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Olga Milko: Business Development Director, Freedom Finance Europe

olga milko

Olga Milko currently holds the position of Business Development Director at Freedom Finance Europe. Milko has held several managerial roles at the company for the last five years and saw it grow from a loss-making business to a European broker serving more than 350,000 clients

“I have over 15-years’ experience in the financial sector with an international experience in brokerage and banking, including financial roles such as CFO, as well as head of compliance and AML,” she said. “In my current role, I am responsible for the company development in the European markets, as well as its major infrastructural projects. I have a master’s degree in economics and finance, and I am an active member of ACCA with a Fellow status.”

Please introduce your organisation, its mission, vision and objectives
“Freedom Finance Europe is a licensed Cyprus investment firm, providing the services of reception, transmission, and execution of clients’ orders for trading on global stock exchanges in the US, Europe, and Asia. We provide access to trading in over 1,000,000 financial instruments, including stocks, ETFs, bonds, and options, to retail and professional clients in Europe.

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“Our mission is to provide easy and reliable access to investments and assist our clients in planning their financial future. We believe that successful investing depends on diversification and knowledge, that is why one of the key features of our in-house developed trading platform, Freedom24, is to provide extensive financial analytics that our clients can use to form their individual trading strategies.”

What have been the key 2023 highlights for Freedom Finance?
“I believe 2023 has been a challenging year due to the economical and geopolitical instability for many businesses in various industries. Freedom Finance Europe has a great asset — our team of visionary, experienced and hard-working people who operate in a supportive and open environment. This has helped us to resist external challenges and grow our business by more than 30 per cent.

“2023 was marked by rapid expansion of our operations in Athens, Madrid, Paris, and Warsaw, with an average 480 per cent increase in assets under custody and more than 300 per cent increase in trading volumes.

“As our company is based in Cyprus, we feel it is important to contribute to local society by supporting social, cultural and sports events. In 2023, Freedom Finance Europe acted as the general partner and co-organiser of FIDE Women’s Chess Grand Prix in Nicosia, presented the fascinating Freedom Celebrity Gala Ballet at the historical amphitheatre of Kourion and hosted Cyprus’ first European Sailing Championship in FAREAST28 class in Limassol.”

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What are the benefits of using Freedom24?
“Freedom24 provides fully automated digital solutions to all types of investors. Retail investors have an opportunity to open an account remotely using a smartphone and it requires only 10–15 minutes to complete the procedure. Professional clients have an option to connect via API or fix-protocol and get prompt and reliable connection with their own systems.

“We provide access to major global stock exchanges in the US, Europe, and Asia, allowing our clients to trade in a wide selection of financial instruments. Freedom24 trading platform is available in most European languages and has a multilingual support service that helps customers to navigate within a wide range of products and assist them in resolution of technical issues. Moreover, our clients can visit our offices in Limassol, Athens, Paris, Madrid, Warsaw, and Berlin.”

As a broker with the NASDAQ-listed parent company, what are your primary advantages?
“Being listed requires a company to build a transparent and compliant business model, allowing potential investors to access a wide range of financial and operational data. To gain a primary listing, the issuing company must meet a set of strict financial and regulatory criteria. So, when a client is choosing a listed company to act as a financial intermediary for trading on capital markets, it provides an embedded assurance of full regulatory compliance, financial and operational transparency not just at the initial entrance stage of listing, but during the whole period of issuer’s shares being publicly traded.

“All regular company reports are publicly accessible via the SEC portal and provide comprehensive information not only on historical data, but also on business strategy, possible M&A disclosures, and other significant developments.”

In terms of safety, are online trading platforms secure? What are the main challenges, and how do you overcome them as an organisation?
“Modern technologies allow companies to provide online access to trading and banking, as safe as offline operations. It requires significant investments in infrastructure at the initial stage, but in return allows to protect clients’ privacy and security against fraud and misuse of assets as per global standards.

“Our trading platform is based on robust infrastructure designed for high performance and scalability. This ensures a smooth and reliable trading experience for our clients, even during peak periods. We have implemented advanced virtualisation techniques to efficiently manage resources and handle high volumes of data processing.

“Security is at the forefront of our operations. We employ comprehensive risk management strategies, including regular monitoring of key risk indicators and maintaining strict control over portfolio valuations. Our back-office systems are tailored to ensure the safety and privacy of client information.

“To counteract potential cyber threats, we have adopted a high-level security framework, which includes multi-layered access controls and systematic network segmentation. Our communication channels are encrypted to maintain the integrity and confidentiality of data. The company’s systems are designed to perform regular backups, with robust protocols in place to ensure data protection and system resilience at the same time.

“In summary, while online trading platforms face various security challenges, Freedom24 platform has been addressing them through advanced technology, rigorous risk management, and a steadfast commitment to operational excellence, ensuring a secure and reliable trading environment for our clients.”

How do you see the investment outlook for 2024?
“Investment outlook for 2024 looks promising: the US is seen to avoid recession thanks to continued moderate economic activity. Expected positive trends include the continued growth of the S&P 500, mainly due to a projected rate cut in mid-2024.

