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PBSA 2021: A barometer for the new normal for CRAs?


PBSA 2021 just happened. Perhaps you noticed? Perhaps not. SJV was there. While attendance was down about 50% from prior years, those at the show were highly engaged and interested to share and learn about the new normal for Consumer Reporting Agencies (CRAs) and the background screening industry in the (trying to be) post-pandemic world. Here’s what we heard, saw, said and learned.

  • The surge is real. If you thought you were the only CRA awash in work, you’re not. Every CRA is feeling the pressures of managing a flood of volume with fewer resources than they are used to. The reasons are myriad. Workplace employment churn, downsized HR departments, unable to rehire fast enough to keep up with demand, businesses growing as the economy muscles through all the uncertainty. SJV has beefed up its service offering and made massive investments in technology. We’re processing over one-hundred thousand searches every day, meeting turn-around-time commitments as the go-to resource helping CRAs grow.
  • M&A is on everyone’s minds. The booth chatter was rife with talk of IPOs, mergers and rumors of acquisition. Signs of growing pains in the industry are everywhere - consolidation in the background screening supply chain for data, large CRAs gobbling up smaller ones and liquidity that comes with the transition of some to public companies. CRAs seemed anxious. But for the most part, this is a distraction. The work still must be done. Nevertheless, it’s difficult not to speculate about the impact these changes have and will have. SJV isn’t going anywhere and remains committed to its vision of supplying the most transparent, comprehensive and direct sourced data and services to background screening companies as an independent supplier.
  • Compliance. What are they thinking? The tug-of-war between privacy advocates and employers with a need-to-know was the talk in social circles (appropriately distanced of course). Perhaps you’ve followed the attempts by the state of Michigan to redact personally identifiable information, like date of birth, from search results. What are they thinking? Michigan inched right up to the precipice, looked over, and fortunately came to its senses and abandoned (for now) the idea. But other states may not be so rational. Los Angeles County has recently removed dates of birth from their records and eliminated off-line resources for verification of such. And New York City is instituting what they refer to as their “Fair Chance Act” which is just the latest manifestation of “Ban the Box”… another disaster-in-the-making for employers and CRAs alike. Stay tuned…
  • Verifications. The future is automated. SJV’s panel session on the role and approaches to automation to provide faster, more complete employment verifications was well attended. It’s clear automation is coming. The question is whether CRAs will be the beneficiary, or will it be yet another transfer of profits from CRAs to some new incarnation of data providers? Two of the three approaches allow CRAs to benefit both from an efficiency standpoint and financially, while one panelist believes their solution will disintermediate background screening companies altogether (we respectfully disagree). SJV’s approach to automation is to empower CRAs with more transparent, comprehensive, direct sourced data. That’s our story and we’re stickin’ to it.

As you can see, there was lots going on at PBSA 2021! But did it change anything? What should CRAs do differently to make their businesses more competitive, accelerate growth or become better insulated from the ups and downs that are the norms of the business? If your CRA is struggling to meet demand, concerned about its sources for data, or anxious about compliance, here are three things you can do right now:

  • Get better educated. SJV’s blog or Podcasts are a great place to start
  • Do a deep dive on an issue. SJVs eBooks are free, powerful resources
  • Talk with an expert. SJV’s sales associates have years of experience and training in the issues facing CRAs like yours and would be happy to listen to your situation and offer advice