A very good annual result in spite of difficult social and economic conditions, the merger of SIX with BME and the progress made in establishing the digital exchange SDX: SIX had a challenging but successful business year in 2020. In this interview, our Chairman Thomas Wellauer and CEO Jos Dijsselhof explain the underlying growth strategy – and why this serves the shareholders and customers of SIX and the financial centers in Switzerland and Spain in equal measure.
Mr. Wellauer, you took over as Chairman of the Board of Directors in March 2020. How would you sum up your first year?
Dr Thomas WellauerFrom the outset I felt that SIX was a highly professional organization that relies above all on its motivated and committed employees. There is a spirit of optimism and an absolute determination to seize opportunities and to actively help shape the current transformation of our sector. At the same time, there is a pronounced sense of responsibility for the stability and security of our infrastructure and towards our clients. Both have contributed to our business success in a year of absolute crisis. This gives us a very good basis for taking SIX forward successfully.
You had a similar impression of SIX when you took up your post just over three years ago, Mr. Dijsselhof. Has your impression been confirmed?
Jos DijsselhofYes, for me it has been confirmed once again how professionally and successfully our organization is able to cope with challenges on several fronts. In my first year at SIX, 2018, we realigned the company’s