“You May Find Trading Industry People in Sydney Bars as Early as 4 PM”

A personal talk with Sophie Gerber, who knows the industry in the land down under inside out.

You may know her from the many articles she contributes on Finance Magnates, and you’ll be able to meet her at her panel at the London Summit in a few days – presenting Sophie Gerber from Sophie Grace Legal. She helps brokers get regulated in Australia and in case you don’t make it to London, you have a chance to learn about her here. Enjoy and feel free to suggest in a comment after the article, who should be interviewed next.

Who you are and what do you do?

I run three complementary businesses which cater to the financial services industry – Sophie Grace, a compliance consultancy firm; Sophie Grace Legal – a law firm; TRAction Fintech – a trade reporting firm. Sophie Grace compliance and legal help businesses establish and continue operating financial services businesses in Australia and New Zealand. We also provide services for various overseas countries or refer to people we know.

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Describe a typical work day.

At a karaoke bar in China.
At a karaoke bar in China.

After hitting ‘snooze’ a few times, I will check emails to see if there’s anything urgent that needs to be attended to (such as emails that have come in from North America), then check the calendar to see what is on for the day. I take the ferry to work across Sydney Harbour which is a great way to start the day.  Then it’s emails and meetings until 5 or 6pm when I’ll either catch up with a friend, a client or go home and refresh. Either way, once I’m home I’ll starting work again – as most people know Australia is quite a few hours ahead of the rest of the world so there are always people in Asia and Europe to respond to. If you don’t keep the momentum moving by working during other people’s time-zones things just won’t get done!

How is what you do important for the trading industry?

Compliance and legal are generally functions that people love to loathe. However, I think we have pretty good and functional relationships with our clients – they trust us a lot for advice. If you can find the right person to assist you (as either an internal or external resource), they can be a real asset to your business.  At the beginning of my career I had a boss whose reflex to any question asked was “NO” and then the general manager would gradually be able to pull her back to a more workable solution. I have never wanted to be like that – there are alternatives to saying ‘no’ which a good legal and compliance person will present you with – “you can’t do it quite like that, but you could do it like this…. or this…” or “it’s possible but you should give some consideration to…”

What do you love about your work?

Client's office opening in China.
Client’s office opening in China.

One of the things I like about the job is meeting lots of new people. Knowing lots of people in the financial services industry already, it is great to be able to connect industry veterans with new people entering the industry. So we connect new entrants with experienced people we know to assist them with directorships- responsible managers, consultancy, marketing, insurance, audit and other services they will need for their operations. In fact, we’ve done such a good job of connecting people now that we’re actually running out of people to connect our new clients with, and we’ve been advertising on LinkedIn and talking to as many people as possible to find more experienced industry professionals who can help our new clients.

What is the quintessential experience of working in the trading industry? 

Certainly finance people like to drink! There are bars in Sydney that if you go there at about 4 or 5pm you can be pretty sure who you will find there from the trading industry! Sadly I get stuck in the office when the fun starts. In Sydney, Ryan’s Bar is one of the favourites. People also like to go to the Chophouse because they do a good steak for the quintessential Australian meat-eating male.

And, there’s lots of gossip in this industry. You can’t hide anything as people will always find out!

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champagne fountain
Client event in China. I enjoyed getting to pour the champagne fountain!

Please share an anecdote with us that could only happen in our industry.

We started working with some of Australia’s biggest FX brokers when they were just small – going from either no office or a tiny office hidden away, to now talking about IPOs and sales at huge prices and revenue multiples.  The success is inspiring and it’s fun to say that we have played a small part in their great journey.

How old were you when you had your first paying job?

I would have been about 15 or 16 when I had my first paying job. In Australia the minimum working age is 14 and 9 months (or at least it was when I was young). There are two jobs I can remember – the first is working at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) and Sydney Football Stadium (SFS) over the summer in the food stands. I wish I still had the same disdain for hot chips (French fries) that I had then!  I also worked doing maths tutoring for some local kids. When I was studying in Boston I worked at Starbucks on campus. The rest of my jobs have been office jobs.

Who do you admire?

Anyone who works hard and creates some success for themselves.

What advice would you like to share here that has been important to you?

There are a couple of good principles I think you should stick to:

  • Don’t get paid on both sides of a transaction. Naturally it’s often difficult for us if we know people on both sides of a deal. However, you have to be open and transparent about where you are getting paid. If you are getting paid on both sides of a deal then it breeds resentment for everyone and will mean less work in the long run because people won’t be confident that you have their best interests at heart. Our financial services clients are required to disclose their conflicts and so are we. People need to be wary of consultants in this industry who are getting paid in multiple ways in a deal as it generally doesn’t work out well in the long run.
  • Clients want to think they’re your only client so treat them that way every time. (The only good time to talk about your other clients is when you want to show that you are proficient in something and give some examples.)


Sophie Gerber and team.
Sophie Gerber and her team.




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