Podcast Ep 111: Gecko Governance CEO Michelle McGuire is on a mission to change the ratio when it comes to the number of women in fintech and regtech. She also hopes to grow the North East’s tech potential by helping build the Fintech Corridor.
According to The 2018 Irish Fintech Census, 19% of Irish fintech companies maintained a gender ratio of 100:0 male to female employees, with a mere 13% stating that their company ratio was 50:50 male to female.
Louth-based regtech player Gecko Governance is on a mission to change this.
“A lot of myths have been dispelled such as you have to code to work in the industry. It’s not all software and algorithms. We need compliance people, marketing people, business development and sales people”
Led by Michelle McGuire, the business is also part of a regional effort to develop a Fintech Corridor in the North East of Ireland. She talks about the changing fintech landscape in Ireland and addressing the gender divide in the industry.
Bringing order to chaos
McGuire explains that Gecko Governance is a regtech business that provides software services to regulated enterprises to help them manage very complex compliance, regulatory and operational needs. The business was founded in 2015 by entrepreneur Shane Brett.
The seven-year-old business, she says, is focused on making regulatory processes much more streamlined and manageable. “We’re very proud of the fact that we’re from the Louth region. It’s been great for me personally to be able to work in the town that I live in and as a consequence we work quite closely with the college here, Dundalk Institute of Technology.”
The fallout from the financial crisis of more than a decade ago was the increased cost of compliance for banks and other regulated enterprises in the financial sector. “And look at the financial sanctions being brought against Russia. These changes are happening all of the time. And it’s very hard for banks and financial services companies to do this manually. So by using Gecko software in their organisation it helps them to manage regulatory change. It helps them to evidence all the activity they have done to the point to say that they are compliant. It’s no longer good enough to simply say you are compliant. You have to prove it.
“Our software tracks every keystroke of activity and provides reporting on everything that has happened within a timeframe. But fundamentally, it helps our clients to manage operational costs, especially in an era where there is a war for talent. It helps to reduce some of the significant overheads that companies face.”
McGuire says the ambition to create a Fintech Corridor in the North East of Ireland is in a way being influenced by the war for talent due to its strategic location.
“It is equal distance between Dublin and Belfast and there are great links to both cities by motorway. As you know we’ve a great college here. Dundalk is home to PayPal in Ireland as well as a growing number of pharmaceutical companies. There’s a lot of foreign direct investment in the region.”
Another plus is cost of living. “Property is cheaper than Dublin and that’s a real draw for lots of people.”
She explained that Dundalk Institute of Technology and the University of Ulster are collaborating with businesses in the region to drive the vision behind the North East Fintech Corridor.
With trends like the Great Resignation/Reassessment under way, the opportunity to embrace entrepreneurship and to work with small but growing start-ups are also a draw for professionals.
“You can work in these smaller organisations and be part of something, and it does pique a lot of people’s interest.”
The gender divide in fintech/regtech is also being felt across the entire tech sector but at Gecko she proudly proclaims a 50/50 gender balance has been struck.
Professional groups like the Fintech Corridor, she says, help to demystify the industry. “A lot of myths have been dispelled such as you have to code to work in the industry. It’s not all software and algorithms. We need compliance people, marketing people, business development and sales people. The message is getting out there that there’s more to the sector than meets the eye. And as a consequence of that the gender divide is shortening rapidly.”
I put it to McGuire that the strategic location of Dundalk and the North East region between the cities of Belfast and Dublin makes it ripe for investment and growth.
Members of the Fintech Corridor include IDA Ireland, PayPal, Yapstone, Bluecode, Enterprise Ireland, Dell, Fintech NI and AWS, to name a few.
“It’s a two hour corridor with lots of colleges and universities that could link with businesses in the area – great connectivity, great roads and great businesses. We are able to work with the educational bodies to devise courses and help skill up the young graduates coming out of college and the evidence of that will be the prosperity and development that will be attracted into the region.”
Looking to the future McGuire says growth is on the cards. “We are planning to grow quite rapidly this year. We have joined forces with a couple of other firms to build and deliver products, particularly one for the ESG (environmental, social, governance) space that is hugely topical right now.
“We also plan to re-strategise to grow in the US and Australia where we have offices in both locations. The goal is to keep driving forward and build upon the good progress we’ve made in the last couple of years.”