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Richard Appletree: From Warwick Graduate to giffgaff Money MD

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Richard Apletree graduated from Warwick with an integrated Masters in Engineering Management. After a succession of positions at Proctor & Gamble, Telefonica, O2, Tesco Mobile and now giffgaff, he is spearheading the new giffgaff Money venture.

The notable and wide-ranging resumé Richard has built for himself would be a dream come true for most students.

All things giffgaff

After five years as CFO, the expansion of giffgaff into financial services led to him becoming the Managing Director of giffgaff Money.

Richard says of the move towards the telecom industry, “we were the first people to decouple the handset from the airtime and still want to provide people with the ability to pay off their phone over time. So, we actually started our loan offering, in some capacity, around three years ago.”

Richard maintains that giffgaff is one of the few ‘youth brands’, and in this capacity, its strength lies in the strong community they have and the transparency this fosters.

Richard describes his management style as collaborative and open, which makes him a good fit for giffgaff’s friendly but ambitious workplace environment.

“I’m not a hands-on manager and the people I employ need to be self-motivated and self-starting. We have controls in place, but I don’t command and control.”

He also stresses the importance of prioritising and trusting the people around, especially when at a senior level. Spending too much time re-evaluating decisions can derail the whole process.

He also mentions a fun strategy day he asked employees to form groups and prepare a strategy presentation in different film styles.

Richard says it’s an effective way developing: “they absorb the strategy, they live it, they understand it, and they get to have fun passing the information on. It worked incredibly well” said Richard.

In terms of a work-life balance, Richard views that “It’s quite important to take time out and decompress,” and makes special mention of his two most significant advisors in this respect: “my body and wife!”

A successful man’s advice to students

Three key qualities that make people stand out:

 Perseverance – “It doesn’t matter if you don’t come first straight away because a lot of people don’t, but it’s the people who keep on trying and endure that become successful”.

 ‘it only works if it all works’. Richard thinks a lot of business models are too simplistic, and that one of the reasons giffgaff Money has succeeded is by ensuring everything works together.

 Treat everyone with respect.

 Many people overcomplicate things that don’t need to be made complex – try to keep things simple.

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