A/NZ Women in Business Mentor Program 2021: Gillian Doyle, Cerebreon

Joining us on the A/NZ Women in Business Mentor Program 2021 is Gillian Doyle the CEO and Co-Founder of Cerebreon, an award-winning, intelligent data extraction, analytics and transmission platform for the insolvency and debt recovery industry.

Founded in 2016, Cerebreon provides automated technology solutions to support IVAs and creditors to predict and prevent insolvency arrangement failures to support the most vulnerable people in society.

Why did you decide to set up your business?
Honestly, to make a difference. I had worked in the personal debt industry and I knew there were substantial opportunities for innovation that would bring about real change and value for every stakeholder.  It’s an area of the financial services that isn’t talked about very often but it’s where we find the most vulnerable individuals as well as the lowest returning investments for creditors. Simple digitisation strategies were never going to work here, solutions needed to be digitally native and holistic. At a personal level, both Ken and I were also looking to create an environment where we could thrive professionally but also provide the opportunity to create employment. Building a vibrant and energetic working environment was a really attractive proposition as well as the opportunity to meet amazing people whether it’s our team, clients, contractors, regulators, service providers.

You have a very strong academic background, do you think that helps or hinders you in transitioning to the business arena?

I think a Ph.D. is about the skillsets and not about so much about the topic. Nano physics doesn’t really have a huge degree of commonality with business! Critical thinking, research, innovation, stubbornness and resilience, analytical approaches, writing, presentation skills, trial and error designs are all capabilities you earn and refine during this period. It’s intensely isolating sometimes and you have to be able to keep going which is extremely similar to running a business, as any founder will tell you. I worked in industry for quite a while after my PhD and this was extremely important to being able to carry out my role today. However, regardless of the education pathway, attitude is the corner stone of any career. Work ethic and appetite to learn and grow are so important!  

Do you find the challenges in the debt sectors are very different in different countries or has COVID been a leveller in that respect?

There are similarities and differences between territories depending on a multitude of factors such as insolvency regimes, participation of judicial systems in the processes, lending ecosystem and territory GDP. Covid has disrupted the financial services dramatically and the debt sector is no different. There is a tsunami of consumers that will need debt solutions when government schemes end but in recession, there is investment in collections. Covid has brought about a new type of over-indebted consumer and a new consumer type in a market always drives disruption. It’s a very interesting space to be working in at the moment. Our proposition is landing really well because it enables individualised treatment strategies at scale. Debt is a very personal situation and so recovery needs to be as well.

What are your plans for your business?

That’s a big question! To keep it short, we are moving into the general retail lending sector by providing an early warning system for financial difficulty. Most financial institutes have very binary definitions of what bad debt looks like, i.e. you miss a payment, you are in this bucket. It is also reactive to an event. Because we are experts in over indebtedness, we can bring 50 shades of bad debt profiles and this is very difficult to achieve because it is an extreme event! A lot of financial institutes outsource debt collection and so they don’t have a huge amount of data on this. Using general lending models for recovery don’t hold up when you are identifying behaviours at an individual level. Small corrections to trajectory early on can have huge implications for the outcome and so we provide these early warning signals and potential course corrections. Not all bad debt is really bad debt and we help creditors properly identify these customers, plot a different trajectory and constantly adapt this trajectory as it emerges. It’s where we always wanted to operate as it is such a big impact but will always continue to ensure that the highly financially stressed consumer arrangement is sustainable, suitable and provides recovery for creditors.

Why have you chosen to target the Australian market?

Australia has a similar legislation system to the UK for insolvency and challenges but additionally, Australian people genuinely want to improve the lives of those in difficulty. This sentiment is extremely important in our customer base as empathy must underpin advice and resolution. Technology adoption amongst consumers is very high and although Open Banking is an option, our solution works for more traditional methods because it needs to be accessible and inclusive. It’s a very exciting market to be entering and I’m really looking forward to getting those early POCs up and going.

Why did you sign up to the mentor program?

Always be learning! I absolutely believe in surrounding myself with the most amazing people that you not only respect and learn from but that they have the energy, drive and ambition to make a difference. All of the mentors have incredible careers and none of these happened without sacrifice. Mentoring is always personal compared to consulting and so you just absorb so much more because it’s based on their experience and journey and not just best practice!  


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