Meet Rui, Penfold’s Head of Operations and Controls

Annabel Fay
4 min readMar 5, 2021

(Originally published at

Today, we launch a new series where we’re chatting to members of the Penfold team, giving you exclusive behind-the-scenes access to the world’s coolest pension company (as voted for by our CEO).

We’re kicking things off with our resident pension expert, Rui Santos, on his financial geekery, his favourite food, and what excites him about Penfold.

Hi, Rui! How long have you been part of the Penfold family?

I’m a newbie- I joined Penfold just over a month ago, after 15 years in ‘traditional’ pension and financial service companies, such as Fidelity and Vanguard. Very happy to be here!

Woah, so new- how did you end up in pensions in the first place?

I think I’ve always had an interest in finance, my brain just works that way. I actually studied geography, but after I left University I found myself in finance. I spent 8 years in pension’s administration, so I know what it takes day-to-day to manage people’s money and the trust they give you.

While I was there, I got a bit obsessed- I ended up designing pension products and overseeing regulatory compliance, which is what I do now.

You must have seen a lot of changes over the years?

Definitely. People used to work for the same company for a long time, retire, and then purchase an annuity with their pension. It’s something you take out from an insurance company to give you guaranteed income every year until you pass away. In everything I’ve seen, the biggest change was a result of the financial crisis in 2008 and the introduction of pension flexibilities in 2015, known as Pension Freedoms.

What happened?

Well, the low interest rates and introduction of pension flexibilities meant that the traditional annuity industry suddenly had competition from lots of products on the high street. It meant that people had more options- they could use their pension money in lots of different ways. Some people decided to take the whole lot, and build an extension to their house, or buy a new car. While I think it’s great to give people choice, it sometimes means that people are getting overnight access to money they’ve never seen before- and like lottery winners, they spend it. It means a lot of people could be facing a crisis in old age, and that’s hard to see.

So why did you make the switch to Penfold?

Seeing that change, I became even more interested in the options we could give people that would actually help them. I’m really passionate about educating people about the value of pensions as a means to save for their retirement, and how important saving is in general.

I love designing things that are useful. Penfold is a tech start-up, which means that we can be agile and respond to customer’s requirements more quickly than traditional finance, and keep improving. That’s pretty cool. It’s also cool that we’re actually for everyone, whereas some of the bigger pension companies really want those high saving individuals.

So not your average Joe, then! What does your role at Penfold entail?

Exactly- and I want to disrupt the industry for everyone. At Penfold I oversee the operations team, the ones actually delivering pensions for our customers. But it’s very broad- I’m also in charge of ensuring we’re compliant to all the different regulations out there, and educating the team on any nitty-gritty details of pension finance. I’m great fun at company drinks, I’m sure!

Morning latte to lights out…give me an insight into your day.

I have a 12-year-old daughter, and a long commute, so I’m up pretty early! I like to listen to podcasts on the train, along with reading the pension news, of course! Weekdays tend to be all about work, but I love to spend time with my family and like to play basketball on the weekends when the weather is nice.

What’s your favourite food?

I’m Portuguese, so it has to be Bacalhau à Brás (Salt Cod With Potatoes and Eggs). I can make it, but I don’t cook as much as I’d like! Maybe I should change that…

I’d be up for trying it! Finally, what excites you about the future of Penfold?

There’s so much to do! I’m excited about being able to educate more young people. Saving even a little extra a month, while it won’t make you a millionaire, when saving for a long term it can provide a little extra income on top of the state pension. I’m excited to make what I love more accessible and easier to understand for people. It’s awesome being able to build something from scratch- but I’m still getting to grips with all the different ways people communicate in technology- it’s a bit different from corporate finance!

Haha, I’ll stop sending you invites to Trello, Slack, Google Docs, then..

I’m getting there!

Thanks, Rui, for taking the time to chat to me today and sharing your passion for pensions. Looking forward to trying some of your Portuguese food!