Fionnuala Higgins and Liam Church
Escher Group moved its headquarters to Ireland in 2007 following a management buyout
Escher Group was founded in 1989 in Boston and moved its headquarters to Ireland in 2007 following a management buyout. Escher Group is one of the world’s leading suppliers of digital point of service for postal organisations.
Liam Church is the chief executive of Escher and was part of the management buyout team in 2007. Before becoming chief executive at Escher, he was chief executive officer at a wealth management company and held numerous senior positions during his 22-year tenure with the postal service in Ireland.
Before joining Escher Group, Fionnuala Higgins was co-founder and head of technology at Anshe, a company that was acquired by Escher in 2000. She is now the executive vice president of sales and marketing for Escher Group.
In 2012 Escher secured its biggest contract by winning the United States Postal Service tender with a value in excess of $50 million. Its software is used by more than 300,000 postal workers across 35 countries every day to deliver service to millions of consumers.
The company has offices in Ireland, the US, South Africa, Singapore and the UK, as well and employs 145 personnel across the globe, increasing the Irish employee base from 20 to 64 since 2007.
What vision prompted you to start up your business?
We had a deep knowledge and understanding of the point-of-service industry worldwide and a vision of how we believed our customers would develop over time to meet the changing national communication needs. We recognised that the existing company, Escher Group, would make an excellent vehicle to capitalise and develop the business in this area.
What was your “back-to-the-wall” moment and how did you overcome it?
Our “back-to-the-wall” moment came in November 2007, just two months after we had taken ownership of the company and we were preparing to sign a contract in Asia for a very considerable opportunity. Because of the financial crisis, the funding for the project disappeared and the opportunity went away.
What moment or deal would you identify as the “game changer” for the company?
Our listing on AIM in August 2011. We had worked to reorganise the business through 2007 and 2008 and to build during 2009 and 2010.
Our listing in 2011 was to replace debt with equity and it was recognised by the investing community that significant value had been created over the previous number of years.
The result of the IPO was to deliver us a strong balance sheet with which we could invest in R&D, bid for large opportunities and build out a global organisation.
What are the biggest challenges you face now?
We are a technology company supplying software to a rapidly changing market. We must maintain our leading-edge technology and we must monitor both our competitors and the emerging competitors of our customers.
What is your greatest business achievement to date?
Winning the contract to supply the retail technology infrastructure for the biggest postal organisation in the world, the United States Postal Service, in 2012.
Escher won this contract against competition from global companies such as SAP, IBM, Oracle, Fujitsu and NCR.