KeepUP™ Blog

2/26/15 9:45 AM

Unclaimed Property Records Brush-Up

by Greg VerMulm

unclaimed-property-recordkeeping.pngAfter preparing and submitting complex unclaimed property reports, it’s normal to think back on your performance and feel happy with some things and not so happy with other things. Why not formalize those thoughts with a “debriefing” of your last reporting cycle? It could lead to improvements during the next cycle that save time, save money and potentially reduce future exposure and liabilities.

In fact, at MarketSphere, we believe good records management is one of the most important principles for efficiently and effectively administering unclaimed property functions. (Read more about this in MarketSphere’s e-book, “The Invisible Plan: Navigating & Negotiating Unclaimed Property for Least Impact.”) Behind every unclaimed property function, there is data in the form of owner, property and account records.

Handling abandoned and unclaimed property records inefficiently can lead to:

  • Excessive expenditures of time and money
  • A lack of focus on more important business functions
  • Lost opportunities to find and reactivate owners and property
  • Increased penalties, interest and past-due assessments when accounts are unresolved
  • Increased likelihood of audit when records issues draw the attention of auditors
  • Negative public assessments that decrease goodwill toward your organization

To avoid these problems and effectively manage data and the records that contain it, unclaimed property professionals must establish and faithfully use smart records policies and processes. The better you can fine-tune records management activities, the tighter your policies and processes will be and the better they will support your ultimate goals for unclaimed property within your organization.

The improved records management policies and processes you put in place for unclaimed property can even have positive effects on other departments and business functions within your organization

The steps of successful unclaimed property records remediation

Every unclaimed property holder’s operation is different. However, we have identified a number of universal needs and action steps that can help holders manage records for better results. In general, effective unclaimed property processing requires meticulous attention to detail and determination to both understand and find ways to modify your organization’s records management habits.

You could be the one who helps clarify the need for records improvement and identify your team’s next steps. Start with the basics:

  1. Locate all unclaimed property in your organization and determine how these property records are being organized and reconciled. Don’t overlook properties that are not obvious or are generated automatically.
  2. Identify gaps, errors and slowdowns in your system. Determine the root causes of these issues so you can solve the problems proactively at their origins instead of reacting to them repeatedly every time a reporting cycle begins. 
  3. Work with appropriate personnel to brainstorm effective ways you could fill these gaps, correct errors and speed up processes. Identify a senior management advocate who can help you obtain the support and funding you will need to carry out your plan.
  4. Take steps as a team to put the people, advisors, technology and other resources in place to improve your unclaimed property business functions.
  5. Create a written plan and project calendar. Use it throughout your team as a framework for taking action. Set time frames for these improvements that put you in a better position to process unclaimed property during the spring cycle. 

Educate yourself and keep your eye on the unclaimed property goal

As you go through this records improvement process, take time to benchmark best practices from other holders, research options through industry associations and consult with professional unclaimed property advisors.

Always keep your eye on the goal: a more efficient and effective unclaimed property program that reduces your exposure and potential liability. Ultimately, after an unclaimed property records brush up, you’ll know you have done a great job when you’re unclaimed property activities go so smoothly people stop noticing your work and begin to take it for granted.

Topics: Reporting