Building Freetrade

Meet the Freetrader in charge of protecting our users’ money and shares

Freetrade Team

January 11, 2018

Freetrade Team

Meet the Freetrader in charge of protecting our users’ money and shares

Our Head of Finance, Rob Sexton has joined us from PwC, where he spent his career to date and reached the Senior Manager position in just seven years, an exceptionally short time.

A Durham University graduate (Maths!) and a chartered accountant, he worked within the audit practice of PwC.

When he heard of Freetrade for the first time, the idea immediately hit him as obvious. As he put it,

Almost all the different aspects of finance — retail banking, lending, mortgages — are being disrupted. Stockbroking is a core area that has not been touched by disruption at all.

Welcome to the team! What’s your background?

I studied Maths in Durham — having been brought up around London I picked a university about as far from home as possible while still being in England!

Throughout school and university I was adamant that I would never be an accountant — both my parents are accountants so it was a teenage attempt to be different! However when I discovered PwC, a Big 4 accountancy firm, were running a split internship between London and New York I decided I should give it a go.

Turned out being an accountant wasn’t all that bad (!), and off the back of the internship I took a job in the banking and capital markets audit practice.

Working at PwC I got fantastic exposure to a range of clients, and to senior people within them. For me the best bit was seeing the similarities and differences, and being able to use my experience with one client to help another.

After five years in banking I then moved internally within PwC to the non-financial services business, which gave me a completely different experience — my focus went from valuing derivatives to understanding the progress on the building of an aircraft carrier!

We have to ask: How do you understand the progress on the building of an aircraft carrier?

It’s a big judgement call — long-term contracts are one of the hardest areas to audit.

Broadly it is a case of understanding what’s been done, what’s still to go, and what could go reasonably change that. It does make the meetings a bit more interesting though when you’re talking about something like an aircraft carrier! It’s a massively complex project.

You spent a bit of your childhood in Hong Kong. How was it to come back to the UK? Did you have a culture shock?

I came back when I was quite young (8), so don’t really remember a big culture shock — the main thing I remember was the cold, with me and my brothers wearing heavy jumpers in the middle of the UK summer. ☃️

Image for post
Rob resorting to extreme measures to fill his wine glass

Let’s forward back to today. How did you come to work at Freetrade?

I had toyed with the idea of moving to work at a smaller company, maybe even a startup, but hadn’t come across anything that I really bought into.

However I got a message out of the blue from Adam asking if I’d be interested in looking at the head of finance role.

As soon as I started reading about Freetrade, the idea just resonated with me — it was hard to understand why this didn’t already exist. I knew from my experience with financial institutions that with the right idea and starting from scratch with technology you really can produce a better customer experience and business model.

A lot of the current players use decade-old technology, and they know it’s not good enough for today’s customer. However, if they invested the many millions needed into their infrastructure, their shareholders would riot.

Within a fortnight of getting Adam’s message I had met with him and André, and was over the moon when they offered me the job. 🙌

What do you see as the biggest difference between Freetrade and PwC?

Well, I’m moving from a company with 22,000 employees to one with eight, so that’s a bit of a change!

For me I think the biggest change, and the biggest attraction of the role, will be the ability to really influence where the company is going in a way that you can’t at somewhere the size of PwC.

It’s exciting to be able to take everything I’ve seen and learnt in my time auditing other companies, and apply it to something I’m deeply involved in.

What exactly does a Head of Finance do? Why do Freetrade need one?

It’s quite a broad role.

My first focus is getting processes and controls in place to protect our users’ money and shares, so if anything happened to us as a company, they would be able to easily recover anything placed with us.

Then it’ll be on to various things including financial controls, producing financial results, setting our budget, monitoring our cashflow, along with more mundane jobs such as making sure invoices get paid.

Part of the beauty of working at somewhere like Freetrade is that the role is going to evolve, so who knows what else I’ll be getting involved in.

What do you foresee as the most challenging part of the role?

Probably something I don’t even know about yet!

For me the key thing is going to be getting robust controls and processes in place before we launch.

However there’s going to be so much going on over the coming months, while I hope I know what lots of the challenges are going to be, I’m sure there will be things I haven’t even begun to think of that I find myself tackling.

What excites you most about Freetrade?

I think we have a great opportunity to really shake up an industry, and give people a new and compelling way of investing.

This is something that should be simple, and by building the product from the ground up, we can bring best practices not only to our customers, but to the way we do everything internally.

Important Information

This should not be read as personal investment advice and individual investors should make their own decisions or seek independent advice.

When you invest, your capital is at risk. The value of your portfolio can go down as well as up and you may get back less than you invest. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future results.

Freetrade is a trading name of Freetrade Limited, which is a member firm of the London Stock Exchange and is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered in England and Wales (no. 09797821).

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