When you’re looking ahead to a new unclaimed property reporting cycle, it’s important to identify some of the aspects of reporting that haven’t gone so well in past cycles. Due diligence often falls into this area, because it can be challenging to sort through varying requirements of multiple states and ensure all steps of the due diligence process are carried out accurately.With little concentrated effort, you and your team can probably come up with solutions to streamline due diligence processes—and even avoid triggering future issues. Paying attention to the process now may take a little time and require a meeting or two, but the preemptive effort now will pay off later in less stress, better accuracy, better records in the event your company is audited, and potentially lower liabilities.
Due diligence for fall reporting in particular can be more demanding than for summer or spring reporting cycles. For most corporations and banks, fall reporting contains a majority of the states, so process requirements are much more demanding. Unclaimed property personnel must manage greater printing, mailing, email and phone calls — both inquiries and responses. Although there is a longer break between summer and fall reporting deadlines than between fall and spring deadlines, many staff members are on vacation before the fall cycle, which can make report processing more challenging.
Challenges of Unclaimed Property Due Diligence
Some of the most challenging due-diligence-related reporting issues fall into these categories:
- Keeping up with varying state time thresholds triggering due diligence
- Getting the timing of mailing, responding and reporting correct
- Meeting specific wording requirements of different jurisdictions
- Preventing and dealing with fraudulent responses
- Owners can misunderstand efforts to reunite them with their property
Of course, the most frustrating part of due diligence activities may be the fact that two-thirds of mailed attempts to contact owners typically are unsuccessful.
The best plan of action is to set processes ahead of time—processes that can be followed no matter what reporting cycle is coming up. Systematizing the processes will help remove questions and glitches that can slow down and confuse reporting preparation.
In general, it’s important to begin the work of gathering contact information long before the due diligence process is begun. MarketSphere works with clients in a consultative capacity, providing assessment, remediation and planning support to ensure that processes are as smooth as possible when stale dated property is ready to be processed.
Due Diligence Tips
In light of the challenges listed above, we offer the following pre-reporting tips to help your due diligence processes go more smoothly.
- Understand the underlying causes of unclaimed property. In other words, know where your unclaimed property is in the company and understand in detail how it usually comes to be stale dated. MarketSphere specializes in helping companies determine why their levels of unclaimed property are not lower. We help identify potential stale-dated accounts, find owners and put processes into place to help avoid property becoming stale dated.
- Ensure that your records are as clean and accurate as possible to make it easier to find unclaimed property, contact owners and document resolution of accounts for future reference. This will also help avoid fraud, because it will be clearer when a claim is fraudulent. This effort should begin with meticulous set up of owner accounts from the beginning.
- Go back to the last cycle and consult notes taken during debriefing. What went wrong and what went right with due diligence? Learn something from each reporting cycle, and make sure you document it for reference next time.
- Prepare a due diligence handbook, so your team can easily hook into the process each reporting cycle, rather than having to reinvent the wheel. This also helps bring new employees up to speed when there is staff turnover.
- To find as many missing property owners as possible, run your records through NCOA. An information agent can provide even better results. MarketSphere has access to databases that make it easier to find the best addresses for both individuals and corporations.
For more tips to help your team get through next cycle’s due diligence challenges, check out these resources:
To help untrusting owners understand you are there to help them: http://www.unclaimedpropertyspecialists.com/how-to-tame-a-wild-owner-0
Skills needed for effective due diligence:
To reduce the impact of unclaimed property, including due diligence, upon your corporation:
Positive customer service through due diligence:
To set up a positive unclaimed property processing program: