10 Questions with Lara Reardon on Payments and life at Freemarket
As Operations Technical Manager, I work with Freemarket’s Operations and Tech team, as well as our banking partners, to facilitate new banking integrations and partner offerings. I'm responsible for coordinating with our Tech team to ensure our customers benefit from any new currency capabilities our banking providers may offer.
I also oversee efforts to enhance our portal, which makes it easier, safer and faster for businesses to move money around the world. I regularly collect feedback from the Operations team and work with Tech to bring these suggestions to life. I then develop and implement strategies aimed at improving the platform's performance and user experience, resulting in a more seamless and efficient operation.
What’s your background?
After completing a degree in Hospitality Management, I put my finance modules to use by embarking on a career in financial services. My first role was with a foreign exchange brokerage, where I worked in the Settlements team before advancing to the position of FX Trader.
As a Trader, I handled everything from spot trades to complex options, providing me with valuable insight into the inner workings of the industry. I subsequently transitioned to the Payments and Fintech sector, where I managed FX, liquidity and reconciliations.
Joining Freemarket in June of last year, I recognised the ideal opportunity to leverage my knowledge of the payments and FX landscape. It’s an industry that attracts a lot of different people, and everyone at Freemarket brings such a breadth of experience and transferable skills – I’m excited to be part of the journey.
What attracted you to the payments space?
The Payments industry is a complex but fascinating space of wizardry, where a great deal of activity occurs behind the scenes. Whether your morning cup of coffee, travel expenses, or online purchases, payments touch everyone.
It's the dynamic nature of the sector and the continuous innovation and progress that drew me to the payments space. I’m passionate about the role payments play in shaping the economy and supporting the growth of businesses across various sectors. They form the backbone of every business operation, facilitating the smooth flow of financial transactions.
What do you think Freemarket’s ‘magic sauce’ is?
As a start-up, we have an inherent advantage in that we’re not bound by the same structural and legacy system constraints larger organisations often face. We can drive innovation and create new ideas that align with the evolving needs of our customers, a key priority we always keep top of mind.
Our diverse team comprises of people from a range of backgrounds, who all bring a variety of experience and unique ideas. We use these varied perspectives to collaborate and create solutions that push boundaries where possible. It’s this drive to innovate that I feel led to Freemarket ranking #12 in the Sunday Times fastest growing privately owned companies and #25 in Deloitte’s UK Technology Fast 50 programme in 2022.
If you could go back in time two years, what advice would you give yourself?
I believe there are two key factors for success. The first is being passionate about what you do - I find myself discussing Payments and Operations frequently now, as it has become a genuine interest.
The second is surrounding yourself with the right people. Building strong relationships with colleagues is vital. The ability to trust and collaborate with team members, share ideas and constructive feedback helps foster personal and professional growth. I’ve found a supportive team environment to be an invaluable asset for both individual and organisational success.
What would you say are the biggest challenges in the payments industry today?
The payments industry has undergone significant transformation in recent years, shifting from a time-consuming process that could take days, to a fast, more streamlined system. With these developments, customers are now seeking faster settlements and a broader range of currency options than they’ve ever asked for. Despite the considerable and exciting progress made, challenges remain, as these changes are still relatively new and need to be fine-tuned.
That’s why many are turning to fintech companies like Freemarket, who offer innovative solutions and faster settlement times.
What’s your favourite thing about working for Freemarket?
It 100% must be the culture: our people and our ‘let’s do it’ attitude makes Freemarket stand out. We have a dynamic team with a can-do attitude, which means we’re able to execute ideas rapidly. We really value creativity, innovative thinking and a willingness to take on new challenges. Not only does this make it a great place to work, but by fostering this open and collaborative environment we’re able to adapt quickly to changes in the market and stay ahead of competition.
What’s your favourite thing about the Freemarket platform?
How easy and straight forward it is to use - the user interface is designed for ease of use and intuitive navigation. Everything is under one roof. Our platform's streamlined design ensures a smooth client experience, with logical steps that enable them to make international payments and FX trades efficiently. Our platform offers lower costs through its high-volume currency aggregation system and API technology that enables clients to create their own ‘business-to-business payments ecosystem’. The platform allows customers to get pricing close to currency market rates by creating a liquid internal market which matches buyers and sellers of currency through the netting of incoming payments.
One major benefit of our in-house development is that we can enhance the platform quickly and effectively, with the ability to introduce improvements as needed. The ability to improve the user experience with ad-hoc upgrades provides crucial flexibility to our clients.
What do you predict happening in the payments industry in the future?
Who knows is the real answer! It’s difficult to predict the future with any certainty. I still remember when Apple Pay was released in 2015, because I was adamant I would never use it – eight years later and I pay for everything with my watch, I don’t even use my phone! To stay ahead of the curve it’s imperative to continue exploring innovative technology.
The current landscape is evolving at a rapid pace of technological advancement. Artificial intelligence is presenting exciting opportunities and McKinsey have predicted it may deliver an additional economic output of around US$13 trillion by 2030! I think we’ll also see Blockchain making payments faster and more efficient, while reducing the risk of fraud.
What’s something people don’t know about you?
I love taking part in fitness competitions and events. Over the past few years I’ve competed in functional fitness competitions and I’m now training for a triathlon – I just love challenging myself to see what I’m capable of and I feel it’s so important to put yourself out of your comfort zone. My goal for next year is to get to Iron Man status!
To find out more about Freemarket’s unique formula for real-time settlements and how we can work together, contact us today.