Chief Executive Officer of BDSwiss Group, Alexander Oelfke, spoke to Successful Business about the Group’s operations, the market, Covid-19, and where the financial services industry could be headed.
Who is BDSwiss and what does the company do?
BDSwiss is a global financial services group offering secure access to the financial markets. We serve over 1.5 million registered clients from our headquarters in Limassol and facilitate more than $80 billion per month in trading volume. Despite our relatively short history, we’ve quickly grown to over 250 people and gained recognition from our industry peers for the level of service we provide to our clients in 186 countries.
As a company, we act as a portal for our clients to trade or invest their hard-earned money and assist them in fulfilling their aspirations of generating a return. We also provide our clients with professional education and market research, so they’re trained and prepared on how to trade various assets such as stocks, commodities, currencies, and exchange-traded funds (ETFs).
Our clients depend on us to serve as a bridge between them and the vast liquidity pools of trading activity occurring globally. This includes maintaining cutting-edge systems they can rely on to conduct their trading and manage their investment portfolios.
What is the ultimate vision you have for BDSwiss?
BDSwiss was founded eight years ago with a vision of offering an outstanding trading experience. To achieve this, we knew we must be committed to delivering both quality and quantity in every aspect of a trader’s activity.
Almost a decade since launch, we’ve become one of Europe’s leading companies in the retail trading space – but we’re not resting on our laurels. To succeed long-term, we must invest in progressive innovations and deliver avant-garde products to allow us to transcend the FX industry altogether.
Popular interest in the financial markets continues to grow while the number of people choosing to self-manage their wealth is also increasing. By offering direct access to the financial arena, alongside the education necessary to prosper there, BDSwiss has become one of the fastest-growing brokers in the world. Our success is built on cultivating trust and driven by tech innovations that allow our clients to manage their wealth on a day-to-day basis.
We’re committed to ensuring quality, efficiency, and transparency to benefit all our clients on a global scale. This approach means we’re always competitive and take nothing for granted. As a company, we have the flexibility to adapt, as well as the strength to deliver. Today, that means we provide unique products and services at scale while remaining fully compliant with regulators.
How has BDSwiss been affected by Covid?
Covid has proved to be a living nightmare for everyone. No one has been spared.
In terms of the pandemic’s direct impact on our business, I am pleased to report that BDSwiss’ continuous investment in Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) and crisis preparedness has helped us mitigate every risk. On a brighter note, it has also fuelled a surge in online trading activity and boosted our trading volumes by more than 300%.
For us, the pandemic has challenged the resilience of our systems and staff in all departments. The challenge of working from home and co-ordinating a 250-strong person team that’s physically present in more than 10 countries has been problematic, but not insurmountable.
As far as I’m aware, we were one of the first companies in Cyprus to take precautionary measures when Covid-19 first emerged in March and we’ve continued in that vein by extending testing to all staff and their families to ensure our people are taken care of.
To counteract the problem of being unable to operate from our HQ, we integrated robust remote working systems and reorganised how our client support teams were structured in their day-to-day handling of internal and external communications.
Complying with Covid restrictions has been a logistical quagmire as we look after more than a million traders across Europe, Latin America and Southeast Asia. Despite these challenges, we’ve done well and remain fully committed to maintaining our high service standards while improving service features regardless of the difficulties we face.
How do you see financial services evolving as an industry?
Powered by the development of revolutionary financial technology (fintech) innovations in recent years, we’ve seen the emergence of new services that are changing life as we know it.
Challenger banks are a great example of how to use technology to cost-effectively compete with their global, institutional banking peers while also creating powerful tools to benefit consumers. Other technological developments such as the Internet of Things, distributed ledgers, and blockchain offer a route into seamless and even "bankless" payments, while ensuring all transactions are transparent and compliant with all financial regulations. Cryptocurrencies are still largely unregulated, but the technology underpinning all of them is already transforming how financial institutions do business and how regulators see the market.
Exactly how cryptocurrencies will be regulated remains unclear, but distributed ledgers and the concept of using decentralised databases to tighten privacy (while simultaneously improving transparency) has been proven in practice. It’s groundbreaking and has the capacity to transform financial services as an industry.
