Saxo Bank’s Founder and CEO Kim Fournais: Keeping an eye on innovation to meet ever-evolving client needs

Company recorded more than $108 billion in client assets last year
Saxo Bank’s Founder and CEO Kim Fournais: Keeping an eye on innovation to meet ever-evolving client needs
Kim Fournais, founder and CEO of Saxo Bank

Headquartered in Copenhagen, Denmark, Saxo Bank reached an important milestone last year. In 2023, it surpassed the one-million client mark, further solidifying its position as a leading global financial institution. Over three decades since its inception, it has transformed from a brokerage firm to a multi-asset trading and investment company that offers a full spectrum of banking services (except traditional ones).

In this interview, Economy Middle East speaks to Kim Fournais, the founder and CEO of Saxo Bank. He shares insights into the company’s evolution — and how it stays ahead in the fiercely competitive financial sector amid various economic and geopolitical headwinds. He also discusses the path forward for Saxo Bank.

You founded the company in the early 1990s as a brokerage. Today, you offer all banking services except for traditional banking. Is that the trajectory you had envisioned for yourself and your company?

The trajectory of Saxo Bank, evolving from a brokerage to offering comprehensive, multi-asset trading and investment services, aligns with my vision since its inception in the early ‘90s. From the beginning, the goal was to democratize access to financial markets, breaking down the barriers that traditionally separated individual investors from the global markets. This vision was rooted in leveraging technology to provide unparalleled access and tools for trading and investment. Over the years, we’ve continuously expanded our services to meet the evolving needs of our clients, always with an eye toward innovation and the empowerment of our growing base of clients and partners.

You reached a record of over $108 billion in client assets in 2023, up from $85 billion the previous year. What key factors have helped Saxo Bank stay ahead of the game despite stiff competition from significantly larger banking and financial conglomerates?

Saxo Bank’s success in staying ahead in a competitive landscape can be attributed to several key factors. Our relentless focus on innovation and improving the client experience has been pivotal. We were pioneers in developing online trading platforms, recognizing the internet’s transformative potential for the finance industry early on. This foresight allowed us to offer sophisticated tools and comprehensive multi-asset market access to individual investors and traders, a significant competitive edge. With Saxo, you can trade more than 70,000 instruments across markets, asset classes and products, thereby building a truly diversified portfolio. No matter the macro-cycle or our clients’ aspirations, we have the products and tools that enable them to make the most of their money.

Your 2023 annual results statement reads, “Rising inflation and low volatility in financial markets resulted in lower trading and investing activity compared to 2022.” How do you see 2024 shaping up for you?

Looking ahead, despite the challenges posed by rising inflation and geopolitical tensions, we remain optimistic. Our adaptability, technological edge, and comprehensive market insights position us well to help our growing client base navigate the markets. Our focus continues to be on providing our clients with the tools, knowledge, and opportunities they need to achieve their financial goals, even in uncertain times​.

Read more: Saxo Bank CEO in MENA predicts UAE’s economic growth to surpass 5.5 percent in 2024

Saxo Bank

You grew from 876,000 clients in 2022 to 1.1 million clients in 2023. Which countries or economies contributed the most to your client base? Does this reflect overall investor sentiment in that market? What’s your 2024 target?

The significant growth in our client base, particularly in 2023, underscores the global appeal of our platform, products and services. At the beginning of the year, we lowered our prices, which has propelled the number of clients opening an account with Saxo to new highs.  This expansion is not confined to any region; it reflects a broad, international trust in Saxo Bank. We’ve seen robust growth in markets where investors increasingly seek sophisticated yet accessible trading and investment tools. Looking to 2024, we aim to continue this momentum, expanding our reach and enhancing our platform to meet and exceed our clients’ expectations​.

A lot of conversation today is about last-mile digital financial inclusion. How does an entity like Saxo Bank fit into that discussion?

Saxo Bank plays a crucial role in advancing last-mile digital financial inclusion. Fees and pricing are important factors, so we have lowered our prices significantly over the years to empower investors to make the most of their money. Our platforms and services are also designed with this inclusivity in mind, ensuring that anyone with an internet connection or a phone can engage with global markets, regardless of their physical location or economic background.

Saxo Bank earlier abandoned plans for a SPAC merger for a subsequent listing in 2022, citing bad timing. In early 2023, you said you were keen on a listing on Nasdaq Copenhagen. What’s the latest?

While specific details and timings of such plans are subject to various external factors and strategic considerations, our focus remains on further strengthening our position as a leading provider of digital trading and investment solutions, and any steps toward a listing will be undertaken with this goal in mind.

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