. It’s a fast read about practicing personal accountability in your work and life. My husband introduced this book to me and our organization- it’s all about personal accountability.

About Marian Sangalang

Marian Sangalang, Vice President at The Bureaus, Inc., is a Master Servicer and Certified Receivables Compliance Professional (CRCP). Mrs. Sangalang manages data analysis and information technology systems for The Bureaus. She has pioneered many popular industry software suites and works closely with developers to optimize the products for business use. In 2013, Marian Sangalang received the Ambassadors Award for her work with Interactive Intelligence on the Latitude software suite. She currently serves as President-Elect for RMA International.

About The Bureaus, Inc.

The Bureaus, Inc. is a master servicer for accounts receivable portfolios. The Bureaus combines cutting-edge technology, internally developed proprietary tools, and technological strategies with data mining capabilities to identify opportunities not usually found by other asset management firms. The Bureaus, Inc. was founded in 1928 and is headquartered in Northbrook, Illinois.