Cork gets ‘Rock’ steady credit risk assessors

ROCKBORO Analytics, supported by Enterprise Ireland, will create 50 high-calibre jobs in Cork over the next five years to provide expert credit assessment solutions for banks, insurers, investment managers and corporations globally.

The company’s primary focus is on providing mission-critical credit risk assessment solutions to help credit-sensitive organisations make informed decisions on originating, measuring, monitoring and managing credit risk, arising from their day-to-day business activities, particularly in low default or ‘hard-to-rate’ sectors. Rockboro will also work with consultants, data providers and IT firms to assist them with creating a competitive advantage in credit, Basel II and Solvency II consultancy. “The whole concept of credit risk has now become front page news, particularly in Ireland,” says managing director Bernard O’Sullivan.

“Whereas throughout most of my career in this field, very few people had any firm idea of what credit risk management and ratings actually were,” he adds. “The genesis of Rockboro Analytics came out of many of the skillsets we had developed and the realisation that we could offer on our own something better than the bigger firms out there. We did initially look at a number of locations around the world, but eventually settled on Ireland. We saw a lot of very talented people available in the country, and particularly in Cork.”

Rockboro Analytics’ experience in the credit analysis space will work with both end-user clients such as banks and their consultants to create a competitive advantage in Basel II, Solvency II and counterparty credit risk management. The management team’s expertise and focus on low default expert-based methodologies enables them provide ‘best in class’ knowledge-based solutions expected of major branded firms with the senior management client focus of a boutique. “Our offerings are defined by our highly specialised expertise in complex credit assessment solutions. Ireland, and Cork in particular, is an ideal base for Rockboro’s analytical hub and we look forward to growing the firm aggressively in the coming years.”

The company’s leadership team have extensive and in-depth global experience in the development, enhancement, validation and application of regulator-approved probability of default (PD) and loss given default (LGD) ratings models for low default sectors such as specialised finance, large corporate, financial institutions, sovereign and sub-sovereign governments. “The challenge is to estimate the probability of default, be it a bank, a government or organisation. And then, if that actually happens, what is the loss given default — what can you get back? Our team have an excellent track record of this kind of work with Standard & Poor’s and a lot of other institutions we have worked with, and now we are going to purvey our own models to the market.”

Having been away for 27 years, Bernard O’Sullivan’s goal was always to try to return to Cork if the right circumstances presented themselves. However, personal connections were secondary to finding the optimum economically viable location, he admits. “When we looked closely at Cork, we saw excellent institutions like UCC and CIT, good access to global markets and an established international outlook. The addition of a low corporation tax is a smaller incentive at this point as it really only applies when profits are being made,” he adds. “In the overall scheme of things, Ireland Inc became a very good proposition.”

He cites Ireland’s established entrepreneurial spirit and extremely cooperative attitudes from government agencies and third level institutions as further incentives that confirmed Cork as the ideal base for the company. “There is a distinct entrepreneurial spirit here, and a pool of very talented people who work very hard — all of which added up to making Cork a perfect place for us.” The credit crunch has highlighted the critical importance of robust credit analysis to international organisations — an opportunity in which Rockboro is ideally placed to meet that need.

“Credit analysis of organisations such as banks, sovereign governments, insurance companies and large corporates is complex due to the lack of statistically significant defaults,” he says. “Rockboro employs a unique blend of fundamental analysis, expert judgement and quantitative analysis to ensure the rigour and conceptual soundness of all its solutions.” The company will shortly begin recruiting staff, where they expect to mix an established management expertise with a workforce of local graduates and high achievers: “We will have people from outside of Ireland, experts in the credit management space, and will look to assemble a well educated and clever workforce that we can build up over time.” Looking to a winder context, the Roxboro Analytics management see the potential for a mini industry based in Cork for this particular sector, a hub which would in time become a feasible centre of excellence.

“It is aspirational right now, but in the current economic circumstances there are many things that can be exploited in a very tangible way,” he says. “We are going to commercialise here in Cork the products that we have developed over many years for global consumption amongst banks and other relevant organisations. We would see the business as being very internationally focused with our customers largely outside of Ireland,” he adds. “We see it as a global export-based model developed from an analytical hub here in Cork, the intellectual capital expertise nature of it allows us to deliver that anywhere in the world.”

With financial services an important sector for the economy, Rockboro Analytics will help underpin Ireland’s reputation worldwide as a base for high-level financial services business and confirms the international reputation of Irish third level graduates in financial and related areas. “Every attribute of the project makes sense,” says O’Sullivan. “The support from agencies like Enterprise Ireland has been excellent and the location delivers everything that we needed in terms of infrastructure and resources. Every part of the plan came together in many places even better than we had hoped for — all of which validated the idea and the concept. Leaving an excellent company like Standard & Poor’s was an initially difficult decision, but it does all make sense at this stage.”

Name: Bernard O’Sullivan

Occupation: Managing director, Rockboro Analytics

Background: Formerly MD of Standard & Poor’s Risk Solutions for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Has a 20-year history in credit ratings, credit scoring and professional services focused on measuring and managing credit risk. Holds an MBA from City University Business School in London, England and a BA from Western Kentucky University.

Picture: Gary O'Neill


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