Online Resources Corp. opened an office in the metro Atlanta area this year to attract the sort of payments-industry talent it says is rarer in Chantilly, Va., where it is based.

Atlanta was No. 21 on Forbes' latest Best Places for Business and Careers, and is home to numerous financial services, technology and telecommunications companies. The proximity of those industries, as well as the presence of top universities like Georgia Tech and Emory University and the University of Georgia, make Atlanta a financial technology recruiter's dream.

"Chantilly's a very difficult market, and you don't find payments knowledge … in the Chantilly market," Joseph L. Cowan, Online Resources' CEO, says. The Atlanta office "allows us to get the talent, the knowledge that we need."

Cowan took over Online Resources in mid-2010 as the permanent successor to Matthew P. Lawlor, who founded the company. Lawlor retired the previous year after losing a proxy battle with the hedge fund Tennenbaum Capital Partners LLC. Online Resources had two interim CEOs before deciding on Cowan. 

Under Lawlor, Online Resources was more focused on conventional sales than marketing, Cowan says. The Atlanta office allows Online Resources to find marketing experts who are also payments experts.

"I needed some people with some payment experience," says Janie West, Online Resources' chief marketing officer. "We had struggled to find some of the right people at some of the other offices."

The proximity of the local universities helps Online Resources' recruitment efforts immensely, she says.

"We all compete for good talent, even good talent coming out of school," West says. "If you want to be No. 1 in market share you've got to be in position to get good people, whether it's new people or people with experience, and we needed a little of both. We've had much better success recruiting here."

West says she has hired 10 people already. Online Resources opened the Atlanta office in April, though it made an announcement about it only last week. West plans to make 20 hires altogether of people who specialize in technology and product management.

Online Resources also has offices in Silicon Valley, Princeton, N.J., and India.

Among the financial, technology, information, telecommunications, and payments industry companies in Atlanta are Fiserv, First Data, WorldPay, Elavon, Global Payments, NCR, LexisNexis and AT&T Mobility.

NCR moved its headquarters to Duluth, Ga., in 2009 to pursue new talent. It was previously based in Dayton, Ohio, where it was founded in 1884 as National Cash Register. 

In metro Atlanta, there are about 40,000 payment-processing employees, more than 250,000 employees in finance-related jobs, and 80,000 working in information technology, says Larry Williams, the vice president of technology industry development for the Metro Atlanta Chamber.

Atlanta is the second-most wired city in the U.S., according to Forbes.

"This is going to play exactly into where payment processing and mobile payments is going," Williams says. "It gives us a critical advantage over a lot of other markets about how we can play into the future."

West says the move is not just about talent-seeking, but about the future of Online Resources.

"One of the areas we really want to grow in is working with billers, whether telecoms or banks with mortgage payments or healthcare where you have to do billing systems," says West. "Getting good talent enables us to build the right tool set."

Daniel Wolfe contributed reporting to this article.

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