Practical case studies already include major stock exchanges implementing distributed ledger technology to smooth settlements while logistics and supply chain management companies are using the same technology to streamline storage and shipping.
I see the world moving towards a digitised future where the lines between money, finance, trading, investing, digital property rights, and software are blurred to the consumer’s advantage. Tech applications in trading, settlement, and eCommerce have made it easier for brokers to service their clients at scale while making the financial markets more accessible for consumers.
At BDSwiss, fintech is a tool we leverage to converge the funnel of trading, investment, and banking opportunities into a holistic single offering. We’re currently setting up a new team in Germany to supplement our core operations in Cyprus, as part of a new avenue of operations in the years to come.
Our long-term mission is to build a financial services Swiss army knife, so to speak, offering clients market access that spans trading, asset management, payments, and banking services. The overarching goal is to create a leading financial institution that rivals the larger European powerhouses not by outgrowing them, but by outperforming them in how our clients will benefit: freedom of financial choice, and an outstanding user experience that’s secure and multi-platform.
Only by offering a best-in-class service can we continue to merit our clients’ trust and to win their business for the long-term.
Alexander Oelfke, CEO, BDSwiss Group
Education: European Business School, Oestrich-Winkel and Durham Business School, M.Sc. in Finance. European Business School, Oestrich-Winkel and Rhodes University, B.Sc. in Business Administration/General Management, Finance & Banking
Experience: Over 15 years in management positions in banking, investments, marketing. Since 2018 at BDSwiss.
What milestones did you reach in 2020 and what can we expect from BDSwiss in 2021?
This year was like no other. Still, we achieved several important milestones including launching a host of new ETFs in parallel with direct market access to over 900 stocks. As a result, we empowered our clients to obtain exposure to global equity price movements and to diversify their portfolios during one of the most uncertain times in living memory.
We also strengthened our regulatory position by obtaining an operating licence in Seychelles and bolstered our partner acquisition programme to over 17,500 partners, making it one of the most successful initiatives in the industry. In fact, as a company, we are the industry’s leader with respect to nurturing strong partnership and affiliate agreements globally, especially in regions with rapidly growing trading communities such as Latin America and Southeast Asia.
Also, led by our head of investment research Marshall Gittler, we revamped our market research portal and bolstered our analyst team. Our clients now have a cleaner and more engaging experience when accessing timely market commentary, thought-provoking editorials, and regular videos posted by our market analysts.
It’s a testament to our global team’s talent and fortitude that they managed to achieve these milestones in the middle of a global pandemic and two lockdowns. I’m enormously proud of all of them.
Looking forward, we intend to offer our clients cost-effective market access that disrupts the incumbent banking monopoly while also equalising market access for individuals with that of wealthier individuals and large corporations. We want to democratise financial market access and allow individuals to access the same services usually reserved for high rollers.
As a partial exclusive for your readers – we’re working towards launching a significant new service feature and introducing a breath of fresh air to the world of retail trading in 2021. I look forward to making an official announcement sometime next year.
To what degree will fintech influence financial services in the coming decade?
Right now, banks are on the back foot, having to adapt to severe market disruptions caused by challenger banks and mobile banking services. In response, novel fintech companies have arrived offering cutting-edge digital solutions to age-old problems. They’ve not won the lion’s share of the market – yet – but technology as a concept is quickly eradicating traditional boundaries to market entry. Being a big bank has never meant so little.
According to market research conducted in Australia, 84% of millennials would consider banking with a tech company such as Google or Apple, as opposed to their High Street bank.
Technology has not only levelled the playing field: it’s also expanded it. Avantgarde technology is already providing breathtaking services for anyone with a smartphone and an internet connection, which includes billions of people in developing countries.
Nowadays, market participants are savvy enough to understand that the digital revolution is creating tangible financial and career opportunities rather than being a simplistic gateway to having fun with social media, online shopping and shiny gadgets.
If the average person is happy to place more trust in their search engine provider than a regulated financial institution with their money, what does that say about the banking industry as a whole?
Fintech is threatening to leave traditional banking redundant and surplus to requirements. I intend to steer BDSwiss into this brave new world full of seamless connectivity and opportunity for everyone and help establish one of the most successful financial institutions in Cyprus and beyond.