CorribPoint brings credit unions safely into the fintech age

29 Oct 2018

CorribPoint founders John Rushe and Caitriona McGuckian. Image: CorribPoint

Our Start-up of the Week is Galway-based CorribPoint, which has developed a cloud technology for credit unions to meet AML obligations.

“Currently, all financial institutions have to meet the same legal obligations in relation to anti-money laundering (AML) and countering of terrorist financing, regardless of their size,” explained Caitriona McGuckian, co-founder of CorribPoint.

“However, smaller financial organisations have infinitely less resources to meet these obligations compared with larger finance houses who have significantly greater budgets and resources to enable them to align with legislation. Without the expertise, capabilities or the resources necessary to meet these obligations in full, these smaller financial organisations are exposed to potential prosecution and fines, as currently evidenced in the media.

‘Our research attests that there is currently no automated AML solution designed specifically for this market and that the sector is really struggling as a result’

“At CorribPoint, we have developed Akula, a fully automated cloud-based solution enabling credit unions and smaller financial institutions to meet anti-money laundering obligations under legislation efficiently, consistently and cost-effectively.”

The market

McGuckian said that CorribPoint chose the credit union market in Ireland and the UK as a starting point for its technology because its founders have substantial domain expertise in the area of audit/compliance in this marketplace, as well as a rich network of contacts.

“Our research attests that there is currently no automated AML solution designed specifically for this market and that the sector is really struggling as a result. From a financial perspective, the market is big enough initially to enable us to generate revenue organically. This will facilitate us in further developing our product with a view to entering other sectors within the microfinance area.

“That said, we are currently talking to a number of credit union organisations in US and Canada with a view to entering these geographies. There are in excess of 68,000 credit unions worldwide, and anti-money laundering/countering of terrorist financing is a global initiative driven by the FATF (Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering).”

The founders

McGuckian’s background is in IT solution delivery, focusing particularly on managing the relationship between the customer and the IT organisation. She has more than 15 years’ experience in delivering IT solutions in key business areas into client organisations across financial, government and manufacturing sectors.

Her co-founder, John Rushe, has more than 20 years’ experience in the delivery of software solutions to the enterprise IT market in Ireland. His background is in architecting and the design of enterprise solutions.

The technology

Akula is a cloud-based platform that automates the process of identifying, analysing and reporting potentially suspicious financial transactions. As well as risk-profiling customers, the solution also ensures that there is an end-to-end audit trail retained on system to ensure all compliance and governance requirements are met within an organisation.

“Our ambition is to create and deliver world-class compliance software to the microfinance sector,” McGuckian said. “We aim to expand our development team and product offering and make CorribPoint the ‘go to’ company for all regulation technology solutions for this sector worldwide.”

McGuckian said that the market has proven to be receptive to the solution. “The feedback for our solution has been fantastic; there is a palpable sense of urgency in the market as the burden of regulatory compliance shows no sign of dissipating. There is a need for a holistic AML solution in this space, and our solution meets that need.

“Our credit union pipeline is very strong in the Republic and we are starting to meet with customers in Northern Ireland as well as talking to credit union organisations in US and Canada. We have recently been accepted on to the NDRC programme in Galway. I believe that by participating in this programme, we will be able to leverage the rich expertise and contact network that NDRC offers.

“This will assist us in acquiring the knowledge and expertise outside of our own domains, enabling us to bring our product into different sectors within microfinance and to attract future investment.”

The customer is always right

When it comes to building the solution and deploying it, McGuckian said that the team members are perfectionists. “I think our greatest challenge stems from our background in delivering enterprise software solutions to the highest standard. It is very difficult to draw a line at minimum viable product (MVP) stage and resist the temptation of deploying more resources into further product development in pursuit of the perfect solution. It is crucial that when MVP is achieved, that resources are redeployed and channelled into getting a product into market and getting customer feedback.

“The market sector we chose is very disparate in nature; there are more than 270 credit unions across the country with vast differences in their technology footprint, their asset size as well as their approach to AML. We needed to design a ‘one size fits all’ solution which was highly customer-configurable to ensure it meets the needs of client organisations regardless of size – this did pose a few design challenges.

“Another challenge we had to overcome was convincing our customers to embrace the cloud, as almost all credit unions house their banking operating system on servers in-house. Security of customer data is paramount; at CorribPoint, we take a security-by-design approach to our application development. We have also engaged independent security consultants to test our solution.”

McGuckian describes the start-up scene in Ireland as vibrant. “I have been amazed by some of the new Irish companies which I have encountered in the past 12 months. We have been lucky enough to receive CSF [Competitive Start Fund] support from Enterprise Ireland (EI).

“EI have provided us first-class support and guidance on our journey thus far. There is a great collaborative culture and sense of good will within the start-up community; everyone is happy to share their experiences and their advice.

“We have reached out to a number of established IT organisations within the credit union sector, and their advice and guidance has been invaluable. They have been more than happy to answer our questions and share their contacts with us. It is this generosity of spirit that makes for a very successful entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

Her advice to fellow founders is to remember to put the customer first. “It is very easy to get distracted when starting out; you wear many hats, from product design, finance, sales and marketing, product delivery to customer service etc. It is crucial to stay focused on your customer – the customer was, is and always will be king.

“Identify a few key clients early on, build and nurture your relationships with them, give them your product, let them use it, then listen, listen, listen.

“Also tell your butcher, your baker, your candlestick maker about what you are doing, as you will find contacts in the unlikeliest of places.”

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John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years