Hargreaves Lansdown
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In Conversation With Gemma Al-Kaisy at Hargreaves Lansdown

Hargreaves Lansdown has a well-established presence in the financial services sector and was named Team of the Year and the Best Place to Work of the Year, in the Fintech Awards South West 2023.

In this Q&A, Matt Hyde, managing director at Fintech Awards South West, chats to Gemma Al-Kaisy, product lead at Hargreaves Lansdown, about the company’s role as the UK’s leading platform for private investors, its commitment to innovation, successful collaborations, investor empowerment, adaptability to changing trends, and career advice.

Gemma, please introduce yourself and give an overview of your company
Gemma Al-Kaisy
Gemma Al-Kaisy

Hargreaves Lansdown (HL) is proud to be the UK’s leading platform for private investors. We’ve been doing this for over 40 years now – helping people save time, money, and taxes on their investments. Today, we’re trusted by more than 1.8 million clients, managing over £130billion in assets.

We’re a FTSE 100 company based in Bristol with a team of over 2,000 people dedicated to a clear and compelling mission: empowering people to save and invest with confidence. Our goal is to improve financial well-being, and provide a service that supports our clients’ financial journey at every stage of life. I’m a Product Lead here, responsible for our web channel.

The Fintech Awards South West are a notable event in the industry. What motivated Hargreaves Lansdown to become a sponsor of this event? 

HL is one of the original fintechs, a Bristolian company with firm roots in the region and one of the first so-called unicorns (a business which has grown from nothing to now be worth more than £1billion). We’ve always strived to make saving and investing easy for people, simplifying the complex and of course using technology as our main enabler.

To continue being successful, we need to keep investing in technology and in people. Being at the forefront of the fintech scene in our region helps us attract the right skills and experience to fulfil our long-term ambitions.

Innovation is a hallmark of both fintech and established financial institutions. How does Hargreaves Lansdown view the role of innovation in its operations?

Innovation – doing it better, is within our DNA. It’s one of our values. Delivering an incredible service is at the heart of our growth story and as market leader we continually look to improve the client experience based on what our clients need.

At a team level we know that innovation is the product of curiosity, collaboration and courage. We allocate time for exploration into client needs and emerging technologies. We build cross-functional teams with diverse skills and give them autonomy to take ownership of problems and opportunities. And, we embrace a culture of psychological safety where team members can voice their opinions and share ideas, knowing that failure is a natural part of innovation and growth.

Collaboration often leads to new opportunities. Could you share any instances of successful collaborations between Hargreaves Lansdown and fintech startups or other players in the financial technology ecosystem?

Sure, we successfully collaborated with the payments provider Stripe to process £192million in a single day without any issues during this tax year-end. By using Stripe’s dynamic real-time error messaging, we saw a 93 per cent reduction in attempts to make payment by credit card.

Overall, integrating with Stripe reduced failed payments by £540 million per year. Our internal teams find working with the solutions, from the front-end dashboard to back-end development tools, easy and efficient. And, most importantly, our clients are receiving the best possible service with a 99.999 per cent processing uptime since the partnership.

Investor education and empowerment are key aspects of Hargreaves Lansdown’s services. How does the company view the role of fintech in enhancing client experiences and knowledge?

Building confidence to help people to make good financial decisions is at the heart of our service. Providing expert information, research and insights is part of the solution but understanding how to deliver these to our clients to help them make the right decisions, is even more important. That’s what we’re focussing on now.

We’ve invested massively in our data capability to understand and rationalise the millions of interactions we have with our clients on a daily basis and used AI to model client behaviours. Plus, we’ve got user-centred design expertise in every product team to really get to the heart of what our clients are trying to achieve.

We know it’s hard to make the right financial decisions to benefit your future self. We want to use these insights to create an experience that works proactively to help clients to reach their life goals. We want to help people create habits and make decisions that will benefit them in the long-term.

How does Hargreaves Lansdown stay agile and adaptable in the face of changing customer preferences and emerging technologies? Are there any specific fintech trends that the company is particularly excited about?

Change in technology has been a constant for over 40 years and we’ve spent considerable time looking at what we offer and speaking to clients to understand their needs as they change, evolving our services accordingly.

As an example, a few years ago we foresaw the need for a cash savings service which would give people access to better rates on their cash. Active Savings is now the largest cash savings platform in the UK with around 150,000 clients and growing and is a core part of our offering.

We developed and launched our first app before there was much demand but now see this as a core channel for clients – as of today 72 per cent of our monthly active clients are using HL’s mobile app to manage their investments.

Right now, we’re interested in how we can use technology to make financial advice and guidance more accessible. Also, how might we get a holistic view of our clients financial situation, understand their goals and humanise our service to become much more of a companion, helping them plan ahead and navigate challenging financial situations as they arise. Of course, this all means grappling with not only technology constrains but also with the regulatory boundaries of giving financial advice.

Finally, on a personal level what has helped or inspired you the most in your career and what advice would you give to others?

 Being inspired and motivated by a company’s purpose to improve the lives of others is a profound source of energy for me. Feeling that my work has a genuine positive impact on others gives everyday tasks a sense of meaning and helps me through the more challenging times. Empowering people to save and invest with confidence is such an important mission and everyone at HL absolutely lives and breathes this ethos – you can’t help but feel inspired every day.

My advice to anyone wanting to excel in their career is to find mentors who are willing to support you by candidly sharing their knowledge and experiences. Their guidance will be truly invaluable in helping you progress in your career.

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