’s Fidelma McGuirk on taking the pain out of payroll

21 Nov 2017

CEO and founder of, Fidelma McGuirk. Image:

Payroll can be a major hassle for companies, but one innovative start-up wants to change things.

Fidelma McGuirk previously founded and was the CEO of Her entrepreneurial spirit and expertise saw her launch fintech cloud payroll start-up earlier this year.

She spoke to about the Irish fintech landscape and making payroll smart.

A thorough development cycle

McGuirk said that her involvement in very different types of business taught her a lot of valuable lessons.

In terms of software, she said: “One of the key learnings, from a pure technology point of view, is to choose your technology partner very carefully, whether you have the staff internally or externally, and to make sure that – even though you are really anxious to get a product to market– to follow a really robust software development life cycle and software testing process.”

She explained that’s software development cycle followed a very structured mapping process known as ‘from field to firewall’ – something she said she had never developed in the same way for previous projects. “I learned from those projects where we needed to scale up the software very quickly; that if you don’t have the documentation very clear, you end up reworking parts of it.”

In terms of entrepreneurial lessons, McGuirk said courage is key. “You do have to really be brave, and not be worried about having egg on your face going out and talking to as many people as possible in the market.”

She said the team engaged regularly with people in the payroll industry all over the world, “to see which parts of the service they liked, which parts they didn’t think were of value, which parts they’d pay for, which parts they wouldn’t … some of the changes we made over the two years were informed by suggestions we got”.

Adapting after the recession

McGuirk describes the global fintech scene as “very lively”, and mentioned how the recession here in Ireland changed things for many. “I suppose coming out of the recession now, there are a lot of people like me in their early forties or late thirties who experienced before the recession and then during the recession.

“We saw how companies had to cut their cloth to their measure during the recession, and be extremely efficient with a lot less than before.

“Out of that experience comes ideas about how things can be done better, and I think a lot of things and innovations are happening across technology out of that experience in lots of different places.”

She said that fintech is an exciting and innovative industry to be a part of. “It’s a good time to have a lot of the very traditional processes to be reviewed from a different perspective.”

An avalanche of ideas

McGuirk posited that we are currently at the stage in fintech where there is a flurry of new concepts, but she expects it to settle eventually. “At the moment, we’re going through the big, big surge in ideas and innovations and, within a few years, we will probably see some of that consolidating back, whether fintechs become acquired by different companies or integrate with each other.”

In terms of what keeps her excited about working in the fintech space, McGuirk simply cites “relevance”, as payroll headaches are something every company experiences.

“Payroll is an essential business process – it’s just fact. Every organisation, whether they are a company or a charity or university or PLC company, they all have staff and they all have to deliver payroll, and it’s the most essential process because it’s the basis of the faith your employees have in you.”

As someone who has set up operations in 20 countries, she’s in a good position to see what clients really want. “I’ve suffered the pain of what our clients are suffering.”

She concluded: “Being fintech gives you the opportunity to take something that is an essential process, make it smart, make it easier to use, put a really nice UX together to make it friendly to use for the payroll, HR and finance staff, and deliver for a key process.”

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects