Here for the Long Haul

[“Here for the Long Haul” originally appeared in the Business Post and is written by Caroline Allen.]

YapStone has had a presence in Ireland for the past five years, and with key global roles moving to its base in Drogheda, Co Louth, the US fintech firm is increasing its workforce here all the time.

With a presence in Ireland since 2012, American fintech firm YapStone sees itself in this country for the long haul, with key global roles moving from the company’s North American offices to its Irish base in Co Louth.

Established in California in 1999, YapStone was originally processing online rent payments for the apartment rental industry.

In 2011, the company partnered with HomeAway, one of the world’s largest vacation rental marketplaces, to process its electronic payments in the US.

HomeAway’s move into Europe created a requirement for a payments partner there. This led to YapStone opening its international headquarters at a small office in Ballsbridge in 2012.

Having spoken to other companies with experience of foreign direct investment, YapStone made contact with the IDA, which assisted it in moving to the Mill Enterprise Centre in Drogheda the following year.

This 800 sq ft premises facilitated the recruitment of multilingual staff required to service the HomeAway contract and additional business necessitated taking on another temporary building. A lot of research went into the new location, according to Peter Rowan, YapStone’s vice-president of international operations and global customer support.

“A lot of financial companies were moving north of Dublin, going towards Dundalk and the opportunity came to house ourselves outside the capital,” he said.

This was not a wrench for the company as its US headquarters is in Walnut Creek, California, 50 kilometres from downtown San Francisco.

“YapStone didn’t want to be in downtown San Francisco or downtown Dublin. The company ethos is to create opportunities where people live. Drogheda fit in well as it is the same distance as Walnut Creek is from San Francisco,” said Rowan.

September 2016 saw the company relocate Irish operations to a 16,000 sq ft office at the M1 Retail Park, Drogheda, a premises that is, once again, becoming outgrown. At the official opening, IDA support and the talent pool available locally were cited as important factors behind the new investment.

In the coming year, YapStone will process more than $17 billion in payment volumes, as well as operating a robust customer support call centre covering eight languages, 20 hours per day, seven days a week and 365 days a year.

“When I joined the company in May 2016, there were 39 employees. We are expanding exponentially and now have 124 employees,” said Rowan, who worked for Twitter, PayPal, AIB, and Visa International before joining YapStone. The company’s international business has been growing year-on-year.

“Taking payments for vacation rentals, we expect people to take more holidays as the economy picks up,” said Rowan.

“Even during the downturn internationally, we were unaffected as people still wanted to take breaks. We heard more of the term ‘staycation’ but people still went on holidays and our growth and revenue continued to scale,” Rowan said.

YapStone operates in 22 countries and is always exploring new markets and opportunities. Between January 3 and March 3 this year, Rowan hired 52 new staff in Drogheda, with multiple languages across customer support, technical support, risk operations, and financial and legal services.

While there are sometimes criticisms of the levels of fluency of Leaving Cert students going on to study languages at third level, Rowan has little trouble hiring strong candidates.

“We have not had to go outside Ireland and we are seen as an employer of choice,” he said. “We get direct applications all the time and referrals from existing employees. A lot of people we are hiring now are living north of Drogheda and have tired of lengthy commutes – now some of them can walk to work.”

YapStone currently has a number of positions open in IT, customer support, and risk. “It is not just about hiring people, but also retaining them. We are committed to employee engagement and creating career paths,” said Rowan.

“When I interview people, I ask them whether they want a job or a career. We hire people whose goal is to build a career. Our aim is to create a fun place to work with career opportunities.”

Ireland’s corporate tax system is often seen as a key factor in attracting companies.

However, according to Rowan – a native of Birmingham of Irish parentage whose wife is from Mayo – this success is not just about building relationships with the IDA, but also local businesses, chambers of commerce, and the community.

“When I came on board, we became a member of the American Chamber of Commerce, which has been very supportive,” he said.

YapStone’s focus now is on global expansion with a significant Drogheda presence.

“YapStone is here for the long haul. We are already five years in Ireland and are increasing our headcount all the time,” said Rowan.