Saxo Bank

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For the cycling team, see Team Saxo Bank.
Saxo Bank A/S
Type Private
Founded 1992
Headquarters Copenhagen, Denmark
Key people Kurt K. Larsen, Chairman (Chairman)
Dennis Malamatinas (Vice-Chairman)
Kim Fournais (Co-CEO & Founder)
Lars Seier Christensen (Co-CEO & Founder)
Products Investment Banking
Revenue Increase DKK 3,526.9 Million (2011)
Net income Increase DKK 617.8 Million (2011)
Employees 1,450 (Dec. 2013)
Website www.saxobank.com

Saxo Bank is an online Danish investment bank. It was founded as a brokerage firm[1] in 1992, under the name Midas Fondsmæglerselskab, by Lars Seier Christensen, Kim Fournais and Marc Hauschildt. The name was changed to Saxo when the company obtained a banking license in 2001. Saxo offers trading through its online platform SaxoTrader in Forex, stocks, CFDs, futures, funds, bonds and futures spreads.[2] Private wealth management services are also offered. According to Saxo, roughly two-thirds of its activities are derived from partnerships with institutional trading partners. The company functions as an online broker with a bank license, without offering traditional banking products.

Internationally, Saxo Bank is known for its success in Internet brokerage and has received a number of awards. Domestically the bank is also known for its two founders who are often outspoken on Danish politics. Following a record income and profit in 2008, the bank's net profit ended at DKK 201 million in 2009 with 80% earned in the second half of the year.[3]

In August 2010, the bank's half-year results revealed a net profit of DKK 551 million, which is more than any other full year results in Saxo Bank’s history.[4] Following the half-year results, rumours emerged that part of the bank is up for sale.[5] Following its record 2010 results, Saxo Bank holds a market value of about DKK 20 billion, according to media reports.[6]

Since late 2010, Saxo Bank has launched several joint White Label solutions with industry giants such as Microsoft, Barclays Stockbrokers Ltd., the financial services company, and TD Waterhouse, UK's leading execution-only brokers.[7][8][9]

History[edit]

1990s: Midas Fondsmæglerselskab[edit]

Lars Seier Christensen and Kim Fournais formed Midas Fondsmæglerselskab after meeting in London in the early 1990s. Christensen was working as a broker for Gerald Metals at the time while Fournais worked at the now defunct Lannung Bank. The two said that they both felt like they had found their business soul mate.[10]

Midas initially operated as a broker selling option products without obtaining the required licenses.[clarification needed] When the company acquired its license, the periodical Økonomisk Ugebrev, Economic Weekly began publishing an article series on sidegadevekslererne, the bucket shops of Denmark, and included Midas.[11][12][13]

During the autumn of 1996 well-known Danish business man Karsten Ree claimed he had been cheated by Midas into making fictive investments via their wealth management services, suffering losses in excess of DKK 800,000 in one month.[14] The company subsequently underwent a criminal investigation by the Director of Public Prosecutions but was cleared of all charges.[11]

2000s: Name change[edit]

In 1997 Midas launched its first internet product; a trading platform for currencies called MITS (later replaced by SaxoTrader). The company renamed to Saxo Bank, named after the Danish Saxo Grammaticus, because there was already a Nigerian bank called Mida operating at an international level. Saxo obtained its new banking license in 2001, began expanding its online presence and moved to new headquarters in the Copenhagen suburb of Gentofte.

Saxo Bank also decided to outsource work on their new software to a Russian company, Reksoft, which worked on the software from August 2003 to December 2006.[15]

Global expansion[edit]

Saxo Bank launched its products and services in Europe during the early 2000s. In 2001, its first White Label solution was launched with a Portuguese securities dealer.[16] In September 2004, it also launched its first US white label solution. Following the launch of Citigroup's CitiFX Pro, an online foreign exchange trading platform developed by Saxo, in November 2008,[17] the Bank would focus entirely on its institutional clients in the US.[18]

In March 2004, Saxo Bank had to halt its business in Australia[19] because the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) passed regulation requiring an Australian bank license to offer foreign exchange to private customers.[19] Saxo had to terminate all its Australian retail clients and passed the accounts to two Australian institutional clients.[19] Saxo had particular problems with the Australian authorities, as Danish legislation did not allow the country's regulator to sign a bilateral agreement with them.[19] On 17 September, the issue was resolved, and ASIC granted Saxo a license to trade in Australia.[19] Since then Saxo has also mainly focused on institutional solutions in the Oceanian countries and territories.

