Colm Lyon takes payments start-up Fire to UK

Realex founder takes space in Shoreditch in Europe’s largest fintech hub

Colm Lyons  to target the UK market. Photograph: Brendan Lyon/ImageBureau

Colm Lyons to target the UK market. Photograph: Brendan Lyon/ImageBureau


Realex founder Colm Lyon is firing up his next venture, having secured office space in Europe’s largest fintech hub in London in a bid to target the UK market.

Irish payments start-up Fire is one of the first companies to take space in Barclays’ new innovation site, Rise London, in Shoreditch, which opened on May 2nd.

The Realex founder, who exited the business in 2015 when the company was sold to US payments giant Global Payments in a €115 million deal – netting him a reputed €90 million in the process – agreed to acquire the Fire platform as part of the transaction.

“It’s effectively a platform that we’ve built over six or seven years. It’s a multi-currency current account platform,” he says, adding that Fire has two products at the front end – a business digital account, and a personal one.

A Fire business account is a digital account used primarily to execute bank transfers, debit card purchases and payments for personal Fire users. There is no facility to lodge cash and cheques are not supported.

“From a competitive point of view, it really lacks competition and it’s hard to see new banks come into the market,” he says. The payments start-up currently employs about 18 people with plans to take on another 12-15 employees, about six of whom will be based in the new London site.

“We will put all our business development and sales into London,” Lyon says.

So far, “the business digital account has gone really well”, he says, noting that some 1,100 customers have already signed up to the platform, about 70 per cent of whom are based in the UK.

Fire has a payments institution licence from the Central Bank, and became one of the first non-banks to become a member of Mastercard earlier this year, allowing it to offer customers debit cards. It also supports Sepa transfers.

“We’re not a bank, we don’t lend or take deposits,” says Lyon, adding that the platform, which already allows customers to make payments in either euro or sterling, will look to take on other currencies in time, “but it’s a bit more tricky”.

“We will keep adding to the functionality of the product,” says Lyon, adding that another major opportunity for the nascent firm is with Europe’s second Payment Services Directive, due to be implemented next year.

“The huge advantage for us is that you’ll be able to use your Fire account and interface to interact with other accounts,” says Lyon. This means Irish consumers and businesses, and those across the EU, will be able to log into one account, such as a Fire account, and potentially view their pension, mortgage and other current account details which they may hold with other providers.