On the occasion of Swissquote’s 25th anniversary, we asked Jan de Scheeper, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer, about what helped Switzerland’s first online trading bank to build a strong and exclusive image.
First of all, a clearly defined mission and absolute consistency in its marketing strategy.
An example to follow.
1. Swissquote is a success story that extends far beyond Switzerland’s borders. In your opinion, what ingredients contributed to this success?
There are several ingredients for this recipe.
The first, particularly important one, is our mission. From the start, our mission was clear: to democratise finance and facilitate access to this market. At the beginning, we offered the possibility to follow the evolution of the Swiss stock exchange prices online. Previously, they were only available in the newspaper pages, i.e. the previous day’s closing prices! The banker was therefore always one step ahead of the client. So we brought access and transparency, creating a new generation of investors who were able to talk to their banker as equals, and even to place their orders themselves. This basic idea still prevails today. Initially, we only covered the Swiss stock exchange before adding foreign stock exchanges, options and futures, forex, Robo-Advisor and trading with cryptocurrencies. In short, we opened the door to more opportunities, more possibilities, more power, more transparency. We just launched Yuh, in partnership with Postfinance, to offer even more convenience and accessibility to new customers.
The second ingredient is leadership. Our two founders, Marc Bürki and Paolo Buzzi, have created an inspiring, flat hierarchical corporate culture based on curiosity and constant questioning, innovation and daring. This entrepreneurial culture has been somehow lost in traditional banking.
The third ingredient: people! You must know how to recruit the right people and give them the means to develop themselves.
2. The technological changes we are witnessing are increasingly fast and far-reaching. How does Swissquote anticipate these developments so successfully? Is agility part of its DNA?
Yes, of course! Our two founders are engineers, both driven by curiosity. As a result, using technology for our customers’ benefit, automating to reduce costs, speeding up procedures and making them more user-friendly has always been at the heart of our concerns. We must listen to our clients and anticipate their needs, monitor the market and the competition, and quickly experiment with solutions. A great number of our employees are young and active in software development. They come up with new ideas and we listen to them. A good example is cryptocurrencies. We have entered this market and it turned out to be very positive.
3. Competition in the online investment banking business is growing in many markets, including Switzerland. This trend is likely to continue and increase. How is Swissquote adapting to this growing competition?
Competition is always stimulating. We too are customers of other banks, we download their applications and stay close to our competitors. We should not rely on our success. Trading and investing are increasingly handled through simple and cheap mobile apps. That’s why we launched Yuh, so as not to let this new youth market slip away. We keep in touch with our clients, listen to them and regularly offer them new possibilities that best suit their needs. For example, we receive feedback from our call centre, which informs us of our customers’ requests. We set up client focus groups on very specific topics to better understand their thoughts, motivations and barriers. Regular quantitative studies also provide us with a lot of information about our platforms and prices. This allows us to gauge how our clients position us compared to services provided by other institutions.
4. Swissquote probably generated strong interest among small stock market investors who, without this resource, would never have ventured there. In hindsight, what thoughts does this inspire in you?
It gives meaning to what we do, especially now, when banks are charging negative interests. Buying stocks regularly and managing a well-balanced portfolio is, at least in the long run, a very good investment. It’s useful to be able to train our clients on these possibilities. It’s important for everyone to understand the basic investment portfolio rules and to take their « destiny » into their own hands. It’s like with food and health. It also allows us to be more critical of the services provided by traditional banks and to analyse their prices, products, advisory services and transparency. At Swissquote, the client has to do the research himself, but all the sources of information are available on our platforms and even on other websites. He can thus make his own decisions, after having weighed the pros and cons. Of course, it’s not necessarily made for everyone, but the share of the interested population is larger than we originally thought. This explains our growth, as we offer interested people the opportunity to start online trading, providing them with a simple, inexpensive solution and the tools to learn.
5. Swissquote’s communication is imbued with an extremely strong personality, which consistently breaks with traditional codes and adopts a truly impertinent tone. This approach is particularly subtle but could also prove to be risky. How do you control the red line that should not be crossed?
It is true that we have the courage to try, also in terms of communication. We are slightly provocative and sassy. If we didn’t, we would be drowned out and the risk would be even greater. The big financial players have considerably larger marketing budgets than we do. So to ensure our impact, we must differentiate ourselves and communicate in a more direct and daring way, with a touch of humour, a wink. We thus differentiate ourselves from traditional banks. We work with an agency that does a good job and perfectly understands our positioning. This does not mean that we never make mistakes. This can happen in markets where we are less familiar with the culture. We therefore work closely with our branches, which are familiar with local features. In addition, social networks allow us to pre-test campaigns and measure reactions at a lower cost before investing larger budgets.
6. What will Swissquote be like in 2025 – 2030? Will there be major changes and what will drive them?
Our mission will not change. We will always focus on technology and on our brand’s uniqueness. Everything we do in communications and sponsorship strengthens it. Our multilingual platform works well. Our vocation is therefore to attract more users by adding new products and features, but also by further developing our international presence. So we still have good growth vectors. We are also at the forefront of technology. Our Quantitative Finance department, for example, develops algorithms based on artificial intelligence to inspire clients with personalized investment ideas. This allows them to discover relevant investment opportunities that correspond their investment style and risk appetite.
7. A few words about your collaboration with Mediamix?
We have a very close relationship with Mediamix. I consider our agencies to be part of the marketing team. We share a lot of information with them and expect sound recommendations from them. Our collaboration is based on a trusting relationship and long-term work. Mediamix follows the same work approach. We always want to be at the cutting edge, to test new solutions, new media, new formats. Innovation is always present. We need a partner who shares this same curiosity and willingness to experiment. Mediamix’s recommendations are in line with this spirit and respect our image and interests. This is very important to us.