Total System Services Inc. is going into the portfolio management business.

The Columbus, Ga., credit card processing company has bought the Partnership Card Services division of Columbus Bank and Trust Co. Both the bank and Total System are owned by Synovus Financial Corp.

Starting Jan. 1, Total System said, it will operate the unit as part of its TSYS Total Solutions division. Among its new services would be cardholder portfolio management, call center support, collections, fraud monitoring, and risk management.

"We can offer the products and services that traditionally only the big banks could offer, like account-level pricing," said Cliff Mason, president of TSYS Total Solutions.

Partnership Card Services already supports card operations for 13 companies, including its parent bank and Bank of Hawaii, Mr. Mason said. Some of its clients were Total System customers that had been referred by the processor to its banking affiliate.

"It was always a little muddy, because it was not part of the Total System umbrella," Mr. Mason said. "By moving it over, we can put all the pieces together."

The new entity will solicit business from small and midsize banks-and other companies, including utilities-that want to outsource card portfolios or customer service. Some larger banks give their overflow work to the unit, which can handle both inbound and outbound telemarketing.

"If an institution is going to outsource such a vital part of their business, they want to make sure they are dealing with someone who has the scale to grow as they grow," Mr. Mason said.

In promoting these services, Total System will highlight its relatively new, year-2000-compliant TS2 software. It will solicit business from its card-processing clients and other companies, Mr. Mason said.

Partnership Card Services' 330 workers will be transferred to TSYS Total Solutions, Mr. Mason said. Richard Marks, the division's manager, will become executive vice president of the unit.

Several other companies have recently begun to offer the type of comprehensive portfolio services that Total Solutions is planning. Partners First, a joint venture of BankBoston Corp., Harris Bankcorp, and First Annapolis Consulting, opened in January to manage card programs for the parent banks and others. Inficorp of Atlanta also has broadened its offerings.

Mr. Mason said these can be an attractive option to a bank that is considering leaving the credit card business. With the pooling of resources, "they might feel they could remain competitive."

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