Talk the talk

Billy Saunderson, chief executive of card payments company EuroConex, talks to David Clerkin.

Where does EuroConex came from?

We were formed in June 2000 as a joint venture between Nova Information Systems, the fourth largest credit card payment processor in the US, and Bank of Ireland.

Nova was a publicly-quoted business when we first started but it was since taken over by US Bancorp, a leading US bank.

Nova wanted to expand into Europe and decided it was better to do this with a European partner.

Bank of Ireland’s card services division had skills in both card issuing and merchant payment processing, and the bank was attracted by the opportunity to grow that business.

How successful have you been so far?

We're a profitable business even though we’re only four-years-old. This business is based on high volumes and low margins, so we have to excel in terms of operational efficiencies. We hope to be significantly profitable in the coming year.

I understand Bank of Ireland recently sold its stake in the company. What are the consequences for you?

The joint venture lasted four years but Bank of Ireland exited for strategic reasons. It has no real negatives for us. We’ll concentrate now on our ambitions for growth. Ireland and Britain are important for us but we have ambitions way beyond that.

Nova has just bought AIB’s payments business in Poland. What does this mean?

EuroConex will be the ultimate beneficiary of the acquisition. We currently employ 230 people in Arklow and 20 in Dublin, but with Poland and a new deal to handle payments for Alliance & Leicester in Britain, we'll add a further 70 to 100 jobs.

The two deals are an ideal fit. Both businesses already do exactly what we do, but the benefits will come from the investment we've made in our payments infrastructure that will complement sales and front-end staff outside Ireland.

Any ambitions elsewhere in Europe?

We expect the European card payments business to replicate the experience in America, where there's been a lot of consolidation.

We're not one of the biggest players in terms of volume yet. This is a 5-10 year play. We're very pleased with the early success we've achieved. We've entered into an alliance with Banco Santander Central Hispano in Spain. This operation processes card business for 5,000 merchants at the moment. In Ireland, that figure is 30,000.

We're also active in France, with a product that's proving attractive to the hotel sector. We've signed contracts with the major hotel chains there.

And the future?

It's looking very bright. Our relationship with Santander in Spain will grow considerably. France has a very significant opportunity, while The Netherlands has the potential to be very interesting.

We'll also look at the Nordic region and central European countries beyond Poland.

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