Former banker’s labour of love strikes gold

E-payments game turns gold for Realex boss Colm Lyon

At 52, Colm Lyon is no wunderkind of the tech world. He has been ploughing away at the e-payments game for more than 15 years.

Yesterday, he struck gold. He and his wife will receive up to €90 million from the sale of his online payments business Realex to US giant Global Payments.

The deal values the company he set up after leaving Ulster Bank in 2000 at €115 million.

He used to head Ulster Bank’s IT division, giving him something of a bird’s-eye view of where the sector was headed.


"I know it might sound bizarre, but it was never about the money. This is a labour of love which I set up years ago because I didn't want to work for someone else," he tells The Irish Times.

Headquartered in Dublin's docklands and surrounded by tech giants such as Google and Facebook, Realex can lay claim to being one of the few truly indigenous tech companies to make it big.

It provides a suite of services for businesses trading online. Boiled down, it supplies the technology that allows retailers to receive payments from customers.

It has been on a stellar growth path for the past decade on the back of a surge in online trade.It has also cleverly positioned alongside big international players such as Global Payments and Santander Elavon Merchant Services.

12,500 clients

Last year it processed some €28 billion worth of transactions for its 12,500 clients, which include



Virgin Atlantic


Aer Lingus


Paddy Power

, Aviva, AA



Lyon modestly attributes the success to the people around him. “The quality of the team we built here, the knowledge, the expertise, the systems that we have, the scaling we did . . . that is why we managed to get the valuation that we have.”

And his plans for the future? “What I’d like to do now is do it again.”

He may well be on the way to achieving this, having founded Realex Fire, subsequently changed to Pay With Fire, which allows users to hold money and make payments through a mobile phone app. It is intended to rival the traditional current account.

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy is Economics Correspondent of The Irish Times