Exclusive Trusted Magazine Q&A with Steve Weller, CEO Saxo Bank MENA region.
What are the key changes you noticed in 2020 and that will be impacting the markets you are operating in during 2021?
Steve Weller: It goes with saying that 2020 was a year unlike any other, with the Covid-19 pandemic fundamentally altering life as we knew it. As a leading global provider of state-of-the-art multi-asset trading and investment solutions, it was intriguing for the Saxo Bank team to observe a new era of self-directed online trading emerge last year. While the rapid growth of fintech had seen the world’s financial ecosystems - including independent investors - already trending in this direction, the market crash in February proved the catalyst for the historically swift Federal Reserve-backed recovery. In tandem, strict lockdowns across the globe and prolonged work-from-home regimes spurred exceptional growth in the investor space, and a new breed of investor was able to directly access markets and trade volatility surges.
In the first half of the year alone, Saxo Bank gained 80,000 new active clients globally and our MENA client base increased by 150%. Indeed, our data shows the new wealth management trend is being driven by a younger and more digital savvy investor profile. We also saw more women trading on our platforms, with a major upswing in the UAE and wider MENA region continuing a trend that had produced a 65% year-on-year increase in total Saxo Bank trades by female investors between 2010 and 2020.
How Saxo Bank is leveraging its competitive advantage while adapting to the challenging market conditions in 2021?
Steve Weller: Being a digital-first business has always been a strategic advantage for Saxo, and it has been a major benefit in this era of transformation. Our team is committed to working hard to ensure that Saxo Bank’s processes and industry-leading service standards continue to benefit our clients and meet local compliance and regulatory framework. We have been driving the democratisation of trading via unique offerings and services for over 25 years, and we will continue to innovate, improve and increase our product offering.
Take SaxoSelect, our managed portfolio offering, which utilises AI technology and enables clients to choose portfolios tailored to their investment goals and risk profile. This fully automated service enables and empowers our clients to invest in pre-selected portfolios with reputable and world-renowned third-party providers such as BlackRock and Morningstar, while offering investors full transparency and control with 24-hour access to our platform.
It is vital that we continue to invest heavily in platform functionality and accessibility, as well as breadth of products and services, to ensure we continue providing the holistic support and infrastructure that our clients need to access global markets and diversify their portfolios.
In the coming months, we will be further enhancing the Saxo Bank user experience by increasing our digital engagement efforts, perfecting our omnichannel strategy for content distribution, and working to improve already world-class platforms and APIs that increase our hard-earned competitive advantage.
Finally, as a Fintech specialist, we will continue to partner leading banks, institutions, hedge funds and family offices with our best-in-class technology and platforms to reduce costs and complexity.
What are the top priorities for Saxo Bank in 2021?
Steve Weller: Our priority continues to be constantly improving the client journey via the world-class service and experience we offer. As a trusted, reputable and premium brand, our aim is to continue elevating and maturing our menu of offerings and services.
We are dedicated to offering long-term value and we are committed to creating intuitive, end-to-end client journeys, products and highly personalised services that enable our clients to make more informed investment decisions. We will achieve that through intuitive platforms and services, product range, insightful research and personalised client experience - both digitally and through our Relationship Managers - across a range of platforms and human touchpoints.
This year will also see the completion of the BinckBank-Saxo Bank migration, a significant milestone in our history that will further enhance our digital experience commitments and allow for greater innovation and development across our business.
What are the key innovations and technologies that are game-changers for banks in 2021?
Steve Weller: Migration to the cloud is the major technological game changer for banks this year. An increasing number of financial services firms have migrated in recent years, but the pandemic accelerated the trend and triggered a widespread embrace of multi-faceted digital adoption.
While the adoption of cloud and digital services may appear to be a simple process, the change goes beyond new technology, tooling and fundamental architecture. A far greater cultural and operational transition is also needed. As an early adopter of the cloud, we know the challenges of transitioning a large and complex organization at Saxo Bank. Organisations and firms need to embrace the change and senior decision makers must become advocates for technological efficacy.
Global firms must also be aware of the potential differences in regulation and compliance across their operational markets. They need to form a deeper understanding of the requirements in different jurisdictions, regional variations and data security implications. Companies will also have to implement training and workshops to drive change and ensure that the business generates optimal value from infrastructure investment.
There is no turning back on the technological advances that are empowering individuals and empowering the freedom of independent wealth management. Banks and financial institutions realise the need to adapt, evolve and embrace digital transformation – they must now turn acceptance into action.