This month’s member interview is with Rob Head from financial services company Volopa, Rob divides his time between the UK, Lanzarote and other European countries so it was good to be able to catch up with him.
Here is (left) at work for Volopa

Here is Rob (left) at work for Volopa

LBRA: Hi Rob thanks for taking the time to talk to us; we know it’s not easy juggling your time between work and the different countries you travel to for that, how often do you manage to visit Lanzarote and why is Lanzarote so important to you?
Rob: Hi thank you for the opportunity. At the moment I manage to visit Lanzarote at least twice a year, usually for between a week or two. My main reason for visiting is that my parents moved to the Island in 2003. They were originally looking to move to mainland Spain but during a holiday to Lanzarote they fell in love with it and put a deposit down there and then on a new build in Playa Blanca. It also fits in nicely with Volopa and the potential opportunities. So for the last couple of years it has not been just a holiday but work as well.
Last year I also travelled to Normandy in France and County Tullow in Ireland. They were both due to our partnership with the European Challenge tour, which is a golf tour for up and coming players to qualify for the main tour. I will probably have to travel to a few events in Europe this year to see the players. By using our Multi-Currency Pre-Paid card, the players can save money when traveling to events.
LBRA: Now we know you and your partner Eve Mari have a gorgeous daughter Alexia who we met on your last visit here, do they always travel with you when you are working, or more so when working in Lanzarote due to the family connection?
Rob: Yes they always travel with me to Lanzarote, it gives my parents a chance to spend some time with Alexia. Last year we had “The Volopa Irish Challenge” which was about 45 minutes south of Dublin. It meant spending a week out there. Eve & Alexia managed to join me for 5 of those days. It was great to be able to spend time with them whilst working and not missing Alexia growing up. She is 15 months old now and is changing by the day. Now that Eve is no longer on Maternity leave it will be harder for them travel with me.
Rob, his partner Eve and their child
LBRA: You are a partner in Volopa can you tell us about Volopa and your role?
Rob: Yes I joined Volopa nearly three years ago. Volopa is the trading name of Volopa Financial Services (Scotland) Ltd. We are FCA regulated and HMRC registered. We were set up to bring transparency to the Foreign Exchange market. Most of us are from a financial background where you have to show your clients how much you are charging them. For some reason this does not apply to Foreign Exchange, even though it affects more people than financial products.
We offer both a Bank to Bank service and a Multi-Currency Pre-Paid Mastercard. Our bank to bank service helps individuals or businesses that need to send money in a different currency. This can be to either their own bank account or a third party. For individuals this could be for large purchases such as a property or car, or just simply moving funds over from the UK such as pension etc. For businesses this can be paying suppliers or staff abroad. We will soon be able to accept funds from third party’s which would help people that get paid in a different currency. An example of this would be someone getting paid in $’s but you only have a Euro account. At the moment the bank will be doing the conversion giving you no control of the cost.
Our card program helps people save money when traveling; this can be for both individuals and companies. At the moment you can hold up to 14 different currencies on the one card. This will soon be increased to 17. The card is great for people that travel as you are cutting out the excessive bank or credit card fees without having to carry too much cash. The way that we operate is by giving our customers true Inter-Bank rates and then charge a pre agreed commission. So you know the exact cost of each transaction. The cards are a fixed fee.
LBRA: Have you always worked in the financial sector?
Rob: Yes apart from a few years after leaving school, for the last 25 years I have been involved in the financial sector. During this time I spent the first ten years with Lloyds Bank Stockbrokers, starting at the bottom and worked my way up to the dealing desk. This gave me a great understanding of how each department worked and the process from execution to settlement. I also spent over 11 years with MF Global (Used to be part of Man Group), where I ended up in charge of a desk that covered multiple products including FX, Futures & Options and CFD’s.
LBRA: Do you think most people realise how easy it is to use a money transfer company and how much they can save on transfers?
