Q&A: Why this founder runs her international regtech start-up from Maynooth

27 Apr 2017

Geraldine Gibson, founder and CEO, AQMetrics

Geraldine Gibson put her confluence of skills to work to found AQMetrics. Here, she tells us about her regtech start-up and why she chooses to have her HQ away from the capital city.

Fintech Week

Geraldine Gibson started her career in software at Oracle, focused on risk modelling. She went on to join global investment firm Susquehanna International before landing at Norkom, a specialist provider of financial crime and compliance software founded in Dublin in 1998.

When Gibson joined Norkom, she was one of fewer than 15 employees. The company grew to more than 375 employees and, working among them, Gibson wore many hats. “It was a great journey and gave me the window into how to grow an Irish software start-up from seedling to a global leader,” she said.

Now, Gibson has put what her career journey taught her into action as founder and CEO of AQMetrics, a regtech start-up backed by Frontline Ventures, Bluff Point Associates and Enterprise Ireland.

What’s your elevator pitch?

AQMetrics is a leading regtech company focused on delivering regulatory risk and compliance solutions for financial professionals. We recognised that the accepted methods of managing risk and compliance were slow, outmoded and inefficient. We drew upon our team’s deep experience in innovation, technology, law and financial services to build a platform that performed markedly better, helping our clients leverage technology to more efficiently meet regulatory obligations. The AQMetrics platform has been tested, proven and perfected.

What is the technology and infrastructure behind AQMetrics?

AQMetrics is cloud-based platform. It consists of a golden data source, analytics rules engine and beautifully designed user interface. All of AQMetrics’ technology is designed, developed and tested by AQMetrics software developers. This is because we are laser-focused on cyber and data security. Our customers trust us with their data and we respect that, so we build our software from the ground up to ensure that secure coding practices and GDPR considerations lie behind every line of code written.

We are proud to say that AQMetrics developers build our proprietary software using the latest technologies and techniques, which means our software is the best in market from both a usability and cyber/data security perspective.

Was there a eureka moment that inspired the idea or was it more of a gradual development?

It was a gradual development. Having cut my teeth at Oracle, I’d always aspired to run a software company. Then I had the chance to build complex risk models on the trading floor of a high-frequency trading firm and that ignited my passion for financial markets and risk modelling. The opportunity to move into the regulatory software space came next, when I spent the best part of 10 years at Norkom, which was acquired by the software giant BAE in 2011.

Combining database software knowledge gained from Oracle, financial risk modelling experience from the Susquehanna International Group and regulatory compliance software experience from Norkom led to the development of AQMetrics, which combines all three areas into one.

Do you find defining yours as a regtech start-up is helpful in developing your brand and becoming part of an ecosystem?

We are a regtech for sure. Although the management team here often remark that we have been in regtech for almost two decades now (our COO and VP of technology both worked with me at Norkom). Our in-house joke is that we were in regtech before the word was cool. And, yes, regtech is helpful in developing the AQMetrics brand.

How about setting up outside of the capital – do you find you have everything you need?

We are happy to keep our HQ in Maynooth, it has everything we need. It takes less time for our foreign visitors to get to Maynooth from the airport than to try get into Dublin city. Our employees either reside locally or do what they refer to as the ‘reverse commute’, which again saves them time when compared to commuting into the city.

Further, as a university town, Maynooth is well served by public transport. Talent from the university also gravitates towards us. We have a number of interns from the computer science department throughout the year, and a number of our talented full-time developers and quants are Maynooth-educated to MSc and PhD level.

How is the business doing now and what are your 2017 goals?

AQMetrics is executing to our business plan. As a software-as-a-service company, we have invested heavily in building product until 2017. That’s four years of product building. During that time, we also managed to acquire customers in New York, Boston, London and Dublin, and file to regulators in multiple jurisdictions such as the BVI and Cayman Islands, the Nordics and all major European financial services centres from our HQ in Maynooth. We have now reached a point where we have opened offices in New York and London to service these markets locally, and believe that 2017 is the year that AQMetrics regional offices will perform in a manner that will bear fruit for the four years of product building undertaken in Maynooth.

We previously wrote how there are more fintech CEOs named John than there are women CEOs overall. Are you conscious of a gender gap in your industry? Have you come up against any discrimination?

Yes, there are currently more fintech CEOs named John than there are women CEOs overall. The gender gap in the financial services industry is well documented and then the software industry is another industry with a known gender gap at the top (although the gap has somewhat lessened over the past five years).

Coming up against discrimination is a part of life and impacts many people irrespective of gender, race, religion and sexuality. Yes, I have faced discrimination but I have decided to consciously acknowledge it whilst not letting it get under my skin. That’s how I ensure I remain strong and focused on building a truly global software company.

What would be your advice to other female founders out there, who may be feeling in the minority?

There is only one person who can choose how you feel and that is you. Decide what feelings are having a negative impact on you and your business, and change them constructively. Don’t ignore the fact that you are feeling in the minority but make a conscious decision to change that feeling over time for yourself and those other female founders following behind you.

AQMetrics is a previous recipient of the Enterprise Ireland Competitive Start Fund and was identified by Enterprise Ireland as a high-potential start-up in 2013. The latest Competitive Start Fund for Female Entrepreneurs is currently seeking 15 founders for a share of €750,000, with applications open until 17 May 2017. 

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.