In 2005, it won FXweek's e-FX Award, in the category Best Retail Platform and reported a 39% increase in pre-tax profits, while net profits rose DKK 161 million (EUR 21.6 million) to DKK 223 million. In 2006, Saxo expanding its presence primarily through white label clients and made changes to its structure, seeking to boost its retail forex with hires from the Danish business world. Internal restructuring took place and Lars Seier Christensen said the changes were made to reflect growth.[20]

Acquisitions[edit]

In September 2007, Saxo announced the acquisition of its Swiss white label client, Synthesis Bank. In late May, Saxo bought a French brokerage, Cambiste, that was later renamed Saxo Banque France. During 2009, Saxo opened offices in Milan, Prague and Dubai. By year-end, Saxo Bank will have around 13–14 foreign sales offices, up from eight last year, Lars Seier Christensen told Dow Jones in May 2009.[21] In August 2008, Saxo Bank hired the former head of the facility service and cleaning company ISS A/S Eric Rylberg, as new Chief Operating Director, and Karsten Poulsen as his Deputy. The founders retained their executive titles. Shortly after, Rylberg and Poulsen implemented a rationalisation plan, reducing staff by around 1/3.[22]

Saxo has since been growing through add-on acquisitions and startups, and has built an asset management department, Saxo Asset Management, legally segregated from the rest of the Bank, through acquisitions. In 2009, Saxo acquired Sirius Kapitalforvaltning and in June 2009, it purchased the full share capital of Capital Four Management Fondsmaeglerselskab A/S and 51% of the share capital of Global Evolution Fondsmaeglerselskab A/S, providing expertise for Danish bond & equity instruments. According to its annual results for 2009, Saxo Asset Management grew assets under management from DKK 10 billion to more than DKK 20 billion by the end of 2009 and another 25% in Q1 2010 to DKK 25 billion. A special report on Danish HNW clients in the New York Times said that by July 2010, Saxo Asset Management handles 29 billion kroner in assets, 15.5 billion of which comes from ultra-high-net-worth clients.[23]

Following a minority stake purchase in EuroInvestor, a Danish investment portal, in 2009,[24] Saxo said it would speed up development of its trading systems by acquiring a 40% stake in Initto, a software company based in India and Ukraine[25] and in 2010 it launched an equity profile incorporating elements from EuroInvestor. In July 2010, Saxo Bank increased its equity interest in EuroInvestor to 41%[26]

On 4 December 2009, TV2 (Denmark)'s financial news disclosed that the founders of Saxo was announcing to E*TRADE's Swedish and Danish employees that Saxo had entered into an agreement to acquire E*TRADE International’s local Nordic online trading business and online bank from E*TRADE Nordic AB, an indirect subsidiary of US-based E*TRADE FINANCIAL Corporation. In an interview with Dagens Industri, Lars Seier Christensen said that following regulatory approval Saxo Bank will have full banking license in Sweden. He also told its asset under management will increase by more than SEK 6 billion and adds an additional 50,000 active accounts. E*TRADE's Nordic business also includes client accounts in the Baltic region.[27] According to other reports Saxo will now be able to offer pension products, stock and margin accounts, bond offerings and Funds Supermarket.[28][29][30] Following a record year in 2008,[3] net profit ended at DKK 201 million in 2009 with 80% earned in the second half of 2009.[31]

On 6 October 2008, during the Financial Crisis, Saxo decided to join the Danish Sector Fund (Det Private Beredskab[32]), and was as such encompassed by the two-year guarantee for deposits with Danish financial institutions. Saxo Bank declined to participate in the Government's Credit Package,[33] saying it would lose money if it received capital from the state-funded Credit Package.[34] On 24 March 2010, a majority in the Danish Parliament agreed on a new guarantee scheme, which would bring deposit guarantees into line with European Union rules. The new scheme takes effect from 1 October 2010. Like all other Danish banks, Saxo Bank is covered by the scheme.[35]

2010 growth[edit]

In March 2010, Saxo Bank launched a new equity platform able to trade in over 11,000 stocks and other products listed on 23 major exchanges worldwide.[36]

