Thunderhead Sees Increase in Demand for Counselors

Irvine, CA-Demand for credit counseling and related technology continues to grow, according to Thunderhead, an enterprise communications solution provider for financial services, investment banking and insurance firms that has seen 300% growth in the first half of 2008.

The most recent addition to Thunderhead's new customer list is Houston-based Money Management International, one of the country's largest credit-counseling agencies, that said it will integrate Thunderhead NOW with the company's IBM FileNet Enterprise Content Management software aiming to create and distribute through its various output channels customized documents in multiple languages.

"Companies like MMI need next-generation technologies that will improve their ability to engage with customers by delivering high-quality, personalized communications in real time. They are also seeking solutions that will easily integrate with existing core systems and provide out-of-the-box support for other enterprise standards, like those provided by IBM ECM," said Thunderhead CEO Glen Manchester.

The integration aims to improve customer communications and ensure a more effective marketing strategy that is expected to translate into higher customer retention rates in the long run. The Thunderhead platform provides legal and regulatory compliance, overall conformity with the corporate brand and ability to integrate with existing systems, thanks to its high level of document automation and multichannel tools. Thunderhead NOW enables business users to own the end-to-end process of creating and maintaining low-cost customer communications using open standards-based architecture and broad enterprise capabilities.

The MMI network of Consumer Credit Counseling Service agencies provides over 600,000 consumers annually with professional financial guidance, including credit and bankruptcy counseling, debt management assistance and other educational services through.

The Thunderhead NOW platform offers MMI the option to replace in-house applications with a more scalable, flexible solution allowing users to archive all consumer data and correspondence automatically.

MMI director of applications and information technology, Darren Schumaker, said he believes the Thunderhead NOW platform will enable MMI to improve the quality and professionalism of its communications with current and prospective customers using multiple languages and various media, such as the Web, e-mail, fax and direct mail.

MMI is a nonprofit, full-service credit-counseling agency that has been providing financial guidance, education, counseling and debt management assistance since 1958.

A recent survey designed to measure the impact of bankruptcy counseling and education programs for debtors as required by the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act that took effect in October 2005 showed their "financial knowledge and behavioral awareness" improved significantly.

MMI reported that over 94% of debtors felt that their overall ability to manage their finances had improved as a result of the counseling. Up to 98% stated that their overall ability to manage their finances had improved because of the education.

Before filing for bankruptcy, debtors are required to complete an approved credit counseling session, and later attend a financial education course before they can discharge their debts, to ensure they can make an informed choice about bankruptcy and hopefully avoid future financial problems.

MMI collaborated with Angela Lyons, a researcher in financial education and program evaluation at the University of Illinois, using pre-testing and post-testing to measure changes in financial knowledge, current and intended behaviors, and overall satisfaction with MMI's bankruptcy counseling and education. In times when counseling and financial education are becoming a popular tool to assist debtors make informed financial choices, Ms. Lyons said, "it is more important than ever that leading providers of financial education are measuring the impact of their programs."

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