Maeve McMahon – Nurturing Talent for Success
11th December 2023
This week we hear from Maeve McMahon, President EMEA, OFX. In October, Maeve received the WMB Empowering Women Award. She believes that ‘diversity and inclusion at all levels helps to underpin business success’ and is keen to encourage and support women to fulfil their ambitions.
Q: Your career spans over two decades primarily in the financial services and payments sector. What drew you to this career path?
I never really thought much about working in financial services. However, like so many graduates and early career employees, I fell into financial services and stayed because I enjoy it.
Looking back, I have worked in a variety of international roles with large organisations both in the UK and Ireland. My experience spans sales, customer experience, marketing, communications, and product development, across many different companies including Ulster Bank, GE Capital, MasterCard, American Express, NatWest and Sainsbury’s Bank.
I have always been drawn towards commercial roles that have a focus on customer centricity. That’s the continuous thread throughout my career and brought me to OFX today.
Q: Can you give our readers an insight into your role at OFX?
I joined the business in December 2021 as the CEO of the Irish Entity and was promoted in August 2023 to head up the EMEA (Europe Middle East and Africa) region. As Regional President, I am responsible for setting the strategy for the region and leading the team to deliver results. My responsibilities also include overseeing daily operations, managing local teams (~100 in total), developing, and maintaining key stakeholder relationships (clients, partners, regulators, subsidiary and Group board members, and peers), and building a high performing team to help deliver on our ambitious growth plans.
Q: How would you best describe your leadership style?
I would describe my leadership style as both collaborative and transformative. I am drawn towards challenging assignments, and I adopt a leadership style that suits the situation I am in.
As a weekend golfer, I would describe my style as trying to make sure I pick the right golf club for the shot that’s in front of me, i.e. there is no point in taking a driver when you need a sand wedge, as you won’t get the optimal result from that choice. So, I need to make sure I am both adaptive and flexible as a leader but also dependable for my team.
Q: As an Australian company, OFX is a member of the Irish Australian Chamber of Commerce (IACC). In January, you were invited by IACC to chair the Emerald Leadership Programme for 2023. Can you tell us more about this initiative and the part you play?
Yes indeed. In January 2023 the IACC asked me to chair the Emerald Leadership Programme for 2023. This programme aims to celebrate, support, and develop both established and emerging female leaders. These women are nominated by their businesses to participate in the programme, which runs over a 9-month period. I jumped at the opportunity to chair this programme and give my time on a voluntary basis.
I fundamentally believe in sending the ladder back down for the people who are coming behind us. As a woman in a leadership position, I believe it’s incredibly important to support emerging talent and to equip them with the tools (and more often the self-belief) that they can reach their objectives.
There are 8 women in this year’s cohort. In addition to meeting monthly as a group for 2 hours, I have spent time with all of them on a one-to-one basis to understand their personal and professional objectives and mentor them. I thoroughly enjoy my time with them. It’s very rewarding and energising, so the learning is a 2-way process. I am so grateful to Breda, on the programme who nominated me for the award – it was very humbling to hear that I have made a difference.
Q: In October, you were presented with the WMB Empowering Women Award 2023. How did you feel about being nominated and then receiving this Award?
I was totally surprised about being nominated in the first place – I genuinely had no idea that someone from the Emerald programme had put me forward. For me, that is what made winning the award even more special. There have been some very incredible women who have won this award in prior years, and I feel both honoured and humbled to be in the company of them.
Q: What does Diversity, Equity and Inclusion mean to you?
Diversity, equity, and inclusion are critically important in order for any organisation to thrive and grow sustainably. It is vital that we recognize and support the needs of different groups of individuals, and support them to reach their potential, considering their sexual preferences, race, ethnicity, ability and gender.
Diverse teams and businesses are proven to foster better outcomes and results, and as a leader in OFX, I want to foster an environment where everyone has an opportunity to succeed.