Saxo Bank was later named the Best White Label Solution Provider in the world, at the World Finance Foreign Exchange Awards 2010, citing "the Bank's long established program of investment and innovation within its White Label business".[37][38] In the same month the bank was also awarded Best re-labelling platform for 2010 by industry magazine Profit & Loss. Saxo was voted into the top spot by subscribers to represent 'reader's choice'.[39]

In July 2010, CEO Kim Fournais stated that the bank's 2009 turnover of DKK 70 billion on a daily basis had been broken, despite negative press at the start of the year.[40] The growth is believed partly to spring from an explosive growth in Saxo Bank's largest partner, Citi, whose turnover resulting from trading grew nearly 500% in the first 6 months of 2010. In August 2010, the Bank's half-year results revealed that net profit had indeed increased 13-fold from DKK 41 million to DKK 551 million, making the first six months of 2010 better than any other full year in Saxo Bank's history.[4]

On 17 September 2010, Saxo Bank announced plans to invest DKK 59 million in Brorup Sparekasse; a small Danish savings bank founded in 1897 with seven branches.[41] The bank also said that it intended to offer at least DKK 150 million more in capital contribution when the terms for transforming the Brorup Sparekasse into a joint-stock company were fulfilled. Brorup Sparekasse ran into difficulties in 2008 and 2009, primarily due to failed speculation in unlisted bonds, which led to 2009 negative revenue of DKK 74 million before tax.[42][43] Saxo Bank later announced that the terms for transforming Brorup Sparekasse into a joint-stock company were fulfilled with Saxo Bank as the largest shareholder owing 98,6%[44]

In November 2010, Saxo Bank launched an online equity platform with Microsoft. The personal MSN Trader – Powered by Saxo Bank allows individual investors to trade 11,000 shares on 23 exchanges globally "in combination with functionalities which were previously available to professional investors only". These include in-depth research such as being able quickly to compare investment opportunities in a company with its peers in the same sector. The platform was tailor-made for the MSN audience, featured on MSN Money. It is said to mark one of the most significant deals in Saxo Bank's history.[7][45]

In its 2010 results, Saxo Bank proved to have grown way beyond industry averages with profits trebling compared to 2009, but it also revealed that it had launched another online platform this time with Barclays Stockbrokers Ltd. to supply their UK client base with an International Equities solution. The solution, which goes under the name International Trader, encompasses over 9,000 equities, 21 major global exchanges in 13 international markets and an Equities research solution. The release were already being marketed widely in the UK marketplace as well as to Barclays' existing UK clients base.[46] In May 2011, Saxo Bank furthermore announced it would provide TD Waterhouse, the UK's leading execution only broker, with an online derivatives trading platform for retail investors.[47]

Further expansion of products and services[edit]

In Scandinavia, Saxo Privatbank, a new physical branch in Hellerup, Copenhagen, Denmark, was launched offering banking services and advice to retail clients. Saxo Bank said that the newly opened branch will align its efforts with the specific wishes and needs of the clients and targets its offers towards clients who have their finances under control.[48] According to a spokesperson from the Bank, Saxo Privatbank will in due time be represented in a string of the bigger Danish cities.[49]

In November 2012, Saxo Bank introduced the first hardware keypad for the retail Forex traders. It features 14 keys (10 of which are user-programmable) and integrates with SaxoTrader platform.[50]

Saxo Bank tightened and standardized the pricing of foreign exchange options on its retail trading platform, SaxoTrader in a bid to boost transparency and attract more investors to the market. In an upgrade that went live in mid-May, the Bank improved spreads on FX options for all 40 of its currency pairs, with the new prices streamed to SaxoTrader. The tightening of spreads was applied to all existing and new clients, and was accompanied by an account standardization process. Clients can now choose a classic, premium or platinum account, each with different spread levels and qualification criteria.[51]

Furthermore, Markit announced that Saxo Bank would become the first financial institution to report its CFDs on Single Stock trades on a voluntary basis, in a bid to bring greater transparency to this fast growing market.[52] The bank also launched FX open orders module on TradingFloor.com. The Forex Open Orders module provides a snapshot of Saxo Bank clients' aggregated FX open orders on 10 major currency pairs, allowing users access to the historical order book across and within currency pairs. The module makes it possible to search for concentrations of orders that might result in support, resistance or break-out points [53]

