The Financial Brand’s Jim Marous, host of the Banking Transformed podcast, recently spoke with two leaders who have partnered to reimagine collections as an avenue to improve consumers’ financial health.
Rochelle Gorey brings decades of expertise around community development, foreclosure intervention and financial literacy. As CEO of fintech startup SpringFour, she’s dedicated to connecting struggling consumers to resources that reduce hardship and build financial resilience.
Anuj Vohra is an accomplished banking executive who has led risk management and collections groups for over 25 years. His teams have delivered standout operational and strategic results. Currently Head of Collections for North America at BMO Financial, he is passionate about transforming traditional notions of collections via a financial health mindset.
In this candid discussion, they explore the origins of their unique collaboration aimed at transforming traditional notions of collections.
SpringFour’s Mission to Connect People with Help
Q: SpringFour has an intriguing mission. What motivated you to start the company — and what problem does it aim to solve?
Rochelle Gorey: I’ve spent my career in financial services, often partnering banks with community groups around issues like foreclosure intervention. In the early 2000s, we saw many families losing their homes without knowing where to turn for help despite available assistance programs.
I had the idea for SpringFour to leverage technology to connect people facing financial hardship with relevant, vetted nonprofit and government resources. The goal was to provide a conduit to address the root challenges behind someone’s delinquency and get them back on track.
There was a real lack of awareness of the options out there, combined with a lack of personalized guidance on navigating assistance. We set out to solve those issues through technology and have been steadily realizing that mission for over 15 years now.
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Q: How does the SpringFour technology work?
Gorey: We start by understanding the diverse reasons people fall behind on payments. Over the years, we’ve compiled a database of over 23,000 verified resources across 30 spending categories like food, healthcare, housing, transportation and more.
Our call center tool then arms agents with tailored solutions to assist customers based on their unique situation. By integrating natively into collections platforms, it surfaces targeted programs aligned to that individual’s needs in real-time during calls.
We also have digital products allowing people to independently search for relevant assistance programs they may qualify for based on their profile. These provide self-service options through online banking, mobile apps, chatbots and more.
The unifying technology leverages data analytics to match individuals facing hardship with the most relevant nonprofit and government assistance available for their circumstances and eligibility. This allows us to provide tangible help, reducing expenses so they can regain financial stability.
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An Unconventional Partnership with an Unlikely Fintech
Q: BMO is one of SpringFour’s longest-standing bank partners. What made you want to work with a small fintech startup rather than more traditional solutions?
Anuj Vohra: Our multi-year relationship with SpringFour emerged from BMO’s Women in Fintech Program, one of North America’s largest accelerator initiatives focused on women-led startups.
When collections teams engage with customers facing financial hardship, we encounter a diverse spectrum of challenges — job loss, medical issues and caregiving responsibilities.
We realized we could provide solutions to resolve debts owed to BMO but couldn’t fully address many root causes for broader financial struggles. SpringFour gave us a holistic way to help clients progress financially, not just collect payments.
“There was a real lack of awareness of the options out there, combined with a lack of personalized guidance on navigating assistance.”
— Rochelle Gorey, SpringFour
For our team, having tools to point people to food banks, employment opportunities, utility assistance, and other social resources they qualify for but may be unaware of is incredibly rewarding. It provides so much more meaning than the transactional nature of our past role.
Partnering with an innovative fintech like SpringFour also accelerated our capabilities rapidly in an area in which we frankly lacked experience. Fintechs bring nimble development approaches, flexible modern architectures and laser focus that fast-track outcomes.
Delivering Measurable Business and Social Benefits
Q: What impact have you seen since partnering with SpringFour?
Vohra: The results have been remarkable on multiple fronts. We’ve referred over 800,000 customers to SpringFour resources, with food bank assistance being one of the most utilized options.
Clients who accept help have fewer future delinquencies, defaults and losses. And we’ve quantified multi-million-dollar savings from avoided losses for both consumers and BMO.
But some of the most valuable benefits are less tangible. When we proactively stand by customers during difficult times, they remember us when things improve and direct more business our way.
No marketing budget could ever buy the loyalty earned through showing genuine empathy and care in moments of need.
Our workforce also feels tremendous pride knowing they’re now providing real solutions beyond collecting payments. Contact center roles have higher engagement and retention as staff feel they can make a meaningful difference in people’s lives.
