Business Irish

Sunday 22 September 2019

Ireland's latest Silicon Valley - Nenagh

'People want to move and get away from Dublin,' says First Data's Dr Christopher Mascaro Photo: Matt Greenslade
'People want to move and get away from Dublin,' says First Data's Dr Christopher Mascaro Photo: Matt Greenslade
Gavin McLoughlin

Gavin McLoughlin

"Everyone I talk to in the time I've been here, they're annoyed at Dublin."

So says Dr Christopher Mascaro, who is bringing 150 new jobs to Nenagh, Co Tipperary.

Mascaro is vice president, threat intelligence and analytics, at US payments processor First Data, which is establishing a new research and development centre in the Tipperary town.

Part of the reason it has opted for that location is to give people an alternative to the infrastructure-challenged capital city.

"A lot of it is just trying to harness the fact that people want to move and get away from Dublin. We're also looking for a little bit of a different skill set," Mascaro told the Sunday Independent.

"The skill set we're looking for may not be the initial set that you have if you're young, fresh, right out of college. I think it's going to be people who may have families, who may want to go back home in some cases.

"I live on the east coast (of the US), and our prices are very expensive for housing. Looking at prices here, it's amazing how expensive it is in Dublin.

"Choosing Nenagh gives people another option - it definitely sets us apart from the Facebooks, the Googles, the Amazons who are here."

Mascaro leads a team which analyses the company's data to stop fraudulent transactions.

The company handles about 80bn transactions a year around the world, which enables it to discern certain patterns of behaviour that give rise to suspicion.

Mascaro says hundreds of thousands of stolen cards are being put up for sale by criminals every day on the dark web. He said: "A lot of criminals, they'll get a card, and then they'll test it to make sure it's valid. We're able to know what a test looks like.

"A test is usually a fake merchant that's set up to make sure it's a real card. So knowing what those are, we're able to map out cards that are about to be used.

"Because we see everything really quickly, we're able to proactively identify breaches when the first signals of fraud are occurring - we're able to do it within hours."

The team in Nenagh will be helping Mascaro and his team to develop new analytical approaches to help the company's anti-fraud measures to become more efficient.

"We've identified an avenue of identifying breaches right away [but] there's other problems. How do we apply that globally to more data sets? What does it mean in the cases where there's a country that may not use payments the same way we use them in America or Europe?

"There's a lot of little tweaks to these things that need to be done. And I think a lot of the research that we're going to do in Nenagh is going to be broadening these capabilities."

The company is targeting people who commute long distances to Dublin, including international talent and returning emigrants looking for manageable overheads, and people with families who want affordable homes and schools with room for new pupils.

First Data already has a substantial presence in Ireland - with about 400 employed in Dublin via its OmniPay product.

This was another reason why locating the R&D centre here made sense, according to Mascaro. Being located near the University of Limerick and Limerick Institute of Technology was another plus for the company.

"There's really good talent down there and I think we're just going to harness that," he said. "We really want to get the culture right and build out what we're doing. We don't just want to hire good people - we want to hire the right people. And so by doing that, it's going to take some time.

"Ireland is a small country when it comes down to it, and I think hiring the right people here poses a set of challenges, but there's so much talent that it's going to hopefully make it easier."

The company is looking to have the 150 roles filled by 2019.

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