NACM and the Profession of Credit Management
Alfaro, Manuel A., Business Credit
EDITORS NOTE The educational opportunities available through NACM are endless. As testimony to the continuous achievements of our association's members, this column shares their thoughts and views based on perception of NACM, its staff and educational programs that have enhanced their professional development.
Some of us working in credit and collections began our careers as clerks straight out of high school, or as analysts after graduation from college. Others of us somehow "fell into" credit by circumstance. Regardless of how we got started, we now find ourselves in an interesting, challenging and often misunderstood field--the profession of credit management. It is often viewed as "just another part of the accounting function." While it is true that credit and collections began as a function of accounts receivable, (and in smaller companies, often still is) credit management has developed into a multi-discipline function all its own--one that has earned its rightful place as an integral part of the corporate management team.
When does a job become a profession? A profession is defined as an occupation usually requiring advanced study and specialized training, and the entire group of persons practicing a profession. The key to the establishment of a profession is solidarity among its members and their commitment to excellence, Until relatively recently in the history of mankind, anyone could qualify for any job by simply doing it. In medieval Europe, traveling merchants formed guilds by banding together for mutual protection against physical attack, as well as standing for each other in legal disputes. Later, guilds set criteria for admission, and established apprenticeships. Under the patronage of feudal lords and kings, guilds soon gained great economic power, restricting trade and fixing prices in many communities. Some guilds even took control of municipal governments. The advent of capitalism in the 16th century resulted in the decline of craft and merchant guilds, and by the 19th century, France, England and Germany had abol ished most of them. The few that remained were reduced to little more than fraternal organizations.
Numerous professional associations were formed to replace the disbanded guilds. These new organizations were concerned with elevating the standards of professional practice rather than gaining economic control. They assumed the responsibilities of establishing codes of ethics and conduct, technical procedure, as well as testing, credentialing and continuing education for its members. Hundreds of these organizations still exist in the United States including The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, American Bar Association, American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, American Medical Association, National Association of Securities Dealers and of course, The National Association of Credit Management.
NACM was founded as the National Association of Credit Men in Toledo, Ohio in 1896 as a medium of exchange of credit information, and has since grown to become the leading credit management organization, with chapters throughout the United States and Canada. During the past 100 years, NACM has continued to serve businesses through industry trade groups, credit reports, commercial collection services, and more recently, has taken an active role in lobbying for reforms in bankruptcy legislation and educating the public on the credit function. To meet the needs of a profession growing complexity and scope, NACM diversified to form the following specialized groups:
Credit Research Foundation (CRF) is dedicated to the technical aspects of credit and financial management, conducts surveys, publishes reports and reference guides, including the Credit Professional's Handbook, the Technical Reference Manual and the quarterly Credit and Financial Management Review. …