External shot of Fire Group offices building

The Fire Group: how data-driven processes are reshaping sustainable credit management

Leentje Chavatte

Leentje Chavatte

Microsoft, Data & AI and Digital Transformation

Read Time, 6 min.

“We want to change the way credit management is perceived, because we play an important social role in this sectorData and technology allow us to show the critical role that we play in a more direct way.”

Sonia Di Nuzzo, Corporate Communication Leader at Fire is outlining the ambitious goal the company is setting for the industry it operates in with data. As Italy’s largest independent credit management solutions provider, Fire plays a pivotal role in helping people in the lifetime management of secured and unsecured credit in the retail segment.

Our processes are increasingly data-driven, as is the company itself, and this is very important,” adds Roberto Carrozzo, CIO at Fire. “In our business it is data that ultimately drives the decisions we make together with our customers. Having the most up-to-date information is essential to make the right decisions. And these decisions matter, because they affect people’s lives.”

Working as one team with Microsoft and its partner Cluster Reply, Fire has used Microsoft Azure Synapse Analytics to unify its data, creating a single source of information at the centre of its operations. It is a solution that stands to benefit both its internal teams and its customers.

“We are working towards a model of sustainable credit management,” says Di Nuzzo. “And if data can help us do that, then that is something that adds real value to our customers, both banks and end-of-cycle customersor ‘debtors as they are usually referred to. We consider their needs equally important as those of our upstream customers.

A company where tradition meets innovation

Fire staffs more than 2,000 people working across all regions of Italy and also Romania, and has a reach far beyond its southern Italian roots.

Sergio Bommarito started the company in 1992 by winning a bet with his first customer,” says Di Nuzzo. “He bet he could reduce the number of credit collection cases that ended in litigation by 50%, provided he could apply his own ideas about credit management.

“There were just two ways of managing debt in those days,” she continues. “You either referred the case to a lawyer or to a field agent, who would knock at the door of the debtor. But Mr. Bommarito understood that there was a need for a more articulated, more organized approach to credit management.”

The approach has led Fire grow rapidly since it was started. We are now the biggest independent credit management company in Italy,” says Di Nuzzo.

Reaching that standing has required the company to anticipate market trends to stay ahead of the competition, particularly regarding its customers’ response to recent ECB regulations on credit management, which have introduced specific thresholds, timelines, and rules for banks.

“We have entered a new world,” says Di Nuzzo. “Our industry is no longer made up of small, family-owned companies, but major banking groups that have their own credit management units. Some of these banks have become our competitors, and some our customers.

It is a world in which data and technology rule. The more accurate and up-to-date the data Fire Group has on debtors, the more successful the company can be in offering credit management solutions.

“Data drives our processes,” says Di Nuzzo. And that is why Fire Group has chosen to unify its data with Azure Synapse Analytics. 

A unified team driving a culture of innovation

“When I joined Fire Group in early 2020, there was already a strong company mentality and culture for innovation,” says Carrozzo. “I came to boost that mentality and to boost the number and quality of the innovations we were undertaking currently and wanted to undertake in the future. Because we want to provide something different than our competitors, something that can differentiate our value proposition.

When I joined Fire, data management was mainly facilitated using a traditional data warehouse, allowing once-aday static reports with relatively limited possibility for real-time analysis of certain angles of credit management processes. The need to implement a more agile decision-making support tool was vital to the competitiveness of the business.”

Seeing Fire’s need for a new data management solution that would allow them to be more innovative going forward, long-time strategic partner Microsoft put the credit management company in touch with another of its partners, Italian technology solutions provider Cluster Reply.

“Innovation is in the DNA of Cluster Reply,” says Fabio Solazzo, Data, AI and IoT Manager at Cluster Reply. “We have worked with Fire on the implementation of the new data warehouse, redesigning the data model, and improving the data quality process.”

“I have especially appreciated the support of the Microsoft Fast Track team in recent weeks,” he  adds. “Because we are dealing with technology that is new for us here at Fire Group, so we sometimes need support in how to best use it, because we want to exploit all the functionality that any new tools can give us.

“The teams at Microsoft and Cluster Reply help us to do that.”

Reaping the benefits of Azure Synapse Analytics

“We want to achieve many things with this new technology,” says Carrozzo. “Firstly, enhanced query flexibility.

“We don’t want to do analysis only in the data warehouse, we want to have the flexibility to do analysis in different systems too. So we can either put the raw data into Azure, or we can use it in our on-premises database. It can also be combined, so we can find compromises between different solutions with this technology. That is one potential of using Azure Synapse Analytics.

“Another benefit is system maintenance,” he continues. “Because Azure Synapse Analytics is a Platform-as-a-Service, that means we can rely on the support of Microsoft for management of the whole system.”

But the benefits of the new platform aren’t just related to back-end functionality; crucially, they also enhance the user experience. And that is exactly what Carrozzo and his team are now working towards.

“As I mentioned before, we used to be able to report in a very traditional, once-a-day way,” says Carrozzo. “Now we are working on a much more interactive, sophisticated way of reporting using Azure Synapse Analytics and Power BI dashboards. This will allow users to navigate data in a self-service manner, which we want to use both for employees internallyand externally with our clients.

“This will take our reporting service to clients to a totally new level of sophistication.”

Real-time insights and the future of credit management

When it comes to providing people with financial management services, having real-time data is the only way to ensure that accurate and relevant advice is given. That is the ultimate goal of the new technology Fire has put in place.

“We want to achieve real-time insightsso we can query the data we have in our transaction database directly, to see how that data changes during the course of a day, for example,” says Carrozzo.

“This is perhaps the most important objective we want to achieve.

It is something that the teams at Fire, Cluster Reply and Microsoft continue to work towards to provide better, faster, more accurate services to its customers, as they continue to disrupt an established and traditional industry.

“The law regulating credit collection in Italy dates back to 1931,” says Di Nuzzo in closing. “So it doesn’t encompass technology. That’s whywhile always keeping compliant with data protection laws, we see the opportunity to redefine the industry by introducing new technologies and new ways of managing financial data to offer a more sustainable way to manage debt for all parties involved in the process.”

For more information about Fire’s workvisit www.fire.eu or founder Mr. Sergio Bommarito’s personal blog.

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