Interview with Saxo Bank (Switzerland) Ltd. CEO Patrick Hunger on joining SFS and on why ecosystems that do not create ‘win-win’ loose.
What is ‘FinTech’ about Saxo Bank?
At Saxo Bank, we combine with our expertise the best of both Fin and Tech worlds. As a facilitator we position ourselves as value chain outsourcing partner. We deliver access to financial liquidity providers and exchange venues (supplier) and we enable distribution to private and institutional clients (users). At its very core the Saxo Bank offering is a fascinating technology stack that through its flexibility and scalability can cater for different client segments in a bespoke depth and breadth.
Your vision is to democratize trading and investment. What does that mean?
Established in 1992, Saxo Bank was one of the first financial institutions to develop an online trading platform that provided private investors with the same tools and market access as professional traders, large institutions and fund managers. Since then, we have devoted all our energy to enable more and more people to participate in global multi-asset trading and investing through the already mentioned trinity ‘access’, ‘technology’, and ‘expertise’.
What captures your attention in the digital space?
What intrigues me is the ‘data banking’ angle currently introduced by financial eco-system foreign market participants. Looking e.g. at the telecommunication sector, traditional revenue streams run dry, there is a trend towards ‘free of charge’ and intelligent data aggregation and management becomes the main source of remaining relevant in the market. And I don’t think it’s farfetched to predict a similar future in the financial industry.
How do you see transformation unfolding in Switzerland?
The discussions on transformation in Switzerland has certainly gained momentum this year. As expected, ‘transformation made in Switzerland’ differs from other places Saxo Bank is present around the globe.
By the same token, transformation continues to be dominated by automation and efficiency efforts, i.e. doing the same things ‘faster and cheaper’. Transformation entails though reconsidering your business model and your ‘raison d’être’. Similarly, the local versus global conundrum (especially in regulation) tends to hinder an expedited redefinition of our industry. Finally, we at Saxo Bank continue to see considerable, possibly unconscious efforts in the financial industry to protract the ‘digital tipping point’. Unfortunately, to be late is this time not a sustainable strategy.
What about RegTech?
RegTech is a beautiful acronym that allows our imagination to go ‘bananas’. Imagine a world in which e.g. the compliance office is a service in the cloud (Compliance as a Service (CaaS)) and human interaction seizes to be necessary. This may well all come true with AI (and I believe it will) and for the time being, we should be more concerned about ‘artificial dullness’ (AD). Today, automation dominates the RegTech sphere and solutions address naturally ‘intuition in use’; reading through physical manuals is a pain. But that means also that the ‘input’ has not changed and that the ‘machine’ does not do anything which we would not expect!
Saxo Bank recently launched with Saxo Select its on ‘Robo’. How do you see this digital investment space?
Trust in technology has still some way to go and it is therefore – and in the best interest of our vision – Saxo Bank’s duty to launch such a digital offering as well. Looking at more advanced economies on digitizing the financial industry (such as the US and Germany), there is significant growth and a sweet spot for an affluent offering such as Saxo Select that is transparent, simple, cheap, and that puts the investor in control.
How do you support the FinTech space?
Being FinTech ourselves, we constantly advocate that incrementalism equals irrelevance. Market participants cannot keep the same machine and keep on patching it forever. To be part of the future, you need to be ‘machine-light’, reinvent work, and trust leap into a ‘sharing economy’. Hence, our mission trails for other FinTechs the way to become part of the future financial service ecosystem value flows.
For the same reason, we engage globally with FinTechs and respective associations such as SFS to cultivate the dialogue, to learn and to share experience. To increase further this networking locally, we will especially invite FinTechs to use our meeting rooms at Bleicherweg 33 in Zurich. Space is not only digital and whereas the industry is ‘long’ on FinTech excitement, it remains ‘short’ on action. Saxo Bank is happy to foster change.
It is about joining forces, ‘walking the talk’ and creating that space for transformation. We at Saxo Bank are convinced that SFS has the anchoring capabilities in the market to create a relevant platform in Switzerland for ‘win-win’ in the transformation journey. Moreover, Saxo Bank is by its ‘DNA’ fascinated by platform solutions and hence SFS is a great match.
Patrick Hunger is CEO of Saxo Bank (Switzerland) Ltd, a fully licensed bank in Switzerland with offices in Zurich and Geneva and servicing active traders, investors and wholesale clients (especially through its Open Banking capabilities).