Interview with Martin Ernst, head of Nordic region at Saxobank

Saxobank is a Danish bank specialising in online trading.

  1. Tell me a bit about Saxo Bank for those that are unfamiliar with the brand?

 Saxo Bank is a failitator of financial market activity servicing both retail and institutional clients. Our core product is our proprietary trading platforms. The most recent addition to our suite of trading platforms is SaxoTraderGO, launched in 2015. We were born as an online trading and investment platform during the early days the internet. This meant that unlike traditional financial players, we were free from legacy technologies and able to build and improve our offering by utilizing technology with the aim of democratizing investment and trading. Therefore we like to say that we were ‘Fintech’ even before the term was invented. While we started in the FX markets where the opportunity to enable trading was most obvious at the time, we have since evolved our business and today offer access to multiple asset classes with more than 30,000 instruments on our platforms. In the Nordic countries, we have seen growing demand for equities that has become our most popular asset class overtaking FX.


  1. What are the areas that are growing the fastest for the company?

Our core business is being a financial market facilitator and this business has three strands. First, we continue to see growth in our private client segment despite the challenging macro environment. We continue to gain client trust which is demonstrated in the growth in assets under management. Secondly, we continue to expand our partnerships with other brokers and financial institutions around the world who are leaders in their home markets and these partnerships enable us to build scale much faster than if we were to try and grow our local client base. We have 120 plus such partnerships with banks and other intermediaries around the world. Most recently, we have seen significant growth in the Chinese market through our partnership with financial news provider, Wall Street CN and Lufax. And third, with the recent launch of SaxoSelect, our new digital wealth management solution, we have made a foray into investment management through, among others, a partnership with BlackRock where we offer our clients the chance to invest in portfolios built on BlackRock’s iShares ETFs.

The unifying theme of all these underlying businesses is that we want to democratize trading and investment by both enabling our clients to trade and invest in an efficient way on our platform, and by making our platform available to other banks and brokers who can offer their end clients a superior trading and investment experience. When financial institutions outsource their online trading and investment technology to us, it allows them to leapfrog instead of spending several years on their own IT-projects, developing digital trading and investment infrastructures.


  1. What percentage of your customer base is from the Nordics?

 We do not disclose specific numbers but it is around 10%.


  1. Tell me about your future plans for expansion?

We want to grow our business while staying true to our commitment to innovation in trading and investment which is what has made us successful to date. We want to grow our market share in retail trading and investment management where it makes sense, but at the same time we want to continue to build partnerships around the world that will help us build scale faster and provide millions of traders and investors with access to a superior trading experience.
We expect an increasing number of such partnerships with other banks in the Nordics as well, where we see technological development, client behavior and regulatory pressure all working to make our offering increasingly relevant for potential partners.

Saxo Bank has a unique proposition – it is a leader in fintech innovation, while at the same time being an established institution with a banking license.


  1. Is there anything particularly Danish about the company in the way that you do business?

We are a truly international business. Saxo employs more than 1,500 people in financial centres around the world such as London, Singapore, Paris, Zurich, Dubai and Tokyo. With clients in 180 countries, we employ more than 60 different nationalities. At the same time, we are extremely proud of our Danish heritage and culture which is outward looking and geared towards building long-lasting relationships with our clients and partners around the world – “Saxo” is after all the name of the Danish historian who authored the first full history of Denmark.


  1. Tell me about your social trading platform? Is this something you see as a future area of growth for the company? 

Creating a virtuous cycle in trading and investing is something we feel very passionate about and social trading is an extension of that idea. We understand that today’s traders and investors are as likely to be influenced by their peers as they are by their advisers, so we wanted to offer them a platform where they could exchange ideas and follow the activity of other traders. Furthermore, we want to offer successful traders and investors the opportunity to build a track record of performance so that they can, in turn, fulfil their ambition of becoming professional investment managers- something we are doing through our investment management platform SaxoSelect. Ultimately though it is about giving clients choice about how they trade.


  1. What do you think is going to be the biggest change in the investment landscape in the coming decade?

We will see an overhaul of the entire financial sector with the unbundling of the value chain as an overarching theme. An area we believe is particularly ripe for disruption is wealth and investment management. The drive towards greater transparency on performance and fees, together with the pressures of keeping up with the pace of technology, will mean that the industry will need to adapt very fast if it is to survive and thrive. Truly digital and transparent solutions are integral to servicing these clients’ needs going forward. We are moving into a decade where change will truly be driven by customer needs, and financial institutions will need to embrace technology to reduce costs and stay relevant to their clients.

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