25 key people influencing Ireland’s fintech revolution

20 Oct 2015

Fintech is an opportunity for Ireland to create both an indigenous and global powerhouse. These are the 25 people driving this.

Merging the legacy of the IFSC with Ireland’s technology pedigree, fintech represents an irresistible opportunity for Ireland to create both an indigenous and global powerhouse in the sector.


A shrewd bet on the International Financial Services Centre (IFSC) in the 1990s resulted in a bastion of global commerce taking root in the heart of Dublin.

Once the IFSC was a district of Dublin but today more than a third of IFSC jobs are located outside Dublin.

Today, more than 35,000 people are directly employed in IFSC companies across the length of the country from Donegal to Kerry, not to mention the thousands of jobs that are indirectly supported by these companies.

Now, in 2015, the financial prowess of the IFSC can be allied with a technology pedigree to create a whole new scalable sector called fintech, and here are the Irish and Irish-based minds driving it.

1. Simon Harris, Minister of State for International Financial Services

At just 28, Simon Harris is the youngest minister in the Irish cabinet and the 31st Dail and he uses his youthful energy to his fullest advantage. Harris, as Minister of State for International Financial Services, is planning a major IFS Summit for Ireland early next year.

In March, he launched the Irish Government’s five-year International Financial Services Strategy (IFS2020), which aims to build on Ireland’s strengths in talent, technology, innovation and client service to make Ireland the go-to location for the next generation of digitally-oriented financial services.

It includes over 30 actions in areas like improving competitiveness, driving research and innovation and creating new sub-sectors and markets. It also includes making use of Ireland’s enterprise agencies and embassies, its education system and its diaspora network.

2. Colm Lyon, Fintech and Payments Association of Ireland

The founder of Realex Payments, which was this year acquired by Global Payments for €115m, Lyon is continuing his fintech pursuits with his new start-up Fire Financial Services, and as chair of the newly established Fintech and Payments Association of Ireland.

Lyon, formerly head of IT at Ulster Bank, accepted neighbour John Teeling’s advice to wait until he was 38 to start a business. Funded by a Business Expansion Scheme (BES) Lyon established Realex Payments to provide electronic payment processing for internet companies and retailers. The company’s first client was DirectSki.com.

By the time of the acquisition by Global Payments, Realex was processing more than €28bn worth of payments on behalf of 12,500 clients around the world. In recent weeks, Lyon was honoured as a Net Visionary by the Irish Internet Association. Lyon’s latest venture aims to bring instant personal payments to users in the UK and Ireland through Pay with Fire. The Pay with Fire app users will be able to keep their accounts topped up to make instant mobile payments to anyone with a UK or Irish mobile phone number.

3. Michael Kelly, FINEOS

FINEOS is one of Ireland’s longest-standing and most respected original fintech players. Founded in Dublin by Michael Kelly in 1993, the company is a provider of enterprise software solutions for insurance and government social insurance. Headquartered in Dublin, it has offices in North America, Europe and Australia. FINEOS has more than 60 insurance carriers and government accident compensation agencies as customers, with six of the top 20 group life and health insurance carriers using the FINEOS core software today. In August, it emerged that the company is to create 50 new jobs in Dublin over the next 18 months. The company has also opened a new headquarters and R&D base at East Point in Dublin.

4. Patrick Collison, Stripe

Tipperary native and Stripe CEO Patrick Collison, along with his brother John, sold their company Auctomatic to Live Current Media for $5m in  2007 when they were just 19 and 17 respectively.

They followed this up with Stripe, an online payments engine that simplifies the purchase of content and goods on websites, which is now considered one of the hottest and fastest-growing tech companies in Silicon Valley. Stripe raised its first round of funding of $2m in March 2011 from investment veterans Peter Thiel, Elon Musk, Sequoia Capital and Andreesen Horowitz. This was followed by a further funding round of $18m in February 2012 by Sequoia Capital that at the time valued their company at $100m. In December, Stripe raised a further $70m from new investor Thrive Capital, along with existing investors Sequoia Capital, Founders Fund, General Catalyst and Khosla Ventures.

A further funding round of $100m from investors that include Visa values the company at more than $5bn.

5. Louise Phelan, PayPal

PayPal’s vice-president for global operations for EMEA, Louise Phelan, has been continually successful in securing growth at PayPal’s operations in Ireland, including securing 1,000 new jobs in 2012 for Dundalk, Co Louth, in addition to the 1,500 already employed by the company in Blanchardstown, Dublin.

Phelan, who joined PayPal in 2006, has been noted for her leadership skills during one of the most daunting economic periods in Irish history and has been a prominent voice on the need to ensure better technology and language proficiencies for Irish workers.