Rob: I would say that the majority of people are either not aware or do not realise either the benefits or how easy it is. Some people are worried about security. As I said earlier we are FCA regulated and the FCA are one of, if not the strongest regulators in the World. Also all funds go via a Segregated client account. This means that the funds never touch our own account so cannot be touched. We also clear through a Tier 1 bank which is currently Barclays. The biggest problem is transparency, which is how we are different.
 The banks and a majority of FX Brokers/Money Transfer Company’s state that they are commission free. What they actually do is charge via the rate that they give you and also charge a transfer fee on top. The way that we operate is by giving our customers access to true Inter-Bank rates and then charge a transparent pre agreed commission. The maximum we charge is 1% but this can be a lot lower depending on volumes etc. We have built our own comparison tool which we use to show potential customers how much their current provider is charging them. The expression on their faces at times is a picture, especially when they realize that the person that they thought was a friendly broker with their interest at heart, was actually charging them a higher margin (commission) on larger transactions than smaller ones.
Another customer that had recently purchased a property abroad used his bank for the transfer. It was before he had met us. When we checked the rate, even if we had charged him our highest rate, the saving would have been enough to buy a new car to leave at the property. The property was less than 500,000 Euros. This is also the same for travel money from banks and bureaux de change’s. A great example of this is when I travelled to Tenerife in January. At the Airport the currency desk were stating commission free, yet I changed money on my card and paid 1% commission. I ended up with over 70 euros more on just £450, it was like I was getting dinner on the first night for free. Or for a golfer a free round.
LBRA: We know Volopa have sponsored a number of sporting events can you tell us about any of those?
Rob: Yes of course. Because we offer the Pre-Paid card as well as bank to bank, sport is a natural fit for us. At the moment we are involved with Hickstead Royal International Horse Show and the European Challenge Tour. The RIHS is a great event. We were able to show both Horse owners and suppliers how we can save them money. The amount of money that some of the teams spend when traveling abroad to shows is amazing. We are working closely with one of the top riders and by using our card instead of their current bank card, we saved them nearly £1,000 on trip that cost 17,000 Euros. This is on top of the savings we can make when owners are buying or selling horses in a different currency.
With regards to the European Challenge Tour, the card helps both the players and caddy’s save money when traveling to events. A comparison we did for a player last year would have saved nearly £120 compared to their bank card on 2,800 euros over an event. So on a 20 event season the saving is nearly £2,500 which makes a big difference. We can also help the players with their winnings and sponsorship payments in different currency’s. The player can also pay their caddy directly from their card to the Caddy’s card which again saves money for both of them. I am personally a keen, albeit not very good golfer. During my last trip to Lanzarote, thanks to the LBRA I managed to finally play a few games with some members and also a society at the Costa Teguise course. I was really impressed with the quality of both courses.
LBRA: How apart from golf do you like to relax?
Rob: I used to swim and play squash to quite a good standard. Lately I try to spend as much of my spare time as possible with Eve & Alexia.
LBRA: What is it that Lanzarote has that appeals to you most, and would you consider living here full time?
Rob: Where do I start? I must admit that it wasn’t until after a few years of visiting that I really appreciated Lanzarote. Until then I had only come over for long weekends to see my parents. Then my dad was taken ill and they had to fly him over to Gran Canaria. I came out to look after the dogs and be close by in case his condition deteriorated (fortunately he is ok now and could not fault the care that he got and has received since). I ended up spending two weeks on my own. It was then that I realised how great Lanzarote is and how my parents had fallen in love with the island. Obviously the climate helps, but the pace of life compared to London is so much nicer, the scenery is stunning. The people are friendly. The contrast of the black & red picon against the white buildings. No high rise buildings. Every time I do the drive out of PB, the mountains never look the same. Last November was the first time that I had seen everywhere so green as well. The choice of restaurants and the quality of food.
