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Credit Q&A - Bob Tharnish

Senior Vice President, Attorney Network Services

What is your background?

I served in the U.S. Army as an Army Ranger and worked in Military Intelligence (MI).  My day-to-day job was serving as a Prisoner-of-War Interrogator.   Interestingly, I met my wife of almost 45 years at Ft. Benning, where she was in the same MI unit and also worked as an Interrogator.  We have five children, but they didn’t get away with anything growing up with two Interrogators as parents (at least that’s our story, they may have a different version!) I also finished college (B.B.A., Management) in Georgia while waiting for my wife to finish up her Army service.

How did you first enter the field of Credit & Collections?

Believe me, I didn’t grow up wanting to be a bill collector!  When we returned home to Elma, NY after our stints in the Army, a high school friend of mine worked at ABC-Amega as a Collector.  I needed a job and he told me ABC was hiring, so he set up an interview for me.  I knew I would do well in the interview when the first thing I was asked was whether or not I was related to Win Tharnish.  He was my Dad and the interviewer knew him through the “horse crowd,” as she owned a couple of horses at the time (my parents raised Quarter horses).  I got the job and started my career at ABC on December 18, 1978.  Quite honestly, my plan was to work for ABC for a couple of years and hopefully get in good with a client so I could go to work for them and put my college degree to use.   However, ABC ended up being a great company to work for and with whom to build a career in the collection industry, which has always been an interesting one in which to be involved.  I found that I was able to put the skills I learned as an interrogator to work as a collector (e.g., organizational skills,  attention to detail,  knowing how to control a conversation, knowing what questions to ask, being a good listener, persistence).

What is your job title and what are your responsibilities?

Senior Vice President, Attorney Network Services

My responsibilities include:

Can you describe your typical day?

Most of my day is spent handling collection claims and answering questions from ABC’s staff on a wide variety of topics.  Since I was integrally involved in the design of our collection system from an operations perspective, many of those questions are system-related.  Many others are from collectors about file-handing.  In addition to handling large ticket domestic and international claims, I also work with our Legal Team to find new attorneys and agencies when needed, and help evaluate the performance of those currently in our network.

What would you say are your greatest accomplishments in this industry?

Lasting for 44 years in this industry is the first one that comes to mind! I am also proud of the work I have done for the industry over the years, through my participation in the IACC (International Association of Commercial Collectors) and CLLA (Commercial Law League of America).  That work has twice been recognized with the IACC’s Leadership and Distinguished Service Award and the CLLA’s Robert E. Caine Leadership Award.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Well, I’d like to make it to 50 years with ABC-Amega, which is 6 years out.  But, I hope to be retired by then!

What advice would you give someone thinking of entering the field?

The credit and collection industry is a great one in which to be involved if you are cut out for the job.  The collection industry, in particular, is one in which you can become quite successful if you have the skills to be a good collector.   Keep your “nose to the grindstone” and always be willing to learn new techniques.  The industry has provided me with the opportunity to forge a successful career and I’m glad I stuck with it.

If you weren’t working in credit, what do you think you’d be doing career-wise?

Probably working for a company at which I could put my Management degree to work.  But, candidly, if I had my druthers, I’d be a fishing guide somewhere.