Meet Harriet Mitchell, Head of US Dealing at World First. We talk to her about her 8 years at World First, how dealers work with clients and oh yes, that fateful 3 a.m. phone call.
“It was one of those moments that gives you the chills and you will always remember.”
Tell us about the dealing team.
I manage a team of seven dealers, or account managers, with plans to hire three more people before the end of the year. The dealers each have their own focus. Two work with private clients, two more on corporate clients, and three with online sellers. This means they truly can be specialists and are knowledgeable in their particular client segment. They also strive to make sure they know the clients on a personal level. Individually, they talk with up to 50 clients a day, with many more by email. On any given day, our team may have dealt with upwards of 350 clients.
How do dealers work with clients?
My mission is for my team to know their clients, know the currency markets, and to have fun along the way. That summarizes everything we do. We aim to be leaders in our field so we can help our clients save money on their international payments. By knowing each client and their currency requirements – whether it is to buy a property in France, import antique tables from Poland, or repatriate their overseas earnings back to the US – we can work with each client to optimize their transaction. If we can help humanize the currency world for our clients, I am happy. We are always at the end of the phone, within 3 rings. And if it’s evening in the US, they can quickly get through to our Sydney office, who are always happy to help.
The dealers work hard to build good relationships with their clients. So much so, that some of them have been invited to weddings, office parties and clients’ homes. We get sent photos of newborns and pictures of new homes after we’ve helped them buy a vacation property.
What are some of the experiences that make you really proud of your role?
I had a client who would tell me every week what he’d been up to that previous weekend and what he was planning for the coming weekend. Once he emailed and apologized, saying he had been up all night with his child. So we sent a care package to him, with Advil and other necessities to help him through a rough day. He loved it!
Recently, we helped a client buy an engagement ring from the US using his overseas income in British pounds. We helped him get the payment to the jewelers so that the ring could be shipped to him before he proposed in Paris. He was so excited and so nervous to propose to his sweetheart. A couple days later, we got an email from him with pictures of a successful proposal. She had said yes!
“It was the early hours of Thursday, June 23. Our CEO called, asking if I had heard the news. “Can you come in? Everything is chaos.” We were all there in the office from 3 a.m. to the end of the day. We couldn’t leave our desks. The phones rang constantly.”
What was your most memorable day at work?
It was the early hours of Thursday, June 23. The UK had just voted to leave the European Union, surprising many people. Brexit was now a reality. At 3 a.m. that morning, our US office CEO Mike Ward called, asking me if I had heard the news, “David Cameron has just resigned, everything is chaos. Our London office is getting so many calls from clients wondering what this means for them, and they need our support. Can you come in?” I immediately called my team, and unsurprisingly, they picked up the phone and agreed to come. We were all there in the office from around 3 a.m. to the end of the day. It was so busy! We couldn’t leave our desks – the phones rang constantly.
It was a great team effort. One of those moments that gives you the chills and you will always remember. We have offices in London, Asia and Australia, and we all came together to help our clients. Everyone, including our global CEO Jonathan Quin, was on the phone helping clients all day. I felt like we were a part of something really big. That wasn’t the first time either. When Lehman Brothers collapsed in September 2008 and the financial world entered into a period of worldwide turmoil, we had a similarly crazy day. It was really hectic, but really exciting.
That’s one of the reasons I love the foreign exchange industry. You never know what might happen next.
What’s the best part of your job?
How did you get into this?
I grew up in a bed and breakfast, where I met lots of different people from all over the world. This helped me to develop an interest in different people and other countries. I learnt from an early age how important excellent customer service is, as I literally had to turn it on first thing in the morning (as a grumpy teenager, this was tough!) When I graduated from university with a degree in Economics, I was looking for a job but nothing really appealed to me. By pure coincidence, I interviewed at World First and immediately I knew this was where I wanted to start my career. I loved how dynamic the company felt. Even though the company was really young and we were in a tiny office, I really loved the energy and how driven everyone was.
I started off in compliance and admin, helping open accounts. After six months, I moved into a dealing support role, where I was making sure transactions went through smoothly for clients. Soon after, I started working directly with clients on the corporate dealing team.
I loved my role working with businesses. I really enjoyed getting to speak to owners directly and hear the story of how they had grown their business.
I knew this was what I wanted to do professionally. Soon, I took exams to become regulated to sell options and manage larger clients, and started overseeing a team of six in London.
How did you come to the US office?
I met Mike Ward, the CEO of the World First USA, Inc. office, in 2015. He asked me if I would consider moving to the US to run the dealing and client relations team. I accepted the new opportunity. I’ve always liked a challenge, and I wanted to see a different market and culture. I was based initially in our DC office until the move to Austin a couple of months ago. Being a foodie, Austin is very exciting and the food trucks are to die for!
“We’re a dynamic FinTech business and I really believe in what we’re doing.”
Why have you stayed with World First for so long?
Wow can’t believe it’s been eight and a half years! The main reason I’ve stayed so long is simple. I like coming to work. No two days are the same. It’s also great that I’ve been able to grow within the business, and have been given lots of opportunities to take on new challenges, such as moving to the US. There’s always something going on. We’re a dynamic FinTech business and I really believe in what we’re doing. It also doesn’t hurt that the people are genuinely nice, and we get along both inside and outside of work. As they say, “People make the city, not the walls.”
Outside of work, what do you enjoy?
I’m a trained Cordon Bleu chef, and love to cook! Back in London, I bought a house that needed renovating and I thoroughly enjoyed doing it up. One day in another life, I would like to re-train as an interior designer or maybe a fashion buyer. I grew up on a farm and love animals; my retirement dream is to live on a farm, grow my own vegetables, and teach cooking using my own produce.
We’re all about people first at World First! To learn how Harriet’s team can help you with your international payments, get in touch with them today!