Q: How did the partnership actually come together and integrate with operations?
Vohra: SpringFour’s technology was incredibly quick and easy to adopt. It naturally fits into our collections processes and systems with minimal training needed. Within the first month alone, we had made over 1,000 referrals. Soon, it was just a standard, embedded part of our engagement model.
When Covid hit, usage spiked over 500% almost overnight as so many required assistance for the first time. But after five years, over 90% of our agents now enthusiastically offer SpringFour resources because they’ve seen firsthand how it helps them provide genuine support in vulnerable moments.
We’ve also tailored the program over time as we gained experience. For instance, some clients would accept referrals but never act on them.
We learned the importance of confirming eligibility in real time and proactively scheduling appointments to drive activation. This evolution comes from listening and continuously improving.
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Evolving Mindsets: From Collections to Financial Health
Q: What lessons has this collaboration taught about balancing business goals and social impact?
Gorey: Too often, collections focus narrowly on recouping owed funds in any way possible. We believe your customers’ financial well-being should ultimately take priority. The revenue will follow. Helping people before, during and after debt issues arise also builds tremendous trust and loyalty.
Progressive institutions recognize that business and social impact work in harmony, not opposition. Supporting customer financial health produces a win-win for consumers, employees shareholders and communities. But it starts with leaders embracing empathy-driven collections strategies.
Q: How do you see AI and machine learning enhancing these capabilities going forward?
Gorey: There’s understandable excitement about emerging technologies like AI and machine learning. However, we must be careful not to abandon the irreplaceable human connection and empathy in collection roles.
The ideal approach blends AI’s ability to analyze data and surface hyper-personalized recommendations with human agents who can validate eligibility and provide emotional support.
Technology should enhance teams with more tailored options — not attempt to automate away compassion.
Regardless of economic cycles, some customers will face financial hardship. Having an institutional commitment to assist people across the full financial journey sensibly balances business sustainability with social impact. But solutions shouldn’t lose sight of the humanity behind each number.
SpringFour’s Straightforward Implementation
Q: For a bank looking to partner with SpringFour, what does the implementation process entail?
Gorey: One of the biggest differentiators for SpringFour is how fast and frictionless it is for financial institutions to adopt. We can typically go live in less than 30 days because our platform integrates seamlessly into existing collections systems and workflows.
Very little training is required since our solution surfaces tailored, clickable referrals within regular workflows. We work closely with compliance teams during onboarding to ensure we meet all vetting needs upfront.
“We can typically go live in less than 30 days.”
— Rochelle Gorey, SpringFour
Our long track record and roster of major bank clients also provide confidence we are a trusted, reliable partner. We aim to make connecting your customers with financial help as turnkey as possible.
Q: How could SpringFour resources help banks support their own staff facing financial challenges?
Vohra: That’s an excellent point. Every financial institution has employees who encounter money issues or stress at times —often quietly struggling in isolation.
We’ve embedded SpringFour program links and descriptions right within BMO’s internal employee portals and human resources sites. That way, people can self-serve to find help without judgment or needing to disclose to others.
We also routinely promote SpringFour through internal newsletters and employee events. Just making assistance easily discoverable for staff facing hardship delivers tremendous value and peace of mind. Leadership must foster a culture where seeking help is encouraged, not stigmatized.
Implementing Change Starts with Culture and Mindset
Q: What advice would you give other financial institutions looking to rethink their collections approach?
Vohra: Change the mindset that collections are solely about recouping owed funds. Become passionate problem solvers, not payment collectors. Helping clients resolve root challenges, not just the immediate debt, cement loyalty and mutual benefit.
Partners like SpringFour can expand capabilities rapidly. But technology alone isn’t the answer. Leadership must instill an empathy-based culture focused on advancing clients’ financial health — the rest follows.
With the right philosophy and innovative partners, collections can positively transform lives in moments of vulnerability. But it takes courage to reimagine possibilities beyond the status quo. Incremental change is still progress.
Justin Estes is an award-winning writer, strategist, and financial marketing expert with expertise in banking, investments, and fintech. His clients include the NYSE, Franklin Templeton, Credit Karma, Citi and, UBS, and his work has appeared in Forbes, Barrons and ThinkAdvisor as well as The Financial Brand.