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3/24/16 11:10 AM

Professional Development for Abandoned & Unclaimed Property Staff

by Greg VerMulm

continuing-ed-for-unclaimed-property-pros.pngThe first question in your mind on this topic may be, “Is it really necessary to provide professional development for unclaimed property personnel?” It is, after all, only one of many business functions managed by your business, legal and finance offices. Employees are rarely hired specifically to become unclaimed property specialists within holder organizations. Even if those on the front lines of unclaimed property understand its complexity and potential risks, it can be difficult to explain to leadership. Consequently, unclaimed property personnel are often left to deal with escheatment on their own, with no outside support.

If decision-makers can be persuaded of the need to provide permission and resources for education, it is possible to improve knowledge and expertise about unclaimed property. But you won’t find many classes covering this topic other than as a passing mention.

Unclaimed property professional development is very much a grassroots kind of education. The knowledge needed includes: up-to-date information and understanding of statutes in the various jurisdictions, ability to identify unclaimed property in all sectors of the business, management of accounting records to simplify and streamline processes, alignment of unclaimed property needs from disparate departments, and administration of due diligence and reporting protocols.

The sources of information? Mostly informal, mostly fragmentary, always changing. Some industry courses are beginning to show up based on workshops from the few organizations devoted to unclaimed property. Individual industries with unique unclaimed property needs sometimes offer workshops at annual association meetings.

To learn about unclaimed property, personnel must be resourceful, perseverant and … maybe even a little creative to put all the pieces together.

Sources of unclaimed property education

If unclaimed property education is needed for your staff, put together your own educational course using sources listed below. It doesn’t hurt to cross train and formalize the educational process for new employees. It’s best to identify specific needs first. Unclaimed property is different for every company. If no one on staff is able to do this, look for assistance from a professional unclaimed property advocate.

Colleagues and experts: Because keeping up with unclaimed property statutes, technology and protocols can be extremely challenging, the best sources of information are sometimes colleagues or experts at other companies who are willing to share what they’re learning in the trenches. They may be reluctant to share if their company has not been reporting properly.

State unclaimed property websites: Some states are better than others at collecting and articulating advice for holder organizations. A careful survey of some of the most active unclaimed property states can pull most of the pieces together for staff. Always remember things can change at any time and every state is different. States with helpful holder materials include Texas, Delaware and California.

Industry workshops: Annual meetings of the Unclaimed Property Professionals Organization (UPPO) include a wide variety of workshops on many subjects. For more information, visit www.UPPO.org. The National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA) is an organization for state administrators of unclaimed property. However, this organization offers occasional presentations at industry conferences. Check your specific industry’s associations to see if they might offer educational opportunities.

Holder advocate websites: Professional unclaimed property service organizations often post educational materials on their websites. MarketSphere focuses specifically on offering this free service to all personnel and leaders who find themselves dealing with unclaimed property. Our Knowledge Vault contains a wide variety of materials for both novice and experienced unclaimed property staff, ranging from blogs, white papers and e-books to a regular newsletter subscription.

Unclaimed property professional forums: Sometimes the best way to get the right information is simply to ask. UPPO offers an online forum, for example, to which members can post questions and receive fast answers from fellow members. Look for other forums on similar websites. Ask unclaimed property questions on general financial forums or those dedicated to your specific industry.

General accounting and tax reporting education: Even if general education courses in accounting and taxes do not specifically cover unclaimed property, many of the processes can be useful in helping set up streamlined policies and systems.

Professional advocacy contracts: Unclaimed property holders who choose to work with professional advocates benefit from the many years of experience contained within these organizations, as well as specific advice about even the most detailed steps toward efficient and effective compliance.

Topics: Best Practices