The Entrepreneur: Rupert Lee-Browne, Caxton FX

Founder of the £700m currency exchange company talks sidestepping banks and not letting hubris ruin business reputation...

Founder: Rupert Lee-Browne
Company: Caxton FX
Description in one line: Disruptive currency exchange business
Turnover: £700m
12 month target: £1bn

Describe your business model and what makes your business unique:

  • Fundamentally, buying currency at one price and selling at another.
  •  Unrelenting focus on giving an amazing service to our customers.

What is your greatest business achievement to date?

By far the most complicated thing has been to manage the culture shift within a fast growing business – as the company has evolved and grown, so has the need to change leadership style, maintaining the passionate environment at the same time as installing systems and processes to make sure we deliver a consistent service to our hundreds of thousands of customers. To have managed this so far is an achievement worth celebrating.

What numbers do you look at every day in your business?

Only two things: customer feedback (of whatever nature) and revenue across each division of the business. Both give me a very good feel for how well we are doing. Customer feedback is vital to our success and how we tailor our service – and if a customer comments on a particular team member’s good service then that email is sent around the whole company with congratulations.

On a less frequent basis, I will get a whole host of bits of information from compliance statistics to our social media standing, all the way through to our cashflows and other financial data. We are necessarily driven by data and half the trick is to know what to look at and what to ignore.

To what extent does your business trade internationally and what are your plans?

By the nature of our service, we trade extensively overseas. That can only grow – as commerce becomes more and more global, so we will find larger numbers of clients from all around the world.

Describe your growth funding path:

The business started with £25,000 in savings and a telephone borrowed from a good friend. My time and effort I put in for nothing. Since then, we have funded our growth almost exclusively from profits and cashflow. The exception has been when we looked for extra funding to help grow faster. For this, we issued a Peer-to-Peer retail bond to our customers and the wider public. It’s still one of the most innovative things a growing business can do, sidestepping the banks for financing.

What technology has made the biggest difference to your business?

In the early years, we relied on telephone and fax (remember those!) to serve our customers. More recently, innovating from a technology perspective has been vital to our growth – we were the first currency business to offer an online international payments service and this continues to be a real winner for our customers and for us. We see technology as a major driver of our success, enabling our team to deliver amazing service to customers, for example through a sophisticated CRM system or a straight through processing platform for our settlements team.

Where would you like your business to be in three years?

Caxton continues to grow at well over 25% a year – we would like to accelerate that and expansion in new territories may well be part of that growth. But, overall, we are not looking to grow for the sake of it. Our existing customers have to come first so it is vital that we do not let hubris ruin our reputation by expanding too fast.

Growth challenges

What is the hardest thing you have ever done in business?

Work for anyone else. I think the feeling was mutual.

What was your biggest business mistake?

Listening to external IT consultants and letting them run software development on our behalf.

Piece of Red Tape that hampers growth most:

It has to be around employment law – whilst we pride ourselves on being a great employer, dealing with a company of people can have its challenges. And the increasing regulatory burden only takes more time and expense.

What is the most common serious mistake you see entrepreneurs make?

It has to be lack of focus – launching too many products, going off in different directions, changing the strategy. Building a business requires unrelenting focus – both on the vision itself and on delivering that vision.

How will your market look in three years?

Similar to how it is today. Banks will continue to overcharge and under-serve their customers for international payments, whilst businesses like Caxton FX continue to take market share away from them.

What is the single most important piece of advice you would offer to a less experienced entrepreneur?

Find the very best people to work with and treat them right. Your business is entirely reliant on the quality of the team. A truly great team will build an amazing company with you.

Personal growth

Biggest luxury:

A month off every August.

Executive education or learn it on the job?

On the job, but do not neglect to grow your skills outside the business. Management training is a vital part of growing with the business.

What would make you a better leader?

Better time-management skills.

Business book:

A Method for Hiring by Geoff Smart. This wonderful book gives you a straightforward template for getting the right people ‘on the bus.’


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