Another transparency initiative was added in September 2013 when the Bank decided to publish trading volumes. Saxo Bank is the first non-public bank or brokerage to publish these figures [54]

TradingFloor.com and social trading[edit]

In January 2014, Saxo Bank launched a beta version of a transformed TradingFloor.com, a community portal re-launched into the first multi-asset social trading platform. The site, still in its testing phase, encourages users to share information, tips and strategies publicly and does not have a traditional chatroom function. The bank's founders said they want the site to make financial trading easily accessible to all and serve those who do not wish to engage with salespeople at banks. "We want to set free the peer-to-peer power of traders around the globe," they said in a joint statement.[55]

The new TradingFloor.com is designed for serious private investors trading with their own money, but it can also be used by those wishing simply to follow financial markets. The social trading platform features a range of valuable content for traders, such as market news and views, data, insights and trade ideas from Saxo Bank's research teams and VIP authors. A real-time trade stream will reveal the current market sentiment. Britain's award-winning ITV News correspondent Angus Walker has joined Saxo Bank and will, along with former Bloomberg and BBC World anchor Owen Thomas, front the portal's on-demand TV channel by reporting from Saxo Bank's own trading floor.

Corporate headquarters and architecture[edit]

Saxo Bank is headquartered in Tuborg Havn in the northern outskirts of Copenhagen. The building, which received an RIBA International Award, was designed by Danish architects 3XN, and is owned by Carlsberg Properties.[56] The façade of the building is covered in diagonal white aluminium and blue glass patterns.[57] In June 2010, Danish business newspaper, Borsen, named the Saxo headquarters the "Kingdom's finest domicile"[58]

Other Saxo Bank offices are located in Australia, the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Dubai, France, Greece, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Panama, Singapore, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and Uruguay.

Ownership and business model[edit]

Saxo Bank is privately held with co-founders Kim Fournais and Lars Seier Christensen holding majority stakes. Private Equity firm General Atlantic bought a minority stake in June 2005, for which the CEOs received more than $30 million each.[59] According to the 2009 annual report, Fournais Holding A/S and Lars Seier Christensen Holding A/S today own 30% each of the Bank. General Atlantic owns 22% of the Bank and Espirito Santo Financial Group (Portugal’s third biggest financial group) with its subsidiary Banco Espirito Santo Group together hold 9.9% of the Bank’s shares, after taking a five percent stake in Saxo in 2008. The remaining interest is mainly held by a number of current and former employees of Saxo Bank.

According to Saxo representatives, so-called White Label Partnerships accounts for more than half of the bank's revenue providing re-distribution of the bank's platform to a broader public through partnerships. Private Wealth Management is a relatively new area of business.

Public relations[edit]

In 2008, Saxo Bank admitted editing its own Wikipedia entry through an anonymous user to remove information it said was untrue. When confronted by the media it acknowledged that a "slightly more elegant solution" should have been found.[60]

Sponsorships[edit]

In mid-June 2008, Riis Cycling A/S announced that Saxo Bank had entered a three-year contract as title sponsor, with immediate effect, so the team entered the 2008 Tour de France as Team CSC Saxo Bank.[61] Carlos Sastre won the Tour, and the team took the team classification. In 2009 and 2010, Andy Schleck finished the Tour in second place. When the bank signed the sponsorship agreement with Riis Cycling A/S, it noted that the team "has the international reach and name recognition that means we will be able to get our message our to most of our client groups around the globe. We love the sport, and believe that together we will be winners.". While the bank announced in January 2010 that it would not extend its sponsorship beyond 2010,[62] it surprised everyone Lars Seier Christensen together with Bjarne Riis announced to the public on 3 August 2010 that Saxo Bank had extended its sponsorship of Riis Cycling for another year, and that Tour winner Alberto Contador had signed onto the team, with the aim of winning all Grand Tours (the Tour de France, the Giro d'Italia and the Vuelta a España) in one year.[63]

In January, 2014, Saxo Bank announced it would be one the Lotus F1 team's sponsors this season, moving into motor racing. Saxo Bank told that it would use the Lotus team name in its marketing and also be able to host clients at Formula One races as a sponsor. "This is a modest step in because we always like to test things out first," said Lars Seier Christensen, Saxo Bank's co-CEO. "If it works, we'll step it up," he added. The bank remains involved in cycling as a backer of the now Russian-owned Team Tinkoff-Saxo [64]

Saxo Bank has also sponsored reprints and distributed several books; including Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged, which the bank retranslated into Danish and distributed 10,000 copies (each new employee of the bank receives a copy). In May 2007, Saxo Bank donated one million DKK to the libertarian political party Ny Alliance (later renamed to the Liberal Alliance), CEO Lars Christensen later joined the party himself.[65] For several years, the bank was also a sponsor of 'CEPOS University'.

