10 fintech champions at the heart of the financial services revolution

3 Dec 2015

A selection of fintech heavyweights brings us to the midway point in this catalogue of leaders and influencers.

Ireland's Sci-Tech 100

Adding more numbers to Ireland’s Sci-Tech 100, some of our fintech champions are disruptors capitalising on opportunities presented by the digital age, while others are driving innovation in a sector steeped in traditional models and legacy technology.

1. Sinead Barry

Sinead Barry, Fintech Innovation Lab, Accenture Ireland

Sinead Barry, managing director in financial services, Accenture Ireland

Sinead Barry is a managing director in Accenture’s Financial Services group, and the programme lead for the Fintech Innovation Lab Dublin.

Barry has nearly two decades’ experience in the financial services industry behind her and, with her appointment as executive sponsor of the Fintech Innovation Lab, she has become heavily involved with fintech sector development.

In a Siliconrepublic.com guest column earlier this year, Barry wrote at length about the fintech ecosystem in Ireland and what Accenture is doing to support fintech start-ups. Accelerators such as the one she leads make it easier for innovative fintech start-ups to do business, taking away many of the challenges associated with dealing with large, complex financial firms.

2. Julia Davenport

Julia Davenport, Fidelity Investments Ireland

Julia Davenport, senior VP and country manager, Fidelity Investments Ireland

Julia Davenport is head of a 500-strong IT workforce at US financial services giant Fidelity Investments’ operations in Ireland, which supports the global IT needs of Fidelity, a business with more than 41,000 employees worldwide and $1.7trn worth of assets under management.

One of Siliconrepublic.com’s Women Invent 100, Davenport has previously said there’s a long way to go to closing the gender gap in tech, but noted Ireland’s unique partnerships between industry, academia and Government as the right ingredients on the road to improvement. “I’m hopeful, but it is a long-term journey. This is not quick win,” she said.

3. Caroline Faulkner

Caroline Faulkner, Pramerica

Caroline Faulkner, senior MD and CIO, Pramerica, with Minister Richard Bruton TD

Caroline Faulkner has had a rich career in tech, leading to her current role as senior managing director and CIO of Pramerica.

Coming to Pramerica fresh from an IT manager role at Abbott Laboratories, she started at the Letterkenny-based company when there were just seven employees on staff, and was instrumental in taking the company from a green field site to a fully-functioning operation.

Under Faulkner’s leadership, Pramerica announced plans to expand the facility and hire a further 330 people. During her tenure, Pramerica has also forged close ties to local education institutions – including Letterkenny Institute of Technology, University of Ulster and Queen’s University Belfast – ensuring that the pipeline of highly-skilled fintech talent continues to grow.

4. Colm Lyon

Colm Lyon, Fire Financial Services

Colm Lyon, CEO and founder, Fire Financial Services

Recently inducted to the Irish Internet Association’s Hall of Fame, Colm Lyon has, in the past 15 years, transformed the Irish fintech sector after he decided to set up Realex Payments back in 2000

Processing more than €28bn worth of payments a year on behalf of 12,500 clients around the world, Lyon’s work saw Realex Payments being sold to Global Payments for €115m earlier this year.

Today, Lyon continues his fintech entrepreneurship as CEO and founder of Fire Financial Services, and he is also on the board of the relatively new Fintech and Payments Association of Ireland.

5. Garry Lyons

Garry Lyons, MasterCard

Garry Lyons, chief innovation officer at MasterCard and head of MasterCard Labs. Photo via MasterCard

Having graduated with a degree in computer applications, Garry Lyons now has some 20 years’ experience in the software and financial services industries.

Lyons was chief executive of Irish company Orbiscom before MasterCard swooped in to buy it up for $100m back in 2009. He was subsequently given a creative remit at his new company, with MasterCard CEO Ajay Banga telling him: “It’s your role to look at the future with a fresh perspective. Don’t worry about the way things are done today. Take some risks and see what works.”

Taking on the challenge, Lyons himself said: “The idea is to fail smart: move fast and cheap and learn as much as possible.”

6. Brett Meyers

Brett Meyers, CurrencyFair

Brett Meyers, CEO and co-founder of CurrencyFair

Brett Meyers set up CurrencyFair after realising how excessive fees were when transferring money across borders. An Australian living in Ireland, Meyers now oversees an online currency exchange service that was the first platform to break the $1bn barrier in money-matching transfers.

Customers worldwide are increasingly migrating away from using traditional banks – where they pay non-transparent and expensive currency exchange charges – towards the wave of new fintech platforms. And there we have the secret sauce of Meyers’ original idea and successful execution of a fine fintech plan.

7. Marc Murphy

Marc Murphy, Fenergo

Marc Murphy (right), CEO and founder of Fenergo, pictured with Fenergo chair Paul Kerley and Investec partner John Dolan in 2014

Marc Murphy is the CEO and founder of Fenergo, one of the biggest Irish success stories of recent years.

Established in 2008, the company completed the biggest investment round by an Irish company to date this summer when it raised $75m from Insight Venture Partners, promising an IPO within three years.

Headquartered in Dublin, Fenergo also has a presence in London, New York, Boston, Sydney and Wrocław. The company plans to use its recent funding to invest in R&D, expand globally and create a new partner ecosystem, which includes a Fenergo University and consulting accreditation programme to implement its technology.

8. Cecilia Ronan

Cecilia Ronan, Citi

Cecilia Ronan, CAO and head of Dublin’s Citi Service Centre, Citi Ireland, pictured with Citi’s John Killey and Paul Boylan at the launch of the Green IFSC initiative in 2012

Cecilia Ronan is Citi Ireland’s CAO and head of Dublin’s Citi Service Centre. She is also the driving force behind Citi’s Women in Technology Group.

While Citi’s Irish base has a favourable 50-50 gender split, its technology division – which employs 400 people – is only 15pc female and it’s these statistics that the company’s Women in Technology Group aims to change.

As head of Dublin’s Citi Service Centre, Ronan leads 1,900 staff who provide 40 services to some 800 clients in 20 countries. She has held this role since 2012 and prior to that she was the head of HR at Citi for six years. She has also been an executive director at the company since 2010.

9. Emmet Savage

Emmet Savage, CEO and co-founder, Rubicoin

Emmet Savage, CEO and co-founder, Rubicoin

At just 40 years of age, Dubliner Emmet Savage can already consider himself a literal ‘toast of Wall Street’ having made Irish America’s Wall Street 50 list for his new start-up venture Rubicoin, which wants to put the power of investment in the average person’s hand.

Having made much of his fortune off a then-risky investment in a small postal DVD rental company called Netflix 15 years ago, Savage and his company created an app that can allow someone check out recommended stock worthy to invest in, based on detailed research.

By creating features in the app that prompt you to ‘Swipe to Invest’ and ‘Tap to Invest’, Savage’s Rubicoin has received praise for opening up a typically complicated sector.

10. David Tighe

David Tighe, head of innovation, Bank of Ireland

David Tighe, head of innovation, Bank of Ireland

Formerly senior product manager in charge of current accounts and deposits, David Tighe was appointed head of innovation at Bank of Ireland in 2014. He is now focused on emerging digital trends and meeting the evolving needs of businesses and customers.

As head of innovation, Tighe is in the driving seat when it comes to bringing the bank into the digital age, particularly in relation to fintech and supporting start-ups. Among his initiatives are workbench zones for start-ups in Bank of Ireland branches and a new start-up working space on Eyre Square in Galway.

Main money image via Shutterstock