From the stunning beaches with little lagoons to the crashing waves along the front near the Light House. The first time that I brought Eve over, I was worried that she would not like it. She was more used to trips to Ibiza, Las Vegas, and Dubai etc. I could not have been more wrong. She instantly fell in love with the Island. As for living here, it is something that we talk about quite a bit, especially now that we have Alexia to consider, who also seems so happy whenever we brought her over. The ideal situation would be that I set up an office on the island. I am not sure if there is anyone doing what I do full time on the island. It may help people knowing that the company they are dealing with are there as opposed to being in the UK. It certainly helps meeting people face to face which is why I am always happy to meet people whenever I am over
LBRA: Favourite places to visit on the Island?
Rob: Now this is a tough one. Virtually everywhere that we have been to has its own great points and there is still quite a bit that I have not seen yet. Last year we went to Haria which was stunning and would like to see more of that side of the island. Early evening cocktails at Marea Terraza, Sunday market in Teguise, walking the dogs along the front at Faro Park, the old harbour at PDC & Peurto Callero are what we try to do each trip but more than happy for suggestions.
LBRA: Anything about you that people would be surprised to know? Famous friend perhaps?
Rob: None that I have in my phone, although I have met quite a few with work and golf.
LBRA: Five words to describe Lanzarote?
Rob:  Tranquil, Scenic, Relaxing, Cultural, Friendly
LBRA: Besides Lanzarote where would be your favorite place that you have visited and why?
Rob: It would have to be India. Three years ago Eve and myself went for nearly three weeks. We travelled around Rajasthan, starting and ending in Mumbai, but taking in among other places, Delhi, the Taj Mahal, Jaipur & Jodhpur. We arranged everything ourselves (well Eve did most of it) and was a real Planes, Trains & Automobiles trip with the odd tut tut, elephant & camel thrown in. The highlight being proposing to Eve at the Taj Lake hotel in Udaipur which was used in the Bond film Octopussy. Thankfully she said yes. They say that India attacks all of your senses and it certainly does.

Rob and Eve in India

LBRA: You mentioned a while ago that people can earn money by working with you by recommended new clients can you tell us how that works?
Rob: Yes of course. We are always looking to deal with partners/affiliates (IB’s). This can be either individuals that want to earn some extra money, websites that have users that require our services, businesses that have clients needing to convert money.
Because we offer the Multi-Currency Pre-Paid card as well as the Bank to Bank service, we are attractive to anyone from the UK traveling to Lanzarote. This will soon be rolled out to the rest of Europe so will also be attractive to Sweden, Norway and Denmark who need to buy Euro’s. By simply having a link on their website, anyone clicking on that link and opening an account with us, the owner of the site would earn a % of any commission generated. As there are only a few All Inclusive holidays and a large amount of Villa Rentals, people need to buy Euro’s. Because of our low commission rates, they would be adding an extra service to their customers and generating another revenue stream, even when not using their services. People spend hours saving money on flights, hotel, car hire etc then give a lot of it back by not looking at the actual rate they are getting on their Euros.
The types of businesses and website that can benefit from this include but not exclusive to are;
Travel agents, Villa rentals/management, Estate agents, Wedding planners, Car hire, Tourist information, Excursions sites.
Once you are set up as an IB, you would be given a login. Via the login, you can check real time, what commission has been generated. This is then paid on a monthly basis.
If anyone thinks that they have a site or database of people that they think we can help, please get in touch and we can see what we can do together. Also if they are a non profit making organisation, then we would be more than happy to set it up so that the rebate goes to a charity or charities of their choice.
LBRA: And finally are there any extra benefits for LBRA members?
Rob: Yes of course. For LBRA members, the maximum that we would charge is 0.9% with the same minimum. Just mention LBRA when contacting or applying.
LBRA: Rob thank you so much for sparing the time to talk to us, it’s good to be able to find out more about the people behind the business profile and share information between members. We would also like to say thanks to Rob who despite not being here full time does manage to attend quite a number of meetings and LBRA events. We wish you every success with the business and for your future happiness with Eve Mari and lovely daughter Alexia, and many more happy visits to Lanzarote. If you would like to know more about Volopa, how it can save you money on transfers, the Volopa card or by working with Rob then please contact him via email