2010 media crisis: allegations of misconduct and subsequent acquittal[edit]

Background[edit]

While the first half of 2010 had been months of tremendous growth for Saxo Bank, allegations from former employees and two former clients sparked a two-month media crusade against the bank. Saxo Bank was later cleared of all allegations and Danish Berlingske Tidende characterised Saxo Bank's media crisis as a bitter clash between the founders and former employees as well as former clients most likely due to personal disappointments or economic matters.[66]

Media storm and subsequent steps by Saxo[edit]

In April 2010, a Portuguese financial institution accused Saxo Bank of manipulating stock and currency prices, claiming it lost 10 million euros.[67]

In May, a Lebanese investor said his company had lost DKK 20 million in four months because of unstable pricing and error interruptions on the SaxoTrader. Saxo Bank rejected that errors are a common thing and claimed that the SaxoTrader has an uptime of 100%[68][69]

J. Korsoe Jensen, Attorney at Law for Saxo, issued lawsuits against the two former clients in June 2010, for false accusations.[70][71]

The new Chairman of the Board of Saxo Bank, Kurt Larsen, admitted to Berlingske Tidende that the lawsuits filed against the two former clients were indeed very unusual measures.[72] However, he also said:

"We have tried, but have not been successful in gaining clients authorisation to respond to the accusations they have made against us. Therefore, we had to react, and therefore we have filed lawsuits against them."[72]

Completion of FSA review and independent investigation[edit]

In July 2010, the Danish FSA completed their investigation of Saxo Bank, having analysed its trading platform and protection of investors. The Danish FSA found its automated trading system sufficiently transparent to users. Furthermore, the FSA found no remarks vis-à-vis the bank's service regarding of trading tips on the platform, the technical structure of the system or its robustness. Likewise, the Danish FSA concluded that the evaluation version of Saxo Bank's trader would permit possible clients to experience dealing with trading complex products without risk before they became customers for real.

However, the Danish FSA ordered an independent investigation of whether trades executed manually and performed on the Bank's electronic trading system are generally being executed in accordance with the Bank's common trading conditions and Best Execution Policy.[73] In late August, it was announced by the Danish FSA that the investigation would be done by Oliver Wyman, the international consulting company.[74]

The independent investigation is said to have cost Saxo Bank millions and were two months overdue when on 29 November 2010, the Danish FSA published a statement, saying that Oliver Wyman had concluded that "Saxo Bank was not systematically mispricing its manual order flow to the detriment of its clients or in violation of its General Business Terms and its Best Execution Policy" and "that it could find no evidence of clients being systematically unfairly treated at the individual level". Based on the above-mentioned conclusions, the Danish FSA found that the investigation by Oliver Wyman did not give cause for pursuing anything further regarding Saxo Bank's execution of manually executed trading orders nor regarding Saxo Bank's trading system. The statement also said that the instruments represented in the cases covered by the Danish media, this summer, and the client complaints received by the Danish FSA had been taken into account.[75]

Criticism of the Danish FSA[edit]

Following the announcement of the Danish FSA on 8 July, Lars Bo Langsted, a professor of economic law at Aalborg University stated that:[76]

"The Danish FSA has become more aggressive. It has become quite common that the FSA reports companies to the police even though their violations aren't that serious. Where previously they might have chosen a dialogue, today their finger is on the trigger."[72]

The WeeklyFix column suggested that the Danish FSA had been pressured to act on Saxo by press reports. "There is no doubt the Danish FSA has felt under pressure to act (...) This begs the question, since when did financial authorities spring into action on the back of media speculation?"[77]

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  73. ^ Greenberg, Michael. "Independent investigation costs Saxo Bank millions". Forex Magnates. Retrieved 24 September 2010. 
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  77. ^ The WeeklyFix, 23 July 2010

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