“For me, success is great customer satisfaction and a healthy bottom line.” — Q&A with Ruth McCarthy, CEO Corporate Payments, Fexco

CEO Q&A | Mon 21 Mar | Author – Business & Finance
Pictured: Ruth McCarthy, CEO Corporate Payments, Fexco.

Ruth McCarthy is the CEO Corporate Payments of Irish based fin-tech company Fexco.

What are your main priorities and goals in your role? 

The main goal in my business is to be in our customer’s corner as a real alternative to the banks. This means ensuring excellence in everything we do, from onboarding through to post-transaction services. 

What are your biggest challenges as CEO? 

My greatest challenge as CEO is strategic. I spend a lot of time tracking emerging trends like payments innovation, cybersecurity, and integrated services to inform our business strategy. 

We’re constantly improve our offering to remain at the cutting edge, so I also need to help the business implement those changes while delivering on current customer demands.

How do you keep your team/ staff motivated?

I have a fantastic team who know how to run a great business. They give me motivation! The team are constantly looking for ways to improve and they’re laser-focused on the customer, so it’s a pleasure to go into work each day.

What are the challenges facing the industry going forward? 

The payments industry is seeing a transition to new payment technologies which is really exciting: customers are getting better experiences at the checkout and they have much more flexibility and control of their payments. Integrated services also enable businesses to manage all their payments activity in one place. This transformation poses opportunities for innovative companies like Fexco, but it also poses challenges for payments businesses because we have to deliver a secure and reliable service through these new channels. This requires a huge amount of work and some inspired planning. 

What new trends are emerging in your industry? 

Digital assets (particularly central bank digital currencies and cryptocurrencies) are hot topics at the moment and we are very involved in research in this area. Open banking and instant payments are also bringing in a new era of seamless payments and challenging the dominance of the card schemes. The next few years are going to be very exciting because the lines between different payment types are becoming blurred and new technology is transforming our market.

Are there any major changes you would like to see in your sector? 

I would like to see Irish banks offering instant payments, so that consumers and businesses can move payments from one domestic bank account to another with maximum efficiency.

I would also like to see more competition in the Irish banking sector. This is something that government and the industry is struggling with now that KBC and Ulster Bank are withdrawing from the market.

As an employer are you finding any skill gaps in the market? 

Payments talent is always in short supply. More recently there has been pressure for staff in compliance and assurance as regulatory demands have increased. There’s also pressure for technologists and digital sales specialists due to the growth in online.

How did your strategy develop in the context of the banking crisis and economic crisis? 

The financial crisis impacted a lot of our customers and had a knock-on impact on Fexco Corporate Payments. Efficiency and resilience are second nature to my team as a result. The crisis encouraged us to diversify, developing new products and expanding to new markets. One thing that hasn’t changed is our commitment to long-standing customers. We weathered a chaotic period together during the economic crash and we came out of it stronger.

How will Brexit affect you, or have you started to feel the effects already? 

We have a branch in the UK and we serve many businesses and consumers there, but our business has not been badly impacted by Brexit. 

Brexit caused a lot of confusion and additional cost for our customers but they were quick to adapt. The pandemic also obscured a lot of the Brexit pain!

How has the COVID-19 crisis affected your business/sector? 

Our focus on resilience and continuity meant that we didn’t miss a beat when the pandemic hit. Our teams went remote and we maintained a skeleton staff on-site. We actually made a lot of business changes during the lockdowns; for example we improved our digital onboarding processes, added new products, and participated in a group restructure in 2020.

The pandemic was a mixed bag depending on the type of business you were in. Some of our customers experienced closures, while others saw the cost of container shipments skyrocket and struggled with supply chain logistics. We were delighted to offer back-up solutions to clients struggling with remote work and we supported clients buying essential supplies.

How do you define success and what drives you to succeed? 

For me, success is great customer satisfaction and a healthy bottom line. I’m driven to exceed expectations, whether that’s solving a complex problem, developing a new idea or going above and beyond for a customer. I love learning new things and finding ways to adopt new technology.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given, or would give, in business? 

I wholeheartedly agree with the saying that “we always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten”. It’s essential to make realistic plans for the near term and ambitious plans for the long term, and balance our energy across those timeframes. Tomorrow always comes sooner than we think.

What have been your highlights in business over the past year? 

In the Corporate Payments business we have won fantastic new business that have validated our beliefs about our products and the future of our market. 

Fexco also had a couple of highlights last year with the successful sale of the Goodbody business and our share in the Taxamo business. We are now reinvesting in areas where we see potential for growth and innovation.

What’s next for your company? 

In Fexco Corporate Payments our digital model means that we can access new markets and geographies, so we are primed for international expansion. We are using innovation and partnership to grow the business by making our payments available through partner API’s and this will grow our volumes exponentially. Customers will be able to use our payments in their native environment rather than having to get set up on new systems: this kind of seamless payments integration is the future for our business and the wider industry.

Where do you want your business/brand to be this time next year?

Customers associate our brand with quality, reliability and trust. As we face into global uncertainty, these core values have never been so important. We are positioning our brand as the number 1 specialist for international payments in the markets where we operate, both for businesses and for integration partners. We are on track to meet that goal by 2023.