Seizing the window of opportunity in the US market

While the collapse of the US property market sounded the death knell for many companies, Kerry-based Aspen Grove has flourished by establishing itself as one of the leading suppliers of asset management services, writes Trish Dromey

Following the collapse of the US housing bubble, Kerry-based company Aspen Grove has established itself as one of the leading suppliers of asset management services for the default property market in America.

“Company turnover tripled between 2008 and 2011 while the staff size increased from 20 to 75. During this time, the company’s web-based real estate management solutions have processed over $50bn worth of property sales,” Aspen Grove chief executive, Seán Ryan, says.

Since the onset of the property crisis, banks, financial institutions, and other organisations have acquired large portfolios of distressed assets.

“We offer solutions which are designed to manage and sell properties. There is a strong vendor management capability to our solutions, as homes have to be maintained and repaired to a high standard ready for sale,” Mr Ryan explains.

Aspen Grove’s customers include one of the largest banks in the US, and indirectly, a number of government agencies dealing with distressed assets. The company also sells to more than 5,500 real estate agents.

Operating from a sales office in Fred-erick, Maryland, near Washington DC, Aspen Grove sells across all 50 of the US states.

“We deal with real estate agents in every state — including Hawaii and Alaska — and also have some agents in Puerto Rico. There are two dominant players in this market and we are the third or fourth largest in this space,” Mr Ryan says.

Recently named as a finalist for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year in the emerging category, Aspen Grove has worked at its Tralee headquarters on developing a range of management solutions for different requirements in the property area.

The company has devised solutions for managing short-selling properties, the selling of properties at a loss or writedown of principle. It is a measure which is being used more frequently in the mortgage crisis by lending institutions and banks, which benefits the homeowner and the bank, and cuts down the overall costs and stress involved for all.

Aspen Grove came into existence in 1997, providing web-based workflow technology for a number of industries including legal case management as well as solutions for the insurance industry.

Mr Ryan was involved in setting up the company in Boston, but left for two years before coming back to establish a software division in Tralee.

In 2008, Aspen Grove had a staff of 20 and a wide range of business management solutions.

Observing a growth in the demand for property management services, especially in the area of distressed assets, Mr Ryan identified this as something worth concentrating on. He joined with his business partner Ed Buckley in buying out the company in order to focus on the default property market. The headquarters moved to Ireland and the US office relocated to Frederick, in order to be near one of the company’s largest customers.

The business expanded rapidly after 2008, with Mr Ryan explaining that a milestone came in 2009 when a large bank extended its relationship with the company. Four years on, he sees continued scope for growth in the US property market. He is looking at providing services for government agencies that are devising ways of keeping people in their homes, including ones which offer rental options.

In recent times, Aspen Grove has also noticed an increase in sales of services to US investors buying distressed assets in bulk portfolios.

Mr Ryan says compliance issues have slowed down the rate of property sales and he expects it will take another four or five years for the US property market to recover.

“Unfortunately, there are still over 4.5m households in the US which are 90 days or more in arrears with their mortgage,” he says.

Mr Ryan expects to achieve high growth rates in 2013 by moving into new markets and devising new management solutions.

He has invested in two other companies based in the Tralee Technology Park: Donseed, which provides biometric workplace management solutions, and DCS Energy Savings, an energy management solution company.

“We are leveraging our technology platforms to offer property, workforce and energy management capabilities in the property management arena,” he says.

We are looking at the retail sector and we see opportunities in facilities’ management and maintenance, leveraging our strong vendor management platforms. We have a strong presence in the US and Donseed is extremely well-established in Ireland and the UK.”

The aim for 2012 is to maintain and expand the company’s position in the US market and to triple the company’s turnover again in the next four years.

“As well as growing revenues, by the end of this year we will increase our overall employment levels across the businesses to over 100 and we expect this to reach 150 by 2016 or sooner,” says Mr Ryan.

Fact file

* Company: Aspen Grove

* Headquarters: Tralee Technology Park, Kerry

* CEO: Seán Ryan

* Staff: 70

* Business: Supplies property management solutions

* Market: US

* Website: www.aspengroveinc.com


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