Making it Work

Dublin firm to launch pension app aimed at young job switchers

The company aims to target young savers who tend to change jobs frequently and need a flexible, portable means of providing for their future

Ailish Dooley, chief executive, Marshmallow Pensions: ‘We’re going to offer low-cost and easy-to-understand personal pensions, targeted particularly at young savers.’ Picture: Fergal Phillips

Marshmallow is a Dublin-based business aimed at getting more people to take personal pensions by making it easier for them to save and invest. The digital service is currently awaiting approval by the Central Bank but, once live, will enable individuals to invest as little or as much as they like whenever suits them.

“We’ll give the experience of a mobile trading app but with the tax benefits of a pension,” Ailish Dooley, chief executive and co-founder of Marshmallow, told the Business Post.

“We’re going to offer low-cost and easy-to-understand personal pensions, targeted particularly at young savers who tend to change jobs more frequently. It will be portable and stay with them as they move jobs.”

The business was started in 2020 and has four co-founders: Dooley, Daire O’Brien, Conor O’Neill and Richard Skinner. To date it has raised €750,000 in funding. The idea for it grew out of a problem O’Brien encountered.

“Daire is a journalist and at several points in his career he started the process of starting a pension, but never got through it. He wanted an easier way to do it. He approached Conor, who worked in financial services, to try and work out why it was so difficult,” Dooley said.

“They saw the opportunity and approached me with the idea. I knew I should have a personal pension, but had never started one. It just seemed like an obvious idea and, if we could get it right, it would make a big difference.”

The name of the business originates from the Stanford Marshmallow experiment, which investigated delayed gratification in the 1970s. A pension by its very nature is a delayed form of investment, and that proved inspirational for the name.

Dooley said the simplicity of something like Marshmallow would appeal to many of the large proportion of EU workers, over 40 per cent, currently without any form of pension.

“You can start with as little as €1 and you can stop and start as often as you want. The difference is that getting started is very easy. Once you download our app, it only takes a few minutes to set up a pension,” she said.

The business is in the high potential start-up programme with Enterprise Ireland.

“Enterprise Ireland have been great on a number of fronts. Obviously there’s funding and grants, but they’ve made so many introductions and got us access to so much training.”

The early plans for the company involve focusing on Ireland, but Dooley intends to expand internationally quickly.

“After 18 months, we plan to expand further into the EU. We’ll target SME employers who want an easy low-cost way to provide pensions to staff and we’ll target pension savers directly. Our marketing will primarily be digital,” Dooley said.

“Over the next year we hope to be an established business with quite a big buzz about what we’re doing, helping people to get started on their pensions.”

This Making it Work article is produced in partnership with Enterprise Ireland