Q: You are a fundamental believer in supporting women in business, especially women in commercial roles. Can you elaborate?
I have worked for most of my career in financial services and this industry tends to be male dominated, especially in more senior roles. The senior women in commercial roles tend to be few and far between, and I think that is a shame.
Women have different skills to men, and they tend to have (albeit a generalisation) “softer” relationship-type skills, which can make them excellent in commercial roles, so long as they have the confidence to back themselves.
That is why I am keen to get more women into commercial roles.
In addition, throughout my career, I’ve unfortunately been on the receiving end of some women bosses who haven’t been very supportive. That spurs me on and motivates me to be different and to bring people with me on the journey.
Q: You have a passion for sports and in June you were appointed to the FAI Board as a Non-Executive Director. Do you think Women’s football in Ireland gets the recognition it deserves?
Developing the full potential of football for women and girls is a key pillar in the 2022-2025 FAI Strategy. There have been several notable developments this year in women’s football in Ireland including introducing professional contracts to the League of Ireland Women’s Premier Division, new teams being added to the League of Ireland Academy and more funding and resources made available at Grassroots levels. The government also committed extra funding to support the women’s game this year. In addition, the FAI recognised all those who contributed to the national teams over the past 50 years by awarding them commemorative caps throughout the year.
Recognising the women who helped to create history is what will help drive women’s football forward in Ireland.
To that end, 2023 has been a great year for women’s football in Ireland. The Women’s National Team qualified for the World Cup for the first time ever. History was made at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday, September 23, 2023, when they played their first-ever game there, in front of almost 36,000 supporters, and an historic 3-0 win against Northern Ireland. And finally, the Ireland Women’s National Team have been promoted to Group A of the Women’s Nations League, by topping the table in the pool stages of the Group B League, so yes,
I think they are on the road to getting the recognition they deserve, but there is so much more to do, and that is why I was keen to get involved on the board.
Q: Mentorship is something that you are passionate about. How important is it to ‘throw back down the ladder’?
I believe that diversity and inclusion at all levels helps to underpin business success and I am keen to encourage and support women at all levels fulfil their ambitions
Q: What does success look like to you?
Success for me means leading a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life, in both my personal and my professional life.
Q: Who supports you in your career and life ambitions?
Without question, my husband Aidan. He is always by my side and supporting me, pushing me forward and encouraging me to achieve my ambitions, whilst also keeping me grounded at the same time. He’s a great cook and father to our 2 children. Thankfully he’s also great at helping the kids with their homework and ensuring they get to where they need to be on time!
Q: What legacy would you like to leave behind?
I’ve done quite a lot of work to help progress women in the workplace and that’s a legacy I’d like leave, especially as I have a daughter and she looks up to me for advice. If I can help to change the work environment she’ll be coming into in the future, that would be good enough for me.
Q: What advice would you offer your younger self just starting out?
It’s okay to say no, and not everyone has to like you at work.
Find something you love doing, do it really well and do it on your terms.
A little bit about ‘You’
If you were a superhero who would you be?
‘Time Trapper’ as whilst he may not be as powerful as other characters, when it comes to the power and mastery of manipulating time, no one surpasses him. I need that in my life as I never seem to have enough time.
Alternative career choice, no limits?
Maybe a ski instructor or a golf professional – I love the idea of combining your passion in sports with a career.
The person who has influenced you the most?
My mother, Kitty Quinn. She left home at 16 to get a job in the ESB in Dublin. She then moved to the west of Ireland where she met my Dad and they have been married for over 55 years. She has always been supportive of my life choices, whether that was going to France as a student, changing roles and a number of other things. Whilst she gets annoyed with my lack of culinary skills, she was the inspiration behind me taking up golf; she started at 56 and now into her 80s she still plays 2-3 times per week.
Name three things that you’re passionate about.
•The West of Ireland, Co Clare in particular
•Spending time with friends and family enjoying good food and wine