6. Garry Lyons, MasterCard

Not many people know this, but the majority of MasterCard’s global R&D takes place in Dublin. This is due to the acquisition by MasterCard in 2008 of an Irish technology company headed by Garry Lyons called Orbiscom for US$100m. Today, Lyons is chief innovation officer and head of MasterCard Labs. He is responsible for developing and leading initiatives, programmes and strategies to foster innovation throughout MasterCard. He also runs the company’s global R&D arm dedicated to bringing innovative payment solutions to market with greater speed than ever before.

7. Anne Boden, Starling Bank

Founder and CEO of Starling Bank Anne Boden has more than 30 years’ experience in retail banking and intends to build a smart, personalised and fully mobile banking experience that suits the modern consumer.

The former chief operating officer of AIB is on a mission to create the best bank account in the world with her own company, Starling Bank, which is currently in the process of becoming regulated in the UK.

8. Barry Dowling, TransferMate

Barry Dowling is the CEO and co-founder of global payments company TransferMate. Dowling co-founded TransferMate in 2010 with Sinead Fitzmaurice and Terry Clune.

The foreign exchange brokers now has offices in Ireland, the UK, France, Italy, Spain, North America, Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong.

The fintech company created 25 positions in its Kilkenny office earlier this year, which brought the number of people employed in Ireland by Transfermate to 130 and globally brought the figure to 150.

9. Emmet Savage, Rubicoin

Recently honoured in Irish America’s Wall Street 50, Emmet Savage took to stocks at a young age. He has raised €2.1m so far for his new start-up Rubicoin, which aims to get people investing by recommending companies to invest in based on intensive research. This user-friendly and attractive app was built to help novices learn how to invest ‘like a pro’, and Rubicoin’s ease of use is exemplified by its trademarked ‘Swipe to Invest’ and ‘Tap to Invest’ functionality – the likely product of lifelong investors and tech geeks.

10. Morgan Lynch, Senddr

Senddr aims to make invoicing quick and easy by transferring invoices, credit notes and purchase orders directly between different accounting systems.

Founders (and brothers) Morgan and Malcolm Lynch built Senddr to reduce errors and ensure payments are made in a swifter fashion, though the platform is not limited to e-invoicing. In fact, Senddr’s secure service can be used to exchange structured data for management of any custom document type

 11. Mark Roden, Ding

Ding, the start-up formerly known as Ezetop, enables people living or working abroad to instantly top-up the mobile phones of friends and family back home.

Last year, Ding CEO Mark Roden revealed that some 80,000 Ding transactions are made per day, with a 10pc commission earned by the company on each one.

Ding achieved second place in the 2014 Deloitte Technology Fast 50 ranking, with a growth rate of more than 1,000pc in the last five years, but it hasn’t stopped there. This year, Ding acquired iSend, the largest top-up network in the US, doubling the size of its global business.

 12. Marc Murphy, Fenergo

Headed by Marc Murphy, five-year-old start-up Fenergo is on a mission to set the industry standard in fintech. During the summer, the company completed the biggest investment round by an Irish company to date, raising €75m from Insight Venture Partners, with plans to launch an IPO within three years. The company, which specialises in providing Client Lifecycle Management software, will use the new capital to grow its global footprint and expand its presence in new and existing markets.

Fenergo also intends to create a new partner ecosystem, which includes a Fenergo University and consulting accreditation programme, to implement its technology. Headquartered in Dublin, the company has recently expanded globally to include offices in London, New York, Boston, Sydney and Wroclaw.

13. Maoiliosa O’Culachain, NASDAQ

An accomplished shares practitioner, O’Culachain is business development director for NASDAQ Private Markets where he has a Europe-wide remit. He is is an entrepreneur with a track record of setting up businesses and a strong network of contacts around the world and was a co-founder of Global Shares Plc, an independent employee share plan administration services company, in December 2005. Prior to that, he was the ESOP manager in Eircom (now Eir) between 1998 and 2004.

14. Pat Phelan, Trustev

Pat Phelan is one of Ireland’s best-known tech entrepreneurs and established Cork-headquartered Trustev to develop anti-fraud technology for e-commerce and financial companies.

Trustev’s real-time online identity verification focuses on validating the individual performing an online transaction, not just the method of payment. By tracking behavioural, transactional and social data, the Trustev platform processes thousands of dynamic data points. This information is used to help retailers recover 2pc of revenue lost to fraud plus an additional 2pc lost by blocking genuine customers.

15. Caroline Faulkner, Pramerica

During the summer, Pramerica announced the creation of 330 jobs at its Letterkenny facility as part of an expansion that will include the development of a new, state-of-the-art, eco-friendly campus nearby.

Spearheading the project is Caroline Faulkner, senior managing director and CIO of Pramerica, the business and technology subsidiary of US-based Prudential Financial. A recognised business transformation leader, Faulkner played a principal role with the initial management team in getting the company up and running from a green field site to a fully functioning operation with more than 1,200 employees in Letterkenny.

