Warranty phone business could expand in Champaign

Warranty phone business could expand in Champaign

CHAMPAIGN — A warranty business that opened an operations center here this summer has the capacity to expand it to 200 employees, its CEO said Wednesday.

Currently, The Warranty Group employs 30 people at its office at 2302 Fox Drive in the Corporate Centre office park.

But the center could grow to 200 employees if business expands to a level that warrants it, said Thomas W. Warsop III, chief executive officer of the Chicago-based company.

The Warranty Group, which has 1,900 employees worldwide, does business in 33 countries, providing warranties for automotive manufacturers and appliance makers, among others.

It chose Champaign as a backup center for its primary facility in Chicago, which employs about 800. Overflow calls from clients of The Warranty Group's customers are routed to Champaign.

Warsop said the company looked for a location that was far enough from Chicago that a storm or power outage wouldn't disable both centers.

But the company wanted a location near enough that it would be easy to travel between the two.

Although The Warranty Group considered several locations within three hours of Chicago, including sites in Iowa and Wisconsin, it chose Champaign to be close to the University of Illinois and Parkland College.

"We wanted proximity to higher education so employees could increase their knowledge base in terms of technology," Warsop said.

Being close to Parkland will make it easier for employees to expand their knowledge of auto mechanics and heating, ventilating and air-conditioning systems — beneficial when they're fielding calls about warranties on those systems, said Robert Bean, the company's vice president of marketing.

The Warranty Group continues to hire and is particularly interested in people with bilingual skills, primarily Spanish but also other languages, said office manager Elizabeth Flores.

Most calls handled at the Champaign center are inbound calls in which a customer has a question or problem relating to a warranty, Warsop said. But it's conceivable outbound sales calls could be made from Champaign at some point, he said.

Although The Warranty Group isn't a household name, "we're the guys behind the scenes" on many warranties that are issued, Warsop said.

The company's customers include automakers Ford, Kia and Toyota and consumer electronics giants Samsung, Lenovo and Dell.

Roughly half the company's business is automotive, while the remainder relates to appliances, electronics and home warranties.

An insurance subsidiary, Virginia Surety, provides coverage for the Warranty Group, and another subsidiary, London General, offers coverage in the United Kingdom.

The Warranty Group was spun off from insurance giant Aon in 2006. Previously known as Aon Warranty Group, it was acquired by a Canadian-based private equity firm, Onex.

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