Payments people: Flutter Entertainment’s Marc Cregan
Payments people is our interview series celebrating payments and product leaders. We discuss the experiences that have shaped them and tips for navigating a career in payments.
This week, we’re chatting with Marc Cregan, Payments Business Development Manager for Flutter Entertainment, a leading online sports betting and gaming company. Flutter operates some of the most innovative and diverse brands in the sector, including Sky Betting & Gaming, Paddy Power and Betfair.
In this interview, Marc reveals the skills that have helped him build a career in payments, and why he’s betting on open banking.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your role
I run business development and strategy for payments, covering the full lifecycle from start to finish. I identify what to work on, make the business case, secure the resource, select external partners and oversee development and rollout.
When you see a ‘business development’ job title, you might think of a salesperson. But I'm on the other side – I have people trying to sell stuff to me all day, every day! I think we have 31 different payment providers here.
What led you to a career in payments?
Like a lot of people, I fell into it. I don't think there's a college course for customer-facing payments, in Ireland at least!
I joined Flutter as a technical business analyst to manage the merging of Paddy and Betfair. That sparked my interest in payments and I stayed on delivering projects like Apple Pay and Visa Direct.
I did a stint in customer-facing AI, but I’ve always had a soft spot for payments. So when I was approached about my current role, I jumped at the chance.
What’s the best bit about working in payments?
I love researching emerging technologies as well as seeing those things become reality – coming in every morning to check my dashboard and seeing the impact it’s having on the business.
… and the most difficult?
We take deposits for over a hundred countries, have multiple licences and dozens of payment providers. When you’re working at this scale, something’s always going to go wrong.
For example: a new regulatory requirement has come in and you have to pause everything, or you’ve seen a dramatic spike in fraud on certain cards in the UK. There’s a new challenge every day.
When we’re developing new payments products, I always add on a couple of months to project time estimates, because something will always pop up that you didn’t think of. But these challenges keep the job interesting.
Complete the sentence: payments are done right when…
When the customer journey is fully integrated and customers can pay the way they want to.
On the majority of ecommerce websites in the UK at least, you’ll see a hosted payment page in an iframe, with a couple of payment options – cards and maybe Apple Pay.
If you look at iGaming sites, you’ll often see integrated payment journeys using direct APIs, so you always feel that you are transacting with the same company. You’ll also see a range of payment options to cater to customer preference.
Credit goes to the whole industry right there! We're keeping each other on our toes and constantly pushing each other.
What skill has been most valuable in your career?
Understanding the different parts of the business and how they intersect in a payments product. I came to Paddy Power as a technical business analyst and I've studied elements of programming which helps me grasp the technical side. I've also managed operational teams, and the business side is my bread and butter.
So I can understand the impact of a project across all areas and teams. For example, we might have to cut a tech requirement in a project, which will impact operations because it means there's more manual work – so I’d need to ask for more people in operations cover this.
Best piece of career advice you've received?
When I was fresh out of college, a director told me I needed to get more involved and ask more questions. He was right.
There's no such thing as a stupid question. Stop a meeting, ask what that acronym is, ask someone to explain what they said. You're not going to learn unless you do and you won’t be able to contribute unless you learn.
Nobody will think any less of you. If anything, they’ll think more of you.
What habits have helped you to thrive?
If something won’t matter in five years, I don’t spend more than five minutes worrying about it.
We're in over a hundred markets with dozens of payment providers and multiple regulatory bodies. If I spent time worrying about each and every issue, I wouldn’t get anything done.
Also: if something comes my way and I know it'll take less than five minutes to deal with, I'll do it immediately. Because otherwise I'm going to be left on Friday afternoon with a host of small tasks. So rather than let them build up, I get some done right away.
A book or resource you’d recommend?
Two books that I’ve found really useful, particularly if you read them in this order:
Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson.
The first recites historic events to explain why humans are terrible at communicating with each other. You may think you're a great communicator but read that book and you’ll realise that humans in general are awful! So, always spell stuff out and never assume people understand what you're saying – despite what their face or body language might say!
The second book has helped me to spend less time worrying about every little thing. If something goes wrong: address it, come up with a plan and move on – don’t dwell.
Any other advice for someone starting out?
Be a sponge. Go to all the conferences. Build your network and talk to your suppliers. Take an hour a day to read the payments media. Get involved with communities like the Merchant Risk Council (MRC): they’re a great resource with loads of good webinars.
Ask as many questions as you can and don't be afraid to challenge the norms. If somebody in your company says, “we only need card payments because they’re popular”, challenge them. Bring to the conversation your knowledge of alternative payment methods and technologies like open banking.
Place your bets… what's your biggest prediction for payments in the next 5 years?
I am in the gambling industry, so I'll make a bold bet here… I’m going to predict that in 2027, for mobile payments, open banking will be as big, if not bigger than card payments in the UK.
We can revisit this in 2027 and see if I was right.
Naturally, we agree! But, what’s your thinking?
Open banking has a great customer experience. Historically, that hasn’t been the case with bank payments.
Open banking comes along and suddenly you're able to do direct, immediate deposits and direct, immediate withdrawals within your app, while cutting out middlemen and reducing fraud and costs at the same time.
Some people talk about the added friction of authenticating each transaction in your bank app (unless you're using variable recurring payments). But strong authentication also gives you better fraud protection. And positive friction, if implemented well, can actually help conversion in many cases by reassuring customers.
I think we're just scratching the surface with this technology. At Flutter we’ve launched an open banking deposit flow, but when we start to get a bit deeper and integrate the data side of open banking too – for example to improve the way we register customers, or do affordability checks – it’s going to get even more exciting. Open banking has the potential to be embedded in every step of the customer lifecycle.
Why did you select TrueLayer as your partner?
We reviewed 20 different companies and TrueLayer was the outstanding choice for us, both in terms of the product today but also the future vision. Everything I want to do with open banking in the future, TrueLayer is already working on.
Throughout the RFP process, I always felt like I was speaking with product people, not just salespeople. The team has been terrific throughout the integration too. Everything we've needed, they’ve dealt with straight away. And our tech team really loves dealing with their TrueLayer counterparts, which makes my life easier.
It’s certainly a perfect match for us.
Thinking back to your daily dashboards, what results have you seen so far?
Today, we're live with TrueLayer Payments on mobile for our gaming apps and the results have far exceeded my expectations.
We haven't promoted it yet, but customers are finding the TrueLayer payment method themselves, and it’s taking far more wallet share already than I ever would've expected. We launched in October, and by November we were already achieving the adoption I forecasted for January.
I’m even more excited to see what happens when we launch the sports book and desktop channels, and start telling our customers about it.