Q&A with Brian Jamieson, Co-Founder of CenttripLast Updated: November 1, 2019
Foreign exchange entrepreneur Brian Jamieson spoke to AGENT about the story of his successful fin-tech startup, Centtrip: “We have the potential to be a prominent player in shaping the future of the global fin-tech space.”
Brian Jamieson is one of two foreign exchange entrepreneurs behind the successful London-based fin-tech startup Centtrip, which aims to cut the normally high costs of currency conversion. Brian Jamieson and his co-founder, Tony North, set up Centtrip following the success of their previous foreign exchange company, Schneider Foreign Exchange which was sold to Mexican bank, Monex, in 2012.
Featuring an online payment platform, mobile app and prepaid Mastercard®, Centtrip was created to challenge convention and pioneer positive change in the global currency market for companies and individuals. The first of its kind worldwide, the Centtrip online account allows you to deposit in multiple currencies and provides direct access to the live currency market with spread free exchange rates to send payments worldwide and control travel expenditure. The service operates on the basis of a fixed annual fee and 0.5 percent of the value of funds.
Centtrip is integrated with the API of Currencycloud, giving customers direct access to a live currency market and transparent, fair and competitive exchange rates, with no hidden charges. It is an ideal financial product for an increasingly globalised world, enabling customers to make instant payments in any currency, minus excessive charges, or any delays arising in the need to wait for funds to arrive and convert.
11 Questions for Brian Jamieson
Brian Jamieson freed up some time to speak to AGENT about his life and business story to date, his first two years at the helm of Centtrip, and the lessons he has learned from business over the years: “It is never over: it is just the start of something new,” he tells young startups who may with some trepidation regard the changes and uncertainties of setting up in business for the first time.
1. Briefly tell us how you first got into business, and describe your business goals.
Having served in the Royal Air Force and with no real commercial experience, I took a job as a GM at a small regional systems company. I learned much in a short period, introducing new methods to how the business operated which resulted in significant business growth. It was a hugely positive experience and gave me confidence to break out on my own.
I started my first business in January 1997 with no car and no money, and never looked back. My ambition, then and now, is to create companies that positively challenge convention in whatever sector they serve, and to reach as big an audience as possible; to take advantage of and develop technology and methods that improve the product and service as well as enhancing the customer experience.
There have been wins and losses along the way, including being a co-founder of Schneider Foreign Exchange in 2007. We successfully sold the business in 2012 to a bank, having become one of the top independent fx brokers in Europe with an annual turnover of circa $15bn. Centtrip is the latest project and embodies everything that I aspire to in a business opportunity. We have a way to go but we have the potential to be a prominent player in shaping the future of the global fin-tech space.
2. What age were you when you realised you wanted to run your own business?
Since my teenage years but I was talking instead of walking at that time. I joined the Royal Air Force for 4 years then worked for 4 years. The experience was very positive, and it certainly helped shape my character, but throughout, I knew my future was going to be working for myself.
3. Who are your business icons and inspirations?
I don’t particularly buy into the icons tag but I respect success and an ability to continue to innovate and reinvent personally. Richard Branson is good example. He has created a globally respected brand and businesses that have challenged and provoked, with an ethos to serve the customer. He is certainly not afraid of a challenge or failing and has shown you can but still succeed.
All in all, you need to be your own man and make your own mistakes but it is good to have people you can connect with and respect. I have a personal friend, his own business journey and support has motivated me when things were not going so well. He is not the perfect businessman but he is successful, self-made and a great example to anyone who thinks it’s over when it’s actually just beginning.
4. What has been your biggest challenge in business, and how did you surmount it?
Finding the courage to make the first move and go it alone. Having taken the step, it took time to see the signs of reward. It can be easy to give up and go back to the grind, but once I was in there was no going back! There are constant challenges along the way and some are, or seem, bigger than others until they are behind you. What I have learned is that there is a solution to every problem – you just don’t like it sometimes but you survive and most of the time prosper.
5. Work-Life balance: is it possible? How do you achieve it?
It is possible but not always easy, and most of us are not good at it. Owning, running and developing a business takes time and commitment which makes this balance difficult. I’m no different to most people in wishing they had spent more time with their family. I think I’m becoming more and more aware of my health and how it affects everything – family, life and work. I don’t have the answer to this just yet but I am definitely working on it.
6. What is the first thing you do every day?
Shower. My start to the day is unhealthy and fairly unsociable: I wake up, immediately shower, dress and leave for work. I don’t eat breakfast but will have coffee when I get to where I am going.
7. What screen saver picture is currently on your phone?
My grandchild – she is 2 years old and amazing.
8. What is the most important app on your mobile phone, and why?
Outside of the communication apps, it is probably my banking and card apps. I can’t remember the last time I went into a high street bank.
9. What is the last thing you Googled?
Flights to Tel Aviv to attend a business meeting.
10. What item do you never leave the house without, and why?
My phone. Sadly you simply can’t exist without one! It is pretty much the only item I would go back for. You can always get money for the day from a colleague or friend. However, you can’t take a call, check email or any of the other stuff we do with a phone.
11. What advice would you give to your younger self starting out in business?
Be bold, courageous and always inquisitive. Never be afraid to make a mistake but acknowledge quickly when you have. Be confident when making the hard decisions. Ask questions, read and watch as much as you can. Meet and talk to as many people as you can – travel everywhere you can.
Knowledge and contacts are very valuable assets. Surround yourself with bright, creative and ambitious people. Learn to listen before you speak (my greatest failing!) but stay true to your convictions. Challenge convention and change the world in whatever it is that you choose to do. It is never over: it is just the start of something new.