“This optimism is supported by forecasts of slowing inflation and continued resilience of the economy. While the market may experience a lull in the first half of the year, the second half is projected to bring significant growth. Easing uncertainty over the Fed interest rates and the US presidential elections is expected to contribute to the market rebound later in the year.”

What are the key strategic trends and opportunities expected to drive online trading through 2024 and beyond?
• “Trading platforms with their low minimum investment requirements make the market accessible to everyone. This attracts new demographic groups, especially younger investors, to online trading.

• Educational resources and user-friendly interfaces allow retail investors to make well-informed decisions. This trend is expected to continue, as trading platforms compete to attract and retain customers.

• Platform design and development using AI: AI is expected to improve trading platforms’ design to create more efficient and sophisticated trading tools.

• AI-powered trading tools will provide personalised recommendations, automated portfolio management and advanced risk analysis.

• Sustainable technology: Global sustainability goals will influence online trading platforms by promoting energy-efficient operations and eco-friendly practices.

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“Looking ahead to 2024, the integration of advanced AI technologies, as well as the growth of digital assets is expected to create new opportunities for monetisation and innovation in online trading, contributing to a safe, efficient, and user-friendly future.”

2024 is already shaping up to be a watermark year in terms of ESG regulation. How has trading adapted to ESG and sustainable investing requirements?
“Trading has undergone a significant shift towards environmental, social and governance (ESG) practices. Key changes include the regular incorporation of ESG factors into investment decisions; predictions that half of globally managed assets will be ESG-focused by 2024; and prioritising ESG criteria when launching new funds.

“Investment managers respond to transparency demands by disclosing information on sustainability and compliance policies. A project’s social impact is now considered alongside financial results when assessing performance. These changes reflect the growing recognition of the importance of ESG factors in trading and investing, as well as the continuing trend of sustainable practices becoming the industry standard.”

Customer centricity is paramount for long-term growth. What are your hallmarks as a customer-centric organisation?
“We continuously invest in understanding our customers’ needs. Operating across diverse European markets, with each geography being unique in terms of clients’ preferences, investment culture and financial literacy, our everyday work revolves around prioritising the needs and satisfaction of our clients to ensure long-term strategic growth.

“Among other things, this involves conducting regular market research, collecting, and analysing customer feedback through various channels to continuously improve our offerings and services. Another keystone of our strategic approach is communications transparency.

“We are a big organisation, offering a diverse range of products and services, providing the highest level of security, so there is a lot going on within our business, and we keep our customers informed about changes and updates, fostering trust and long-term relationships.

“Ultimately, a customer-centric environment is not merely about corporate statements or talking points, rather it comes down to every single employee. At Freedom Finance Europe this customer-centric culture is instilled throughout the organisation, as we aim to ensure that every department, every team, and team member understands their role in delivering a professional, transparent, and efficient customer experience.”

Is your organisation introducing any tools/initiatives soon, and if so, what are they?
“At Freedom Finance Europe, we understand the importance of continuous improvement and innovation in our product offerings to meet the evolving needs of our customers. In line with this goal, we prioritise providing our customers with the best possible investment experience. This involves updating our proprietary platform, Freedom24, to ensure our clients have a seamless trading experience. We also work on expanding our capabilities in providing direct access to world’s leading stock exchanges. Today we provide access to 15 international exchanges in the US, Europe and Asia, and this year we have added the Kazakhstan stock exchange (KASE) to this list.

“This expansion aims to offer a more diverse range of investment opportunities, catering to various preferences and strategies. We are also enhancing our platform to offer more versatile financial instruments. For instance, Freedom24 has introduced advanced US stock options features, new structured products designed by professional financial engineers, broader stock market analysis, and many more.

“At the same time, we also have plans to launch new products and services. We are excited about the possibility of expanding our offerings to include banking products, starting with Cyprus. This could potentially include various services designed to complement our existing financial products, ultimately creating a holistic financial solution, and in the future, an entire ecosystem, for our clients.”

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Why have you chosen Cyprus as a base for your operations?
“Freedom Finance Europe, the European subsidiary of Freedom Holding Corp., was founded in 2013 and received a full set of licences from CySEC in 2015. At that time, the group’s listing on NASDAQ was a very distant plan. Cyprus jurisdiction was convenient in many respects: the country had already joined the EU, but its offshore legacy provided adequate infrastructure in terms of corporate and banking services for international companies; English was widely spoken with local people friendly to expats; relatively small cities and, as a result, no major problems with road traffic; and convenient time zone to operate with EU, US, and UK.

“On a separate note, I can highlight the legislative system based on the English Common Law, which is convenient and understandable for most global companies, and the tax system, which has been developing all these years towards attracting international investment and highly qualified professionals.”

What are your future plans?
“In 2024, we intend to expand our physical presence in Europe with offices in Denmark, Baltics and Belgium. Our medium-term strategy involves introducing various new financial products in Europe and building a digital eco-system for our clients. Ultimately, we aim to be more than just an investment platform, as we have extensive experience with our own banking products and serve hundreds of thousands of customers using a full banking licence in other markets.

“Our goal is to transfer this valuable experience to Europe, but our final strategy will depend on a number of factors, including technological aspects and our ability to integrate with partners.”

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