This week on Leaders’ Insights, Fexco’s Ruth McCarthy fills us in on the current trends in the payments industry.
Ruth McCarthy is CEO of Fexco Corporate Payments.
She trained as a solicitor with Arthur Cox in Dublin and worked in compliance before moving to a commercial role. She is an active member of the Fintech and Payments Association of Ireland and is on the board of Goodbody stockbrokers.
The Corporate Payments business in Fexco specialises in accounts payable solutions and international funds transfers.
‘Payments are getting faster, cheaper and more integrated. The answers to each of these challenges are: automation, efficiency and partnerships’
– RUTH MCCARTHY
Describe your role and what you do.
I am responsible for a regulated payment institution with just over 40 staff. We provide bank-beating payment solutions to our customers using technology, so a lot of our work is IT-based. On any given day, I could be meeting clients, meeting with the board of directors, or working on strategy and innovation with my teams. It’s pretty varied and I love it.
How do you prioritise and organise your working life?
The payments industry is changing rapidly, so our main challenge is juggling our existing business-as-usual projects with new business projects. We need to be agile in our strategic planning in order to keep up with what’s happening in the industry.
I agree our business strategy with my staff and management and we review that strategy several times a year to make sure we are always on the right track. Our list of priorities will change throughout the year as new requirements or opportunities arise, but we try to be proactive about managing those changes rather than allowing them to derail our business plans.
What are the biggest challenges facing your sector and how are you tackling them?
Payments are getting faster, cheaper and more integrated. The answers to each of these challenges are: automation, efficiency and partnerships. Another challenge we have, which is common to many industries across the country now, is attracting and retaining the best talent, which is why we place such an emphasis on the importance of having a proactive approach to training and development in Fexco.
What are the key sector opportunities you’re capitalising on?
PSD2 is the major game-changer in our industry.
Post-PSD2 bank transfers will be a viable method for consumer payments. PSD2 will also move payment activity from bank platforms to third-party platforms like ERP systems and even Fexco software. Fexco specialises in delivering payment technology, so PSD2 presents an enormous opportunity for the company.
The digital economy has been a major game-changer for businesses like Fexco Corporate Payments because it has made it easy for customers to shop around and have their payments facilitated by someone other than their bank.
What set you on the road to where you are now?
My father founded Fexco and I always have had an interest in finance. I had worked as a solicitor specialising in financial regulation before I made the move to Fexco. It was a difficult decision leaving law to come home to Kerry and work in the family business, but I don’t regret it for a second.
What was your biggest mistake and what did you learn from it?
I could have asked for more direction and advice earlier on in my career. I think women in particular find it hard to develop informal mentoring relationships, and they are crucial for career development.
How do you get the best out of your team?
My team is incredibly talented and driven. As a boss, my job is to help direct the group and then get out of their way to let them deliver the results.
STEM sectors receive a lot of criticism for a lack of diversity in terms of gender, ethnicity and other demographics. Have you noticed a diversity problem in your sector? What are your thoughts on this and what’s needed to be more inclusive?
Our IT function has a 50:50 gender balance, but we are aware that this is highly exceptional. Women are not encouraged to build careers in technology and we see this reflected in the pipeline of talent that comes into Fexco. STEM employees are really important to the Irish economy and we don’t have enough talent to meet the demand that exists for STEM candidates, so it makes sense to encourage women to take up roles in STEM.
That starts in schools, which is why we have partnered with Smart Futures, the Science Foundation Ireland-coordinated initiative that promotes STEM. We need to show girls that women have successful and satisfying careers in STEM. One of our female software engineers has contributed her profile to the SFI Smart Futures page and we, as a company, are working to support the Smart Futures initiative in schools in our region.
We also need to be aware of our own unconscious bias. When we think about scientists and technologists, we tend to imagine a male or use the male pronoun. The Smart Futures website acts as an important resource in terms of demonstrating that the STEM industry is so much more diverse than we imagine.
Who is your role model and why?
My father. He is always thinking about, and identifying, new opportunities, and he puts his faith in people to deliver.
What books have you read that you would recommend?
I think global economies are just coming out of a phase where we needed to keep The Great Crash, 1929 by JK Galbraith on the bedside locker.
Now that quantitative easing is over, we can start rereading Barbarians at the Gate by Bryan Burrough and John Helyar.
What are the essential tools and resources that get you through the working week?
My team has honed excellent management reporting skills and I rely on these skills to track the performance of the business. I am also very dependent on my mobile phone and its case (I drop the phone on a daily basis).
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