10 Questions with Richard Harrison on Payments & life at Freemarket
What’s your role at Freemarket?
I’m VP of Sales for Freemarket. I look after all the new business that comes into the organisation across the verticals we target—financial institutions, payment service providers, Fintechs and regulated markets. My team and I proactively explore new opportunities in the market with an aim in understanding who can benefit from our cross-border payments and FX services.
What’s your background?
I’ve worked in sales for 22 years now, across two different sectors: recruitment and payments. It was recruiting for the payments industry that inspired me to re-engineer myself to be able to move into the payments space. Since then, I’ve worked across traditional card acquiring, the digital wallet space and local payments. Having recently joined Freemarket in 2021, my experience has now broadened to include cross-border payments and FX.
What attracted you to the payments space?
I had very little knowledge of the payments industry until I began recruiting into the space. I was drawn to the many layers and steps involved with payments processing and the technology needed to make it happen. The more people I placed into roles, the more I was attracted to it and the way it touches everyone, in all walks of life—we all have to use a payment function.
It’s such an innovative and ever evolving space. What’s more, with the advent of fintech and blockchain there are constantly new ways to pay. From contactless cards and digital wallets to wearables, facial recognition and crypto payments. Also, the way money is moved is constantly changing too – everyone wants their money yesterday. It’s a fast-paced industry that continues to fascinate me.
What do you think Freemarket’s ‘magic sauce’ is?
It’s our ability to form true partnerships with our clients. A client survey told us that we’re an agile business that provides a ‘humanised’ experience through the entire journey, from sales through to relationship management. Our clients never disappear into a dark hole once they’re onboarded. There’s a reason we’ve had a 90% retention rate since 2016—we get close to our partners and have longstanding relationships with them.
If you could go back in time two years, what advice would you give yourself?
I would say my biggest piece of advice would be to work with like-minded people who don’t fear change and innovation. From the marketing team to the legal department, when you’re selling a solution, you need to have everyone across the business on the same page.
What would you say are the biggest challenges in the payments industry today?
For me, the top three challenges in payments are speed of settlement, licensing across different jurisdictions and all-round currency coverage. If you think about how we all live today, we’re slaves to convenience. When we’re doing our grocery shopping, we want to go to one place that has everything – clients want to see the same in the payments space for their business.
What’s your favourite thing about working for Freemarket?
Trust. It’s not just about hiring the best and brightest. I believe it’s important to work for a company that hires people with integrity and who value the importance of building a trusting workplace culture and this is what’s been cultivated here at Freemarket, combined with people who embrace innovation and challenging the status quo.
What’s your favourite thing about the Freemarket platform?
Two things. Firstly, simplicity. I know it doesn’t sound overly appealing, but bottom line is it works, and our clients find it very user friendly with easy onboarding. It’s convenient and uncomplicated, which is what people like about it. You can log in, see funds, move them, change balances, change currencies and pay your monies out. Simple.
Secondly, peace of mind. Our platform eases the pain of payments processing. We have a great banking network of tier-1 banks and local payment rails that we’re continually improving and expanding. This makes it easy for clients to do business globally, without having to worry about managing multiple fragmented providers.
What do you predict happening in the payments industry in the future?
Global cashless payment volumes are set to increase by more than 80% from 2020 to 2025, from about 1tn transactions to almost 1.9tn, and to almost triple by 2030, according to analysis by PwC. I think technology will go beyond what we can currently comprehend with this growth trajectory in mind. People could be paying with microchips in their bodies or with a retina scan – it sounds weird, but the possibilities are endless. But the end game is the same, how do we make it cheaper, faster and more resilient. And how do we make it borderless.
In terms of the landscape and the players, it wouldn’t surprise me if M&A activity heats up. There is the fear that the more dominant players will look to acquire smaller providers creating an imbalance in fair competition and making it harder to innovate. Additionally, although intermediary banks are one of the pillars that make international payments possible, the entire process can be time-consuming and can sometimes involve multiple intermediary banks. With these extra steps added into the money transfer process, international payments end up taking longer to arrive. Hence, I think banks are going to step up their game as they look to get their technological house in order which could mean more partnerships in play with fintechs to meet rising demand quickly.
What’s something people don’t know about you?
As a man in his 40s, I’m still a massive Disney kid believe it or not and go regularly with my family. It’s been interesting seeing the convenience element of payments develop there. Everything is in your wristband, so you don’t even need to take a wallet out with you anymore. It would be great if we could bring that into the real world – it’s magical!
To find out more about Freemarket’s unique formula for real-time settlements and how we can work together, contact us today.