Last November, Clonakilty-based Global Shares was named Technology Ireland’s Company of the Year. The 2005 start-up today employs over 550 staff all around the world, and is looking to recruit at least 100 more this year, as Siobhán Cronin reports
Global Shares is working away quietly from its offices on the outskirts of Clonakilty, managing employee stock plans for international firms.
Founded in 2005, and now based at the town’s Technology Park, the company exports 98% of its software to over 100 countries and in recent years has opened offices in Nashville, Barcelona, Lisbon, Leeds, Tokyo and Riyadh.
Last November, the firm picked up the prestigious title of Technology Ireland’s ‘Company of the Year 2021’ at the Technology Ireland Awards in the Westin in Dublin.
The award celebrates companies that have ‘achieved exceptional success, developed innovative technologies and partnerships, and achieved significant sales results over the past year’, and was sponsored by EY Ireland. ‘We’ve done all of this from Clonakilty and are extremely proud to have our roots here,’ said corporate communications manager Aisling Riordan.
Aisling says the company has brought many people to work and live in Clonakilty with their families, to enjoy what she terms ‘the amazing work-life balance’ in West Cork. ‘Global Shares has given a huge boost to the local economy,’ she says, ‘creating permanent high-skilled roles such as software engineers, share plan analysts, trading specialists, multi-lingual service desk analysts and more, as well as giving staff the opportunity to transfer within our global network of offices.’
Today the firm has 550 staff representing more than 40 different nationalities. ‘It’s a real melting pot of culture and it’s something everyone really enjoys about working at the company,’ she adds.
‘We have now fully completed the transition from a small start-up in Clonakilty to becoming a global fintech leader, managing employee stock plans for some of the world’s biggest companies.’
When it first started out, it employed just 68 people and now there are 275 staff based in Ireland, with 160 in Clonakilty and 100 at their Cork city offices on Penrose Wharf. There are also 15 staff working remotely from other locations around Ireland. ‘This number is increasing by the month,’ admits Aisling, reflecting the massive surge in ‘working from home’ options for workers around the world.
The timing of the pandemic was a huge challenge for the company, as it coincided with a period of massive growth at Global Shares, and it had to manage business and team growth simultaneously, while everyone was working from home. 2020 was the firm’s best financial year on record, despite Covid-19, and 2021 will be another record year.
The team was fully tech-enabled for remote working from the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis and the flip to a fully remote working model was seamless. But that’s because the groundwork had, coincidentally, just been laid.
In 2019 the company had piloted a remote-working initiative following a series of disruptive storms and power cuts. ‘Everyone in the company was given a laptop, and we had switched to soft phones and moved to cloud-based hosting,’ recalls Aisling. ‘So it was literally as easy as walking out the door with our laptops and logging on from home. Business and client service continued uninterrupted.’
During this turbulent time, the company’s dedicated employee well-being brand – ‘Global Cares’ – played a crucial role in looking after the employees. ‘Global Cares is at the very heart of our company culture, adding warmth, humour, personality and the human touch to how we engage with each other,’ explains Aisling. ‘The Global Cares team works from locations across the globe to co-ordinate a programme of activities like fun quizzes, mood-boosting food tips, parenting webinars, care packs, pilates classes, Olympic step challenges, guest speakers, and more.’
There are also ‘Bring your Dog to Work’ days, surprise ice cream and Easter egg deliveries, and staff celebrations are officially marked in the office canteen. ‘We also offer our staff a free, confidential employee assistance programme,’ says Aisling.
‘And during lockdown in 2020 we achieved both our Great Place To Work and IBEC KeepWell accreditations, both of which we are immensely proud of.’
The company has been busy building a global software platform in a bid to become the top global provider for employee ownership solutions.
‘We had to build it from scratch and that was a huge challenge but it’s what has led to our success today. We also became regulated, so this made it possible for us to compete with the multi-billion-dollar financial services giants like Morgan Stanley, Computershare, Merrill Lynch, UBS and others,’ Aisling says.
In 2015 Global Shares’ 2.0 fintech platform went live and major growth followed as it was launched in the four largest economies in the world. Having set up global operations, and increased the staff headcount, the firm signed over 20 partnership deals and won business from some of the largest companies in the world. ‘Looking ahead the outlook for the company is compelling,’ she says, confidently. ‘We’re accelerating expansion with new offices in Leeds and Porto, doubling the size of our flagship Cork city office in Penrose Wharf and also expanding our offices in a number of other locations globally.’
Of course, the bottom line for this growth means more jobs, both locally and abroad.
‘Fundamental to our strategy is having the best global IT platform and the ability to keep up with the demand for new software, and for this reason Global Shares is currently recruiting 80 additional developers,’ adds Aisling.
The company estimates it will create over 100 new jobs this year alone.
Global Shares has immense pride in its Clonakilty and Cork heritage and contributes more than €1m in salary into the local economy every month for its staff in Clonakilty and the city, notes Aisling.
She says the headquarters will remain in Clonakilty and the company will continue to focus on growing in its North American, Japanese, Chinese and European markets, as well as in the Middle East.