Investment banks spot the merit in brother’s software

In 1998, two brothers started working on a financial software product in the evenings and at weekends. By 2001 they had given up their day jobs and taken on a global investment bank as their first customer, writes Trish Dromey

Investment banks spot the merit in brother’s software

The development of an innovative case -management and payment processing product has enabled Dublin company Merit Software to develop sales to seven of the world’s largest investment banks.

Operating from offices in Dublin and London, the firm offers software which automates the receivable and payable process for the investment banking industry and also provides products to manage a range of payments and claims including dividends, interest, stock and coupons.

“We now have 30 implementations globally with multiple users of

the software in all cases,’’ explains company co-founder and chief executive Kerril Burke who says that the onset of recession has increased demand for a product which allows companies to manage receivables and payables more effectively.

Shortlisted for the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards in the Emerging Category, Merit has increased sales by 20% a year for the last three years and according to Mr Burke is now on target to achieve this level of growth again this year.

A chartered accountant Mr Burke identified a gap in the market for a product to process interest claims which arose due to late payments.

“These were being processed manually and I saw an opportunity for automation,’’ he says explaining that he consulted his brother Paul Burke, a software developer about creating a product to do this.

While still working as an accountant, he and his brother registered the company in Dublin 1998 and worked on the project in the evenings and at weekends for three years.

Once they had completed the software, the Burkes found they had done much more than create a product to identify interest claims.

“We had done this but we had also developed the fundamentals to manage all types of receivables and payables. We realised that there was a much wider market for this solution,” he said.

In 2001, the Burke brothers gave up their day jobs to work full time at Merit and took on a global investment bank as their first customer for the software used to manage receivables and payables.

According to Mr Burke the key selling points for the solution were automation, visibility and control.

“Our software offers fast, relevant and practical automated solutions to historically manual and haphazard processes across operations receivable and payables. It drives risk reduction, real efficiencies, process improvements, balance sheet shrinking, cost savings and the meeting of increasingly arduous regulatory requirements.”

In London Mr Burke started knocking on doors to demonstrate Merit’s software. Having a global investment bank as a reference customer helped the fledgling company.

After years in accountancy, learning to sell proved a new challenge for Mr Burke.

“I read Solution selling in difficult markets and this was a big help in developing a sales strategy,’

Setting up an office in London, the company employed two software developers and has significantly enhanced the product range since then.

Although the main focus is still on London, the company supports customers in Europe, Asia and the US. Both brothers travel to develop new business and to support customers. Some customers are outsourcing processes to India and the Far East.

Mr Burke says that much of the growth is coming through new customers and also from existing customers using additional functionality and modules. He is optimistic about future growth.

“We recently signed a six-year contract with a large investment bank which had previously signed a two-year contract,” he says, adding that in a recent Global Investor Operations survey three of the top places in the dividend and income collection went to users of Merit software.

Mr Burke says that the company’s success to date proves that a small company can compete against huge corporations and sell to global companies if they can develop a product that the companies need.

He says that he and his brother decided that the company should be self funded and this was why they continued to work for other employers until it was profitable, which it has been from an early stage.

For the future Merit is now looking at new ways to expand sales. To date it has only engaged in direct selling but now it is considering the possibility of selling through channel partners, which might allow it to increase sales by more than 20% in 2014.

Fact file

* Company: Merit Software.

* Location: Dublin and London.

* Directors: Kerril and Paul Burke.

* Staff: 15.

* Business: Sells software which automates receivable and payable processes for the investment banking industry.

* Website: www.merit-soft.com

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