United Recovery Systems LP recently announced that the Houston-based accounts receivable management company has hired more than 300 employees since Jan. 1 and expects to add another 300 within the next 6 months.

While some agencies have been shuttered by harsh economic conditions, President Jim Kelleher tells Collections & Credit Risk that the company has had to take on hundreds of new employees to address the flood of delinquent accounts and to meet client expectations.

"Throughout the industry there's somewhat of a bubble of delinquent accounts working its way through the system from almost all creditors right now. With each of our clients, their delinquent account base is growing. Obviously that's the downstream effect of the macro economy," Kelleher says.

"We have continued to invest heavily to support performance for our clients," he says. "This is a very performance-oriented, competitive industry and we've been the lucky recipient of market-share gains from our existing clients in addition to organic portfolio growth."

Kelleher says the poor economy has forced many agencies to cut spending or layoff employees and this lack of investment by those companies has affected their performance with clients. In the past eight months, he says United Recovery Systems signed up five new clients that were "revamping their agency networks because they're not achieving their goals with existing vendors."

The company's new hires consist of collectors, different levels of management to support the collectors and a few bookkeepers. Despite the quantity of new employees, Kelleher says the company continues to focus on quality, too, through much psychological, personality and cognition testing.

"Earlier this year we hired someone we have dealt with for many years, Dr. Richard Faulk, who is an industrial psychologist and has been involved in the collection industry for about 30 years. He has helped us refine a battery of tests to help give us an understanding of an individual's strengths and weaknesses," Keller says.

Faulk founded his own human resources consulting firm in 1984 and is now the director of recruiting and training at United Recovery Systems. He says a particular individual is needed to collect debt.

"It's a balance of assertiveness and one's ability to listen and respond appropriately so a resolution can be achieved," Faulk says. "No one wants to resolve their obligations with a debt collector they don't like."

United Recovery Systems also calls references and checks for any criminal background, says Kelleher, who adds that the company invests heavily in its management staff to improve interviewing, hiring and training skills.

"In addition to getting good people, you have to do the right thing with them to try to minimize turnover," Kelleher says. "It's a constant investment in helping everybody improve their skills at the collector level as well as all levels of management."

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