Two-year-old Asset Management Outsourcing is making its mark in the fast-consolidating collections business.

The Kennesaw, Ga., company has acquired 18 companies in the customer service and collections business, jumping to No. 12 in revenue and No. 10 in managed debt, according to Collections and Credit Risk magazine, which conducts an annual survey of the top 50 companies in the field.

There are about 6,500 companies in the collections industry, and 58% of them have revenues under $5 million. Asset Management Outsourcing had $65 million last year and expects to reach $70 million this year.

Gregory M. Shelton, 47, a former Citicorp executive who co-founded the company and is its president and chief executive officer, counts on acquisitions for growth. The collections maverick and entrepreneur also co-founded, in 1995, what has become the largest collections business, Outsourcing Solutions Inc. of St. Louis.

Before that he was executive vice president of Nationwide Credit Inc., the seventh-largest collection company. And at Citicorp credit card division from 1986 to 1992 his jobs included vice president of recovery, which made him responsible for managing relationships with 150 collection agencies, and national director for fraud and restitution.

A former Citicorp colleague, John C. Cahill, said Mr. Shelton's background in banking "gives him credibility" with bankers who may view outside collection agencies as a threat.

"There is a tension between the two," Mr. Cahill said, because hiring a collection agency is sometimes seen as "a sign of failure within the bank, an indication that the [bank's] internal collection department is not doing the job they should be doing." Mr. Cahill is now president and chief executive officer of FirstTel USA, an Atlanta start-up that plans to buy charged-off credit card assets.

Mr. Shelton declined to identify the banks with which Asset Management has relationships. Credit card lenders generate about 25% of its revenues, he said, and the company has contracts with some of the top 10 card companies. It also works with firms in the telecommunications, retail, auto and health-care industries, he said.

Asset Management Outsourcing generally works with accounts that are 60 to 90 days past due. The company is divided into two parts. Receivia works on accounts that are in the early stages of delinquency, identifying which customers are high or low risk. Receiva, Mr. Shelton said, "allows banks to collect on less risky accounts."

The other division, Nationwide Recovery Service, operates much like a traditional collection agency, providing post-chargeoff services.

This year, Mr. Shelton, said he is focusing on developing Internet services for banks that offer on-line banking. "We have spent a lot of time and money exploring what those opportunities are," he said. "We are talking about being open 24 hours a day, and that is unheard of in this business."

Few collections companies are sending dunning messages by e-mail, said Kent Stuckey, chairman and chief executive officer of Internet Transaction Solutions, a Columbus, Ohio, provider of support services to collection companies. Approaching debtors that way instead of by mail or phone could reduce costs, improve recovery rates, and get money to creditors faster, Mr. Stuckey said.

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