New York / Dublin / London, April 7, 2022
Centaur Founding Partner Karen Malone has been invited to speak at the Enterprise Ireland (EI) Start-up Showcase, one of Ireland’s biggest annual start-up events. With an attendance of over 600, this in-person event, taking place in Dublin on April 7, will celebrate the achievements of EI start-up clients.
Ahead of her keynote on challenges faced by scale-ups, we managed to grab a few minutes with Karen to get her thoughts on scale-up challenges, especially with regards to the challenges of building a strong team and funding for scale.
- Most of Centaur’s growth has been organic since its inception 12 years ago and has developed into a recognized global brand in fund administration. Can you give us a brief overview of your growth to date?
“In 2009, in some of the most volatile times in global markets, Centaur opened its doors with a team of six people, who realised there was an appetite for a specialist, independent administration firm. We are now a leading independent fund administrator with offices in the United States, Bermuda, Canada, Cayman, Ireland, London and Luxembourg. We have over 220 employees, 9 offices in North America and Europe, over 120 clients and over $55bn in assets under administration. We work with funds based in both the US and Europe and in the last five years we have broadened our offerings with the hugely successful launch of Centaur Private Equity and Centaur Insurance Linked Securities. We plan to continue our growth as a reputable fund administrator within the next five years.”
- When growing Centaur, what has been your strategy for building and maintaining a strong team?
“We continuously adapt our hiring process as our company scales. It’s no longer feasible for the senior management team to conduct every interview, so our hiring criteria has been designed to ensure that every member of our team fits well into our corporate culture, including hiring people from a diverse range of backgrounds. Our team often have MBAs, Accounting or other finance or business qualifications, but we ultimately hire people with open minds and diverse experience rather than just financial backgrounds. It’s all about nurturing good talent and potential. I like to think that we champion cross disciplinary approaches and logical thinking from our team. We also place real value on employee training to ensure each member of the Centaur team reaches their full potential. All these factors have ensured that our staff turnover remains very low for the industry.”
- What advice would you give for companies seeking funding as they move from start-up to scale-up?
“Making the move from start-up to scale-up is such an exciting step. For us it was confirmation that Centaur was filling a gap in the fund administration market. But more importantly, the transition meant that there were even bigger business opportunities ahead.
More businesses receive seed funding than scale-up funding. At the start-up phase, founders back an idea – it’s mostly about opportunity. However, when you get to the scale-up stage, your value proposition is proven and investors have more visibility of the company’s growth potential.
At this stage, it is key to build a scalable business model that shows growth potential to increase revenue while controlling expenditure. Additionally, and more importantly, it’s about building a solid business culture, and then finding the capital to fit that strategy.
When funding is in place, it’s important to keep laser focussed on your core competencies:, Automate where you can (but don’t compromise on client service), plan for innovation and be flexible enough to build an open-ended strategy that focuses on continued improvement.”
- In Centaur’s experience, are there other scale-up challenges that you would like to share?
“There are two other scale-up challenges that I think are important to highlight.
Firstly there is Client Service. At the start-up phase, it’s all about client acquisition. But as you move to scale-up, client retention takes centre stage. When it comes to client service, Centaur works tirelessly to generate a client first culture throughout the entire firm. It’s one of our proudest achievements to be able to say that in 12 years, we have not lost a single client. Our client service strategy is constantly evolving as our company grows: We take time to analyse and understand our client base and ensure that every member of our team works towards ensuring the best possible experience is delivered to our clients.
The second challenge is to build and maintain a suitable tech infrastructure. The tech infrastructure needed to support a high-growth scale-up business is unique for every business. In the funds industry, accuracy, speed, customization and security are paramount. Centaur invests heavily in technology and we have a tech team that are among the most experienced in the industry. In this day and age, building out an excellent IT team is a vital part of a scale-up business: Proper data collection and management are not only important for efficient business operations, but are essential to ensure your company avoids data breach issues.”
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