By: Nick Fishman (and a sentence or two and a few thoughts by Jason Morris)

Another NAPBS Annual Conference is in the books and what an incredible event it was. We continue to be amazed at how this association, which began in a hotel lobby, has swelled to over 900 participating companies. This industry is flying high now as unemployment continues to hit all-time lows and employer and the sharing economy adoption of employment background checks soars. For a great recap on the entire conference, check out Bruce Berg’s conference snapshot.

Before we jump into particulars, we want to congratulate our friend and past colleague Angela Preston for being installed as the association’s chair-woman. We are so proud of Angela’s work and know she will be a transformational leader as NAPBS continues to grow the association.  We would also like to send another congratulations to our friend and mentor, Mike Sankey for receiving the first ever NAPBS lifetime achievement award, congrats Mike!

Getting Serious About Your Growth?

Jason Morris and Nick Fishman

While at the conference, we presented a session entitled “Building, Scaling, Marketing and Growing Your CRA” where we shared our insights on the following key areas that are fundamental for any growing consumer reporting agency (CRA): How to Grow and Scale Your Operation Through Automation, Marketing Tips and Tricks to Differentiate Your Company, Building High Performing Teams and Preparing Your Business for Acquisition. It is truly remarkable what automation is doing for this industry when used responsibly and it is imperative in this highly commoditized environment that companies embrace these advances if they want to stay relevant. Further, when employers believe that there is little difference from one background check to another, it has never been more important for CRA’s to build their brands and articulate their differentiators. And lastly, we cannot tell you how many hiring and retention mistakes we made over the years. Sound familiar? The good news is that we figured it out in the end and were able to share tips on finding the right talent, retaining the right people, knowing who to promote and how to evaluate and compensate them. If you are struggling in any of these areas or just need a fresh perspective, give us a call for a free consultation.

Where’s the Innovation?

One thing that concerns us is the lack of innovation in the background screening space by CRA’s. Sure, there are pockets of creativity out there—Checkr’s “Better Future” product which offers free background checks to consumers and matches them with prospective employers upon completion (that could be truly disruptive), Sterling’s SterlingNow platform which allows organizations with less than 300 employees to sign-up and start conducting legit background checks without having to interact with an account rep (maybe not novel, but when done right, it’s game changing), Vetty’s approach to user and candidate interface (can’t wait to see where they’re heading). However, most of the industry seems to be doubling down on the same products, processes they’ve been pitching for years. We get it. Business is booming and the economy is white hot. Eventually though, things will slow down, disruption will increase and market will ask for more.

So while we haven’t seen a ton of innovation on the CRA side, we are seeing considerable innovation and sophistication in the vendor community—all centered around giving small to mid-sized organizations the same tools larger CRA’s have developed to increase the quality of their data, efficiency of backend processing and ultimate better, faster and more compliant background checks. We are greatly impressed with the strides companies such as SJV, Wholesale Screening Solutions and Securitec are making with court data extraction and their commitment to providing the tools CRA’s need to customize their search and reporting parameters, monitor their searches in real-time and offer insights into their overall program through search and AI-driven analytics. We are impressed with Innovative’s roster of all-star team members who are committed to offering the best national criminal data in the industry. Case in point— we asked one of the wholesale court research companies who also boasts the best national criminal database in the industry how their database compared to Innovative’s and they told us that they would probably recommend going to Innovative. And with their hiring of industry veteran Heidi Pattie, it won’t be long until they too join the fray as a full service criminal record wholesaler.

Another strong message we are hearing among the vendor community are the steps they are taking to build up their monitoring products. We have all been trying to market these products to employers for years now and with companies like Uber and Lyft, the time might finally be right to drive adoption. And with strong monitoring products on the backend, this will provide CRA’s with a great new revenue stream to pursue.

Platforms are Rising

Admittedly, we didn’t do as much research on the platform providers while at the conference  but there were a few that stood out. Accio and TazWorks seems to be tearing it up and really took center stage in the exhibit hall. Accio is getting rave reviews for their new front end which is both flexible and customizable. They’re also building in a ton of automation to help CRA’s process orders more efficiently. And we remain impressed with the TazWorks system which has the most market-share by far and is constantly investing in their platform with ideas driven by their users. Bonus points to them for hosting an annual user conference which is the stuff that builds innovation and customer loyalty. We’ll also give a shoutout to FRS who says that they will be launching a completely rebuilt platform before the end of the year.  Having said all of this he or she who boasts the most innate integrations with ATS’ and remains dedicates a healthy portion of their roadmap to building more will ultimately carry the day.

 Making Sense of It All

We remain excited about the state of our industry. There is plenty of business to go around and there are still new markets to be tapped. However, it’s important that CRA’s dedicate themselves to maximizing efficiency without sacrificing quality, investing in real innovation and differentiating themselves in this highly commoditized market. Notice, we didn’t mention a word about compliance, litigation and legislation. They might have touched on that topic once or twice during the conference, but you don’t need us to tell you how important that is. Until next time, happy screening!