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An interview with Louise McCarthy: ‘We believe SMEs are very underserved’

Theo Osborn | 13:15 Friday 9th August 2019

Recognise is set to offer financial services to the UK SME sector, subject to being granted a banking licence.

Earlier this year, it expanded its board with the appointment of Louise McCarthy (pictured above) as an independent non-executive director.

In an interview with Specialist Banking, Louise outlines the progress of Recognise and the technology being incorporated into its infrastructure.

You are currently in the process of building an SME bank. How far has the bank progressed since your appointment in April?

Recognise has moved forward very positively, submitting our latest Regulatory Business Plan, ICAAP (capital) & ILAAP (liquidity) documents and completing our challenge session with the regulator. Our next step is our ‘invitation to apply’, which we expect before the end of this year.

How are you using your chief information officer (CIO) experience to shape technology at Recognise?

I am enjoying the ability to use my past banking and CIO transformation experience from much larger organisations to support our CTO [chief technology officer] and challenge in my role as INED. Recognise is a green-field site, so we have a great opportunity to put great foundations in place to support sustainable business growth. We are bringing in a highly talented team which is as passionate about Recognise as our existing team.

What types of technology are you incorporating into the Recognise infrastructure?

We are building a highly agile platform in the cloud. Focused on giving the customers simple tooling in order to interact with us where and how they want.  

Is the SME banking market underserved — how are you looking to change that?

The Bank of England recently identified a funding gap of £22bn. The big banks have denuded the banking SME skill set via cost reduction programmes, leaving SMEs increasingly having to use call centres with no continuity of relationship. We believe they are very underserved. We plan to tackle this via dedicated relationship managers, who meet clients face to face. They provide continuity, direct access for decision making and superior speed of response. We will combine this human touch with cutting-edge technology to give our clients a superior customer experience.

How did you get into the industry?

I was fortunate enough to have some great mentors when I was very young. I started my career at the age of 16. I studied accountancy. Thirty-five years ago, I implemented a very early version of SAP and automated processes. We are still automating processes, just with more advanced technology. 

I started digital transformation 16 years ago and have been able to transform some very complex organisations, such as Virgin Media, HMRC, Aviva, EBRD [European Bank for Reconstruction and Development] and HSBC. These are legacy companies with legacy technology and processes, and are very difficult and expensive to transform. 

At Recognise, we are lucky to leverage the ability to build fresh and ensure we don’t end up like the legacy companies by building an innovative continuous improvement culture, so we can stay ahead and become leaders in future technology to support customers’ needs.

I often say that in those legacy companies, if they don’t have an innovative culture, they are liable for being disrupted. Recognise is a disrupter giving the customers what they need. 

If you didn’t work in finance, what would you be doing?

I love mentoring: giving back what I have been given over the years — helping those starting out in their careers to not make the mistakes I have over the past 35 years so that they can excel further in their careers than I have.

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