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Finbuzz sat with Freetrade co-founder and ex-KPMG Corporate Finance manager Adam Dodds talking about family inspiration, bringing zero commission investing to Europe, and what is common between Freetrade platform and Robin Hood.
What have been the most memorable moments of your career?
To be honest, the most memorable moments of my career were probably leaving all my different jobs to go on to the next challenge. Regarding work, the single most memorable moment would be when I did my UFE as we call it, or final exam for the charity accountant, because this is something that you do for three years every day. Besides, for me it was a little bit special in that my wife was pregnant and due to give birth a week before to my final exam, but she was kind enough to wait until the day before. Well, actually, two days before, because I wrote the exam in The City, and it is a three-day exam in Canada, and my wife went into labour on Saturday, and my son was delivered at 6pm on Monday.
It’s funny, because my dad is an accountant and that almost inspired me not to be one.
Who inspired you?
I’ve never really wanted to be an accountant, so I would say I was more inspired to leave my accounting job and become an entrepreneur and in that I was inspired by my mum. My mum is a school teacher, but all her life she was doing side projects. Right now she has got this children’s fashion business on the side. I always thought I want to do something like that, but I’m not going to do it halfway. I am going to quit my job and go for one and give it a full shot. But it’s funny, because my dad is an accountant and that almost inspired me not to be one.
What has been the greatest challenge in your career so far?
The greatest challenge is, without doubt, right now. I think going through the ranks of a company, say like KPMG is nothing compared to striking it on your own and being on your own. It is just three of us and feeding my family next month and having a job in six months from now it’s all depending on me, being able to fundraise and convincing other people about this being a big opportunity, consumers to download your product, so definitely the biggest challenge, but also the most rewarding one.
What valuable lessons have you learned?
I’ve learned the importance of believing in yourself and setting a goal… Maybe you don’t accomplish it in the first year or second year, but if you stick to it you will get there. That’s been basically the story of my career. I wanted to get to London, but the time wasn’t right first, and then the time wasn’t right again, but I eventually got there. I had the idea to start my own company, but it took a little while, it took me a couple of different places to get there, then once you get there in the right position then you can follow through it, so perseverance I guess.
That would be my idea of job satisfaction, that happiness at work.
What advice would you give yourself if you were starting your career?
I don’t know if I would give any. I would just say keep doing what you doing. I don’t think I did everything right, but I never really think about what would have happened if I’ve done this or that differently. I’m not someone who second guesses decisions.
What is the key to job satisfaction?
I don’t know what job satisfaction is like for other people, because some people seem really satisfied with being at KPMG, so clearly it works for some people. I think it’s just doing something that you interested in and it makes you feel motivated to get to work and then it doesn’t feel like work anymore. That would be my idea of job satisfaction, that happiness at work. That’s what makes me happy, I think.
Who or what comes to you mind when you hear the word ‘success’?
The most successful people I see in the world are entrepreneurs, people who are working for themselves, people who are changing the world in what they think is a positive way.
What would you have done if you were not been in fintech?
Who knows? I think, I fell into the fintech business, because my background is in finance. If my background was in a different area, I still think I would be in some sort of a start-up business or entrepreneurial smaller type of business, just in a different field, so I don’t think it would be much different just a different market.
Any free time that I have outside of work I spend with my family, because that’s what relaxes me the most.
What do you find most rewarding about your job?
So far, what has been the most rewarding experience for me is actually going through the Crowdcube process. Previous to that we had our wait list, but we haven’t been doing any kind of marketing or anything like that, so probably more than half of it was our friends and networking. When we went on crowd cube what was amazing is actually getting those exposure to people who didn’t know us and then getting messages in from people that are investing and super-exciting about it. That is definitely the most rewarding, finding people that you’ve never met before, but they totally get what you are trying to do and they are waiting for what you are trying to do, that gets you really happy.
What do you do to relax?
I go home; I probably have a beer, sit around with my family for a bit, read the kids a book to go to sleep, that kind of stuff is what relaxes me. On the weekends going on bike rides with my kids or going to a day trip or to a museum. Any free time that I have outside of work I spend with my family, because that’s what relaxes me the most.
Note from the journalist: Adam has got two kids, son (5) and daughter (3) who are now in Japan for a month with their mum.
What are you proud of?
Leaving behind a promising career at KPMG and start something completely new, especially when most people were questioning my decision. I don’t know if that’s an accomplishment yet, because I feel like we didn’t accomplished much at Freetrade yet, we’re still in the very early days. Until a year from now I wouldn’t say that it is accomplished too much.
What would you like to achieve in the future?
I would like to make Freetrade a success. What would success look like for us? I would be one year from now we have a product that is out there, and people are loving, and that people are telling their friends about, and people are using to save themselves money and start investing in the stock market, maybe for the first time.
It’s like a Robin Hood for the UK with advice, something like that.
What are the key challenges facing the Fintech industry post-Brexit?
From our perspective, priority is Brexit. Being in the London bubble I just assumed they’re not going to vote to leave. We considered pulling it, thinking that people are not going to invest especially in the UK, but then we decided to go for it and then it was no problem at all. No one mentioned Brexit at any point, and the only thing that backs us is that our vision plan was to use FCA passport to go across Europe, so we could accept clients from across Europe. I don’t think it’s going to impact our plans anyways, because we have a year, and we can set up a subsidiary in Europe somewhere during that time.
How would you describe Freetrade to someone who never heard of it?
It’s like a RobinHood for the UK with advice, something like that. To people who haven’t heard of RobinHood I would say that it is an app on your phone that lets you invest in the stock market with zero commissions or fees.
Who is your target audience for Freetrade?
Our target audience is millennials, that is broad enough, I guess, but it’s really designed for people my age (32) or younger, who are really turned off by the existing offerings, and for a whole number of reasons they don’t invest in the stock market right now. The number one reason is that it’s very costly, and the number two reason is that it’s really complicated and then it’s too time-consuming. We’re trying to kill those three things and by removing them it makes its accessible for anyone who wants to.
Would you recommend it to people without the background in finance or limited knowledge in the stock market?
That’s exactly who we’re looking for, because we have two kinds of target audience and that’s the first kind of person, they know they need to invest but don’t know where they should buy or when they should sell, what to invest in etc.
Freetrade connects people with a network of advisors, how does that work?
First we get the users with the commission-free trading and once we have users it will make advisors to come to the platform as well, because for advisors younger than forty years old, it’s not that easy to find clients as advisors. Instead of a one hour face-to-face conversation, the users can have their simple questions answered in a 5 minutes, text message or Facetime-ing. This way the fee for that can be less as it is much less work for the advisor, but the client can still get the answer from a professional and the advisor will still get money. It’s just makes the process easier.
PHOTOS: Maria Torrens