10 Questions with Alex Carruthers on Payments and life at Freemarket
As Client Implementation Manager at Freemarket, I’m responsible for overseeing the onboarding and activation of new clients. This involves working closely with the sales team to provide operational advice and ensure that clients receive a seamless experience when navigating through the onboarding process. My role encompasses facilitating compliance procedures, providing platform demonstrations and training on the platform. I ensure that clients feel comfortable and confident using our platform during their initial few months with Freemarket, so they’re able to fully embrace a streamlined cross-border payments process.
What’s your background?
I graduated from Queen Mary University of London with a degree in History, before joining Freemarket in September 2018 as a graduate. The transferable skills I developed during my degree, such as analysing large sources of information and creating concise reports, have proved invaluable in my current role.
Initially, I started out as an Account Executive in a small commercial team consisting of just three members. It’s been really exciting to watch Freemarket’s growth over the years, going from a handful of people to being ranked #12 in the 2022 Sunday Times 100 fastest growing UK privately owned companies and #81 in the 2023 Financial Times 1000.
My role evolved into that of a Relationship Manager, where I supported and cultivated client relationships, and eventually transitioned into a Client Implementation Manager position to streamline the onboarding process for new clients. And, I’m pleased to say that since 2021, we’ve reduced the time onboarding a client takes by 20%, which means we can get clients up and optimising their payments processes so much faster.
What attracted you to the payments space?
Although I didn’t study finance, I’ve always been interested in the broader aspects of financial services, including politics and the economy. When the time came to choose a graduate job, I decided to pursue my interests and ended up discovering Freemarket through a recruitment company.
In the interview process I was introduced to the world of payments and was immediately intrigued by its intricacies, particularly in the realm of cross-border payments. There’s always something new to discover and no end to opportunities for personal and professional development. My interest in payments has only grown from there and I feel it’s been a brilliant match.
What do you think Freemarket’s ‘magic sauce’ is?
Our exceptional client service has to be Freemarket’s ingredient to success. Our unwavering commitment to putting clients first has been integral to our journey and driving growth. Our approach is rooted in maintaining a quick response rate – there’s always someone here to help clients when they have queries regarding their cross-border transactions and FX.
Having such a compliance centric approach to the business and how we enact in our day to day also provides our clients with peace of mind – there’s a reason we’ve had a 90%+ retention rate across 500+ clients since 2016.
If you could go back in time two years, what advice would you give yourself?
I would simply say be patient – hold a vision and trust the process. I feel that if you work hard, trust the process and embrace opportunities, good things will come. Whether it’s a long-term goal or something you want to achieve by the end of the month, have confidence in getting yourself there.
What would you say are the biggest challenges in the payments industry today?
One of the primary challenges I’ve experienced is speed of settlement and moving towards real-time payments. It’s still a massive issue, even today, that networks like SWIFT are trying to improve on. Since the pandemic, people have even greater expectations to get things done as quickly as possible, and at the moment, moving money from one side of the globe to another can be slow and frustrating. If there are any issues with the payment or rejections, it can result in funds getting stuck or lost which creates significant uncertainty. As a result, the marketplace for real-time payments is huge as businesses continue to innovate and adapt to the shifting face of commerce. From increased cashflow to better fraud prevention and customer experience, it’s no surprise that the global real-time payments market size is expected to grow at a CAGR of 35.5% from 2023 to 2030.
What’s your favourite thing about working for Freemarket?
Two answers: the people and the culture. Without exception, every colleague I’ve had the pleasure of working with has been fantastic – as experts in their field they’ve been engaging, collaborative and approachable.
As a graduate without any prior industry experience, the welcoming and supportive culture made it so much easier for me to learn and grow professionally. Everyone at Freemarket, from top to bottom, will always make time for you. And it’s this can-do attitude that’s also carried through to relationships with our clients.
What’s your favourite thing about the Freemarket platform?
The user experience is a top priority for us, and this really shows when using the platform. I provide a lot of platform demonstrations to both clients and colleagues, and people are always pleasantly surprised at how incredibly intuitive and easy to use it is. At the click of a mouse, clients can efficiently move funds internationally and access an entire correspondent banking network via a single API integration and platform.
What do you predict happening in the payments industry in the future?
The payments industry is currently experiencing significant regulatory and operational changes, particularly around the clarity of payment purposes. With stricter regulations on wire transfers, there are ripple effects throughout correspondent banking networks, leading to changes in risk appetites across the industry. This will inevitably pose challenges to the payments sector, particularly with regards to the speed of settlements. As the industry moves towards real-time payment schemes, there will be an increased obligation to understand customers, which in turn poses challenges in keeping up with changing regulations.
What’s something people don’t know about you?
Growing up I had a clear ambition to follow in my Grandfather’s footsteps and join the army. I joined briefly and learnt some valuable lessons, which further fuelled my interest in History and World War One - I even wrote my university dissertation on Australian Soldiers experiences of London in the First World War. Most of the soldiers came over to London to rehabilitate. They were paid more than British soldiers and it’s said that they had a better time than their British counterparts – that’s where the phrase ‘6 bob a day tourist’ comes from!
To find out more about Freemarket’s unique formula for real-time settlements and how we can work together, contact us today.