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UNCLAIMED PROPERTY FOCUS is a blog written by and for UPPO members, featuring diverse perspectives and insights from unclaimed property practitioners across the U.S. and Canada. We welcome your submissions to Unclaimed Property Focus. Please contact Tim Dressen via tim@uppo.org with any questions about submitting a blog post for consideration and refer to our editorial guidelines when writing your blog post. Disclaimer: Information and/or comments to this blog is not intended as a substitute for legal advice on compliance or reporting requirements.

 

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President's Message

Posted By Heather Steffans, 2020/21 UPPO President, Wednesday, May 27, 2020
Updated: Monday, May 25, 2020

I am truly honored to serve UPPO as this year’s president, and I am excited to lead the organization as we work through the challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and build on our past successes.

 

As you know, in March 2020, we had to cancel the UPPO Annual Conference due to the pandemic. The conference is the organization’s largest source of revenue. Fortunately, UPPO has done a fantastic job investing and has reserves in place. As stewards of members’ investment in UPPO, your board of directors put together the Financial Impact Task Force to evaluate the overall effect of the cancellation and recommend initiatives to increase revenues or decrease expenses to minimize the impact.

 

The board has also instituted the UPPO Patron Program, which recognizes member companies that contribute to UPPO above and beyond membership dues. This assistance may come in the form of monetary donation or a product/service with monetary value that saves the organization money. Several companies have already qualified by donating all or part of their annual conference fees to UPPO.

 

In addition to the unexpected challenges we are currently facing, UPPO continues to work on four key areas of our strategic plan.

 

Advocacy

Legislative and regulatory action defines what we as unclaimed property professionals do. Since the development of RUUPA, activity in statehouses across the country that affects us has accelerated, making our advocacy work more important than ever. Our important initiatives to continue building our advocacy platform include:

  • Encouraging members to use their second seat to provide UPPO with their companies’ government relations contact for expanded grassroots efforts.
  • Publishing frequent blog posts highlighting our advocacy work.
  • Continual fine-tuning of our GRAC’s work groups for peak effectiveness, focusing on the five priority issues as identified by you, the members of our association. 
  • GRAC member participation on industry focus conference calls, monitoring trends and listening to the industry specific challenges for consideration.
  • The development of a charter for the Holders Coalition, which identifies legislative, regulatory and policy issues of interest to holders of unclaimed property and communicate their positions to appropriate stakeholders.

 

Public Perception

Misperceptions about unclaimed property persist. We will continue to work on our strategic plan objectives to clarify our role as holders, explain the role of claimant representatives and build a better understanding of unclaimed property among owners, holders and stakeholders. Some of the steps to achieve this include:

  • Promoting increased member use of our LinkedIn group, expanding the knowledge footprint and overall perception of unclaimed property.
  • Leveraging the Claimant Representative Committee’s work, such as its recent research about state unclaimed property return rates, to improve understanding of their role.
  • Considering additional methods of communication, such as podcasts, to expand our outreach.

 

State Relations

Building constructive relationships with the states helps us all do our jobs better. We continue to work toward strengthening these relationships in pursuit of fair standards and greater uniformity. Initiatives to achieve this include:

  • Looking for opportunities where our communications can benefit members and the states alike, such as our recent blog post about unclaimed property extensions in light of COVID-19 disruptions.
  • Develop and carry out enhanced marketing efforts for promoting future conference attendance to state administrators.
  • Working together to help ensure a successful implementation of the NAUPA III format once completed.
  • Continue to refine our proactive outreach to legislators and stakeholders regarding our five priority issues and to promote consumer and compliance friendly laws.

 

Education

UPPO continues to be the best source of education for unclaimed property professionals. UPPO took the feedback of our members into consideration and, under our new membership structure, we are opening all our live webinars throughout the year to members with no additional registration fees, which is a huge benefit. Other education-related projects include:

  • Exploring the viability of developing an accredited certification program.
  • Analyzing alternative guidelines for the certificate program for increased participation.
  • Seeking additional feedback about member preferences and ability to use various education delivery platforms, such as virtual learning.
  • Developing an on-demand library of past webinars.
  • Refining our content development process to ensure webinars and industry focus conference calls address top priority issues.
  • And, finally, leverage surveys to gain a better understanding about your needs to better serve the membership.

As you can see, we have a lot of work ahead of us. Fortunately, this organization is filled with passionate, talented professionals who consistently step up to share that passion and talent for the greater good of our organization.

 

I’ve been a part of this wonderful association for 22 years participating in just about every committee possible and have formed lifelong relationships. I am excited to be your UPPO president this year, and I look forward to the progress we’ll make together.

 

Heather Steffans

2020/21 UPPO President

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Unclaimed Property News Roundup

Posted By Administration, Thursday, May 14, 2020

Unclaimed property often makes news headlines beyond the frequent reports of states trying to return money to their citizens. Following is a recap of some recent stories getting news coverage from local media outlets.

 

Unclaimed Property as Municipality Budget Booster

As local governments face budget gaps, Mississippi’s treasurer encouraged local governments to search for unclaimed property, according to an April 24, 2020, WGNO report. To help expedite the process, the state posted a claim form specifically for use by municipalities.

 

Louisiana Scam Alert

On April 10, the Daily Comet reported that Louisiana residents had been targeted by scammers texting residents about unclaimed property. State Treasurer John M. Schroder warned that the state does not communicate about unclaimed property via text. The scam came at a time when many residents were expecting unclaimed property checks from the state, which had recently mailed checks to property owners after using tax records to update addresses.

 

Florida Seeks Chinese Unclaimed Property

On April 23, 2020, the Orlando Sentinel reported on Florida’s attempt to identify Chinese unclaimed property for possible use as restitution for the spread of COVID-19. The state’s CFO, Jimmy Patronis, who oversees the Department of Unclaimed Property, asked U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to help identify property held by the state by businesses controlled by the Chinese government.

 

The request said, “The identification of these assets at the very least would give greater information to President Trump and Congressional leaders who continue to debate possible penalties on China for the suppression of information about the Coronavirus.”

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Vermont Governor Signs RUUPA Bill

Posted By Administration, Thursday, April 30, 2020

On April 28, 2020, Vermont Gov. Phil Scott signed into law H.550, the state’s version of the Revised Uniform Unclaimed Property Act. As the Vermont House and Senate considered the bill earlier this year, UPPO submitted comments outlining potential issues if the bill were to be passed without revisions. Vermont addressed several of UPPO’s requested changes:

  • Payroll cards: The drafted Act included a one-year dormancy period for payroll cards. UPPO urged Vermont to treat payroll cards in the same manner as bank accounts (three-year dormancy period), as they function as such for many low-income citizens. Vermont’s amended bill revised the dormancy period for payroll cards to three years.
  • Presumption of abandonment for tax-deferred accounts: UPPO raised concerns about a drafting error that would significantly affect the treatment of tax-deferred accounts. Vermont corrected the error before passage of the Act.
  • Mandatory distribution age: Vermont’s legislation included a provision specifying 70.5 as the mandatory distribution age for tax-deferred retirement accounts. UPPO requested the language be corrected from 70.5 to 72 to reflect a recent change in federal law. Vermont subsequently made this revision.
  • Linkage provision: The drafted legislation eliminated the linkage provision for a property owners indication of interest in multiple accounts held by the same bank or financial institution. UPPO raised concerns that failing to include language permitting such linkage between properties harmed consumers. Vermont amended the bill to include the linkage provision.

UPPO appreciates Vermont’s inclusion of these recommended revisions to improve H.550 for the benefit of property holders and owners. The law takes effect on Jan. 1, 2021.

 

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UPPO Begins Rolling Out Expanded Member Benefits

Posted By Administration, Thursday, April 30, 2020
Updated: Tuesday, April 28, 2020

UPPO’s new membership structure includes the expansion of member benefits for holders and service providers. These benefits will be rolled out over the next couple months, beginning on May 1, 2020.

 

Legislative tracking

Beginning on May 1, all members have access to the enhanced features of govWATCH, formerly known as govWATCH Plus. In addition to the weekly govWATCH email summarizing new and on-the-move bills, features include the ability to search and view current and archived legislative activity. View a tutorial.

 

On-Demand Webinars

On May 1, UPPO introduces a new on-demand webinar web page, giving members access to audio recordings and handouts from select past webinars.

 

Live Webinars

Beginning with the May 13 Legislative, Regulatory and Litigation Update webinar, all eight live webinars are CPE-eligible and included with the cost of membership.

 

Forums

On June 1, UPPO is improving its online member forums by consolidating categories into three simple options – general (for all things unclaimed property), advocacy (for government affairs discussions) and state administrator outreach (for facilitating communication with the states).

 

Service Provider Awareness

UPPO is adding new opportunities to help holders learn more about our service provider members.

  • Website Visibility: Beginning on May 1, UPPO service provider members are invited to submit advertisements for inclusion on the UPPO homepage. In June, the Member Services Committee will review the list of submitted ads and develop a 12-month ad schedule. Each service provider member that submitted an ad will be included in the ad rotation for 30 consecutive days during the 12-month schedule, which begins in July.
  • Provider Spotlight: Beginning on May 1, service providers are encouraged to submit information about their companies to be featured on a new Provider Spotlight webpage. In June, the Member Services Committee will review the submissions and develop a 12-month schedule. Each service provider member that submitted their information will be included in the spotlight rotation, which begins in July. The Provider Spotlight webpage will be highlighted regularly in UPPO communications to its members.
  • Promoted Events: Beginning on May 1, service providers may submit details to promote up to two events annually on a new Promoted Events webpage. A two-month submission lead time is recommended. Participation in all promoted events must be offered free of charge to any current UPPO member. Submitted events will be reviewed by the Virtual Learning Committee, which typically meets on the first Wednesday of each month. Event promotion status will be communicated to the service provider by mid-month and posted by the end of the month.
  • Provider Directory linked email: Beginning on Nov. 1, the free UPPO Provider Directory listing includes a hyperlinked email contact. Service providers are encouraged to ensure their primary contact’s information is correct on their company roster, as this will be the default for all directory listings.

If you have any questions about getting the most from your enhanced benefits, please email uppo@uppo.org.

 

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Meet Your 2020/21 UPPO President, Heather Steffans

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Throughout her life and career, 2020/21 UPPO President Heather Steffans has enjoyed helping others find solutions. Beginning with her childhood, assisting her three younger sisters with their homework, and continuing throughout her professional career, educating unclaimed property holders about the reporting process, this spirit of helping has served her – and those she helps – quite well.

 

“At the UPPO Annual Conference, I thoroughly enjoy presenting the 101 session,” she said. “I can see the lightbulb go off in their minds as I explain the nuances that most veterans take for granted, but for a first timer, can seem overwhelming. We’ve all stood in those shoes at one point in our career, and I get a great sense of satisfaction when those individuals come back with follow-up questions, confirming their knowledge and building on it.”

 

Heather began her unclaimed property career in 1997 with The Freedom Group in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, which hired her to expand the company’s unclaimed property software product (TRACKER) beyond its existing footprint in the insurance industry. Prior to the interview, she had never heard the word “escheatment” and barely understood what it meant. More than two decades later, she has never looked back.

 

As the company changed from The Freedom Group to Fiserv to Fiserv Insurance Solutions to Stone River during her 16-year tenure, Heather exceeded the initial vision of technology growth into different industries, and her role evolved. She began educating holders through webinars, conferences and client meetings, helping them navigate the confusing world of unclaimed property compliance and build relationships in the industry.

 

In 2013, she moved to Keane Unclaimed Property Services, marketing the company’s compliance solutions, before joining MarketSphere Unclaimed Property Specialists in 2014, where she currently serves as a partner of strategic solutions.

 

“I have a tremendous amount of passion for the consultative aspect of my job,” Steffans said. “After listening to each client’s challenges, I enjoy sharing how we can work together in a partnership capacity, discussing state reporting compliance, risk assessments or auditing trends, and how we can help. I also find it rewarding when we are able to successfully recover assets for a corporation.”

 

Heather attended her first unclaimed property conference in 1998, where she built relationships with early mentors, including Mike Ryan, Vicki Hoffman, Nancy Johnston, Anne Furdon and Barbara Briody. Since then, she has participated in nearly every UPPO conference and regional event, volunteered in every imaginable capacity for the organization, and was presented with the UPPO Presidential Award in 2010.

 

In addition to serving on virtually every UPPO committee, several work groups and special projects, she has served as a speaker, room monitor and industry breakout facilitator at numerous conferences, led webinars and contributed articles. In 2017, she was appointed Midwestern vice president on the UPPO board. A year later, she was elected second vice president, which led to her position as UPPO president for 2020/21.

 

Heather’s term begins amidst some unique challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in cancellation of the UPPO Annual Conference, the organization’s flagship event and a significant source of revenue. She and 2019/20 UPPO President Troy Wangen have collaborated very closely throughout this unusual time to work through the resulting challenges and keep UPPO moving forward. In her May President’s Message, she will discuss new initiatives developed as a result of the cancellation.

 

One UPPO’s strategic focuses Heather finds most exciting is building strategic relationships with the states.

 

“Continuing to improve lines of communication with NAUPA and individual state administrators is beneficial for all parties,” Steffans said. “We’ve been streamlining the communication efforts between parties to keep everyone aware of the very fluid environment we are working in with deadlines approaching and both parties working in less than ideal working conditions.”

 

Of course, there’s more to Heather than unclaimed property. When she’s not working, she enjoys traveling with her family, discovering new local restaurants, attending music concerts and baseball games, and exploring bike trails with her husband and friends.

 

 

 

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