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5 Minutes With… Jakob Beck Thomsen, CEO, Saxo Bank

5 Minutes With… Jakob Beck Thomsen, CEO, Saxo Bank

The boss of the Dubai arm of Saxo Bank says he is confident about the UAE’s financial climate.

What is your company focusing on?

We continue to grow our client base of experienced and sophisticated private and institutional clients. We believe in quality rather than quantity in our client base, and that this will secure sustainable long-term growth.

We often see clients approaching us once they have gained experience from competitors, as this is often when traders are in a position to fully appreciate Saxo Bank and our value proposition – transparency, security, market leading technology/product offering combined with an experienced and high level of service.

Will the volatile global economic climate affect your strategy?

We retain a positive outlook on the GCC and especially on the UAE – so the answer is no. The MENA region continues to take a larger share of the bank’s total earnings.

A number of initiatives dedicated to the region have been set in motion to secure further growth, including the Islamic Stock Screener that allows investors to identify and trade Islamic-compliant stocks on 25 different exchanges.

Overall, the competitiveness of the UAE reflects the high quality of its infrastructure as well as its highly efficient goods markets. I would also highlight the strong macroeconomic stability and the increasingly efficient government bodies and the high public trust in the leaders of the UAE.

Obviously, these are competitive advantages and they are good starting points also for the financial industry.

In my opinion, Dubai’s financial sector is strong compared to many other places around the world and that is crucial because without a healthy financial sector, no new jobs will be created by business, and without job creation, no economic growth.

What are the growth areas currently for your industry?

Our institutional business is a crucial part of our overall business model and is growing the MENA region.

Saxo Bank delivers trading platforms to more than 100 other financial institutions that distribute our trading platforms under their own brand. In the MENA region, we have put a lot of efforts into promoting our white-label offering.

We also see increased interest from private individuals, especially stock and commodity contracts-for-difference (CFDs) as well as foreign exchange trading, which has been growing strongly in the region over the last few years.

What are the biggest challenges for UAE businesses in your sector?

For Saxo Bank, it’s first and foremost, competition. A lot of the older and more traditional banks have realised there is a business opportunity in our area. The good thing for Saxo Bank is that, while some banks might have built their own trading platforms, many have opted for white-label solutions instead.

In 2001, we realized that Saxo Bank’s technology could be used beyond our own client base. It was an important milestone for the bank and lead to the signing of our first white-label client. CitiFX Pro is probably our most well known white-label client but there are several other big players and a lot of medium-sized brokerages that use our technology to add Forex and CFDs to their more traditional stock offerings.

Regulation is another challenge that has appeared in recent years and is bound to drive further consolidation among institutions. Moves to restrict margin and gearing levels will have an impact but we already have lower gearing levels than our competitors.

Personally, I believe regulation might well have a positive effect on the financial industry because it’s important that any growth of investors happens in a controlled fashion and people know what they’re getting into when they trade the capital markets

What’s your leadership style?

I am a big believer in freedom and empowerment, if combined with a strong element of responsibility.

What makes the perfect employee?

An honest, humble and hardworking self-starter.

Define success in five words…

Being proud of one’s work.

Three tips for becoming the boss…

Let your results do the talking, don’t take shortcuts, and think long term.

When I’m not at work I like to…

Play tennis and eat out.

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