Noel's background has always been in financial services and payments. He previously worked for AIB and PTSB in Ireland before moving to the UK to join MBNA/Bank of America, where he was implementation manager for their commercial cards. Noel subsequently spent time with most of the large banks in Britain before moving away from debit and credit cards and into prepaid cards.
His first venture in prepaid was as business and IT operations director for Altair Financial Services, a company he helped set up from scratch. Noel founded Prepaid Financial Services in 2008. It has become the third largest MasterCard issuer in Europe and also one of the leading e-money payment companies.
Describe your business model and what makes your business unique:
Our business model is based on a recurring revenue transaction model. The more clients we sign up and get live the more we make. We have a minimum yearly fee for every client we sign. Recurring revenue business models are rare and unique.
What is your greatest business achievement to date?
Taking Prepaid Financial Services from a one person business working from a kitchen table to a 128 person company with offices across three locations.
What is the hardest thing you have ever done in business?
Leaving a full time job to move and set up my own business with no money in the bank. It is hard enough to set up a new business but even harder with no money. We got lucky along the way in the early days with orders coming in at the rights times to keep things moving along.
What was the best piece of advice you received when starting out?
Hold onto your stock as long as you can. Luckily for me no-one wanted to invest in the early days, despite my efforts to raise money, so it was easy to keep it but it was a valuable tip nonetheless and something I look back on and think about regularly.
What numbers do you look at every day in your business?
Our daily loading and daily card sales – these are the only ones that really matter. If they are going up we are heading in the right direction. We will process over €1 billion this year and issue over 1.25 million new cards.
Have you started to feel the effects of the economic upturn within your sector?
The downturn probably benefited us as many people turned to prepaid as an alternative baking solution when they were turned away from banks when they tried to open current accounts. The upturn has also had a positive impact and we see more corporate clients now turning to prepaid as an alternative solution for corporate pay-outs both for staff expenses and travel, as well as for global payments to their clients.
To what extent does your business trade internationally and what are your plans?
We are live and trading today in 24 EU countries. Our license allows us do business in 35 EU countries. Our plan is to break into the 11 countries that we are not in today and then add additional licenses in new countries in Asia and Africa.
Describe your growth funding path:
Our growth will be funded from our own internal revenue. We no longer need to take in any external investment. We will make €10 million this year, all of which will be pumped back into the business to bring us into new countries or acquire something strategic that will enhance our value.
Where would you like your business to be in three years?
Continuing to grow at a rate of more than 50 per cent, year-on-year. This would leave us valued at over £500 million. It is very possible we can hit these numbers.
I would also like us to add an extra six or seven countries to our offering each year to leave us the largest prepaid issuer globally.