IIBN asked David Crowley, Managing Director to tell members what his company IFC Finance does?

  • IFC FINANCE are a Financial Services Advisory Firm. We are established over 30 years and specialise in the setting up and running of Company Pension Schemes along with taking care of the individuals in those schemes.
  • We also specialise in Group Risk Schemes for Employers and have spun-out a separate website GROUP RISK to educate employers about the advantages of enabling such a scheme for their teams.
  • In 2020, having advised a number of clients with this problem, we are spinning out a separate website so as to help those affected by Dormant Pensions (Coming soon – Dormant Pension.ie). There is approximately €7 Bn of funds sitting in Dormant Pensions, unclaimed. Many people don’t even know that this money is there, waiting for them!

What are your main priorities and goals in your role?

  • My main priorities are to empower our clients with knowledge and ownership of their investments – whether that be their Pension Fund or a Personal Investment.
  • We only ever ask them for one hour per annum; that’s it. Anything over that is a Bonus. Can you spare one hour in your 8,760 hours a year to take care of your future?
  • Aside from that, my main role is to grow IFC Finance.

What are your biggest challenges?

  • Time
  • Team
  • Back Office Function

How do you keep your team/staff motivated?

I remain in close contact with our team and our clients.I’m old-fashioned and so I believe that face-to-face is the number one way to communicate with people followed second by a phone call and lastly by e-mail. This has worked for me across numerous business interests.

What are the challenges facing your industry going forward?

Regulation of our sector is one on-going challenge and how to keep the costs of regulation to a minimum. Two of the country’s main banks are spending c. €1 Bn each on Regulation costs alone! That is extremely wasteful on resources and is ultimately passed onto the policyholders / investors.

What new trends are emerging in your industry?

  • Technology continues to evolve and improve and whilst robo-advice has not made much of an impact in a small economy like Ireland, AI and other tech-plays will hopefully improve areas such as Underwriting for Risk Benefits.
  • Platforms such a Group Pensions continue to improve allowing easier adoption by both Employers and Scheme members. This is very welcome in advance of Auto-Enrolment which is due to come into force in Ireland in 2022. According to CSO; the number of working people who expect the State Pension to be their Main Source of Income in 2009 was 26%. This has risen to 36% in 2015*.

* Source: Press Release Population and Labour Force Projections 2016-2046

Are there any major changes you would like to see in your sector?

The Whole of Life policies which were sold to people have zero transparency – or accountability – of how a review is conducted. As a policyholder advances in age, naturally the premium become more expensive. When that premium review letter noting an increase lands in their letterbox, they have no idea how that premium is arrived at nor as to what the actual costs have been in the past – and no-one is obliged to give them that information! That needs change!

Are you finding any skills gaps in the market?

There is a large Gap in simply Finding Key Industry Skills. With all the technology out there – there is no one go-to platform where our industry can show (as an Employee) their key skill strengths OR request (as an Employer) someone with certain key skill strengths; Without having to pay a small fortune to find that! Having an Investment in a Recruitment Business specialising in the Fintech Sector (FINTECHJOBS), I do have some first-hand exposure to the Challenges facing Employers of Acquiring People

How did your strategy develop in the context of the banking crisis and economic crisis?

I spotted a gap to establish a functioning Irish Bank as there was no money available for the SME sector. I lead a team to set up Ireland’s first bank focussing on the SME and Agri sector, since the establishment of ICC and ACC by the State.

Our team spent a year and a half working hard on the project. The journey was one hugely beneficial learning curve and I give thanks to all the people who helped so willingly along the way; giving their time pro-bono due to the importance of the project as a cornerstone of the Irish economy. The endeavour was not all lost on me personally though given it is what lead me to become involved in Crossflow Payments.

How will Brexit affect you, or have you started to feel the effects already?

I see Brexit as a Good thing for Ireland within the Financial Services space. We have already been approached by some UK firms who have a presence in the Irish market, looking to protect their interests post-Brexit when Financial-licencing passporting will no longer be an option. We see Brexit as a plus overall for certain sectors of the Irish economy except largely focused upon Dublin, in all likelihood.

How do you define success and what drives you to succeed?

Business Success; How much you empower others as you travel your own journey in order to help people in business succeed. You get back what you sow.

With Crossflow Payments, my biggest success was becoming partners with my two co-founders. Their honesty and integrity are what impresses me the most about them.

Quite apart from being able to take/give a good slagging too!

Personal Success; Family first: We often take for granted the enormous support given to us by family.

Outside of that: How many good solid friendships have you built over the course of your lifetime and business career.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given, or would give, in business?

I’ve been fortunate enough to become involved in some pretty ambitious work-related projects outside of IFC Finance. Probably the best piece of advice I was given was when, in one of those large-scale projects, it was suggested that I assemble an Advisory Board to sit behind the Executive Team. That proved highly valuable in bringing credibility and value to what might otherwise have been a far more speculative proposition.

Also, in one simple word, ‘listen’. Listen to the detail in any business discussion/question.

What have been your highlights in business over the past year?

IFC Finance winning a number of Corporate Mandates to take care of their Pension Schemes. Being trusted by an Employer that they know we’ll put their employee’s interests first is very rewarding.

It’s only taken us c. 30 years to build up our Good Reputation!

What’s next for your company?

Amalgamation has been strong in the sector over the past number of years. We have expansion plans in the pipeline by acquiring other firms/teams. We want to grow out our newly established Dormant Pension platform to educate people and reach a wider audience.

What opportunities or plans for growth do you see in 2020?

We hope for quality bolt-on acquisitions for IFC Finance and to grow the team. This drives further opportunity within the firm. With Auto-Enrolment due to come into force in 2022, IFC Finance punches above its weight and will continue to grow organically.

Where do you want your business/brand to be this time next year?

IFC Finance is growing in the Corporate Space so we would like to see that growth continue. We have built a business we are proud of and having come through the serious downturn of the recession, growth and stability have come back to the market. We expect to win some of the Corporate schemes which are likely to establish a presence in the Irish Republic to protect their EU interests.

What two takeaways would you give to IIBN Members?

  1. Never be afraid to Ask!
  2. When networking, spend most of your time, listening.