 16. Terry Clune, Taxback

Terry Clune is the founder, owner and CEO of Taxback.com and The Taxback Group. A graduate of Trinity College Dublin, Terry formulated the Taxback.com business concept while working in Germany as a student. Terry found himself paying about 50 to 60pc tax in Germany and so he gave up his construction job and started figuring out how to get that tax back. The company now employs around 1,000 people in Kilkenny.

Clune also conceived the idea for IDA-backed ConnectIreland. ConnectIreland has spearheaded more than 50 projects that came from referrals and which created more than 1,500 jobs in Ireland. He is also one of the co-founders of TransferMate, along with Barry Dowling, who is also on this list.

17. Cecilia Ronan, Citi

Cecilia Ronan is Citi Ireland’s chief administrative officer (CAO) and head of Dublin’s Citi Service Centre.

Ronan is also the driving force behind Citi’s new 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. It’s these statistics that the company’s new Women in Technology Group aims to change.

18. David Tighe, Bank of Ireland

David Tighe is head of innovation at Bank of Ireland and he is a driving force behind numerous digital initiatives at the bank, including its willingness to work with fintech start-ups and foster the broader start-up landscape across Ireland. Tighe has supported various initiatives, including Bank of Ireland’s Enterprise Towns as well as the new StartLab Galway incubator, which was launched by Bank of Ireland CEO Richie Boucher during the recent Start-up Gathering. StartLab is designed to incubate high-potential tech start-ups, supporting them through rapid scaling.

19. Gareth Murphy, Central Bank

Director of markets supervision at the Central Bank of Ireland, Gareth Murphy is focused on the challenges presented by new technology in the financial services sphere. Murphy is responsible for the supervision and regulation of Irish securities markets and investment firms. He is a member of the Board of Supervisors of the European Securities and Markets Authority and chairs its Investment Management Standing Committee.

20. David Dalton, Deloitte Ireland

David Dalton is head of Deloitte’s financial services practice. He also leads Deloitte’s analytics practice in Ireland. A report by Deloitte in March estimated that some 5,000 jobs could be created in Ireland by fintech companies over the next five years.

21. Brett Meyers, CurrencyFair

Brett Meyers, co-founder and CEO of CurrencyFair, originally hails from Perth in western Australia. He has been living in Ireland for some years now as an expatriate.

CurrencyFair is an online marketplace where individuals and businesses can exchange currencies and send funds to bank accounts worldwide. Through CurrencyFair, users perform currency exchanges on a peer-to-peer basis and, last year, it became the first platform to break the US$1bn barrier in money-matching transfers. Since being selected as a Siliconrepublic.com Start-up of the Week in 2013, CurrencyFair has grown its Dublin office and, in April this year, secured €10m in funding.

22. Anna Scally, KPMG

Anna Scally, KPMG Ireland partner and its head of Technology, Media and Telecoms, is a prominent player on the Irish technology landscape working with everyone from start-ups to multi-billion tech giants. Scally mentors on the Startupbootcamp accelerator programme, and advises a number of start-up tech companies on the challenges around, for example, fundraising and structuring shareholder agreements, as well as advising multinational companies in the ICT, digital and gaming industries, as well as the pharmaceutical and life sciences sectors.

23. Catherine Duffy, Northern Trust

Catherine Duffy is general manager of Northern Trust’s Limerick operations, which is now expected to grow to more than 1,000 employees by the end of 2017. 125-year-old financial services player Northern Trust has had a presence in Ireland since 1989 and opened its Dublin office in 2000, which now employs more than 500 people. Its first Limerick office was opened in 2006 and also employs more than 500 people.

24. John Murphy, PwC Ireland

John Murphy is a partner and also fintech lead at accounting giant PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in Dublin. He joined the organisation in 1999 and works with a broad range of Irish-headquartered companies as well as working on PwC’s M&A team. He works across a broad base of equity and corporate clients, including large privately-owned companies, early-stage technology companies and Irish Plcs.

25. Todd Curry, Aon

Todd Curry is CEO of the insurance giant Aon’s Centre for Innovation and Analytics in Dublin (ACIA). Aon is a provider of risk management, insurance and reinsurance brokerage, human resource solutions and outsourcing services. Founded in 1919, the company has grown to employ 66,000 people worldwide.

Aon has invested US$350m globally in boosting its analytics technologies and capabilities. ACIA in Dublin employs around 150 people and last year announced 30 new jobs.

Fintech Focus is a week of fresh fintech-focused content hosted on Siliconrepublic.com from 19 to 23 October. Stay up to date with the latest stories by subscribing to our news alerts, or follow the hashtag#FintechFocus from @siliconrepublic on Twitter.

25 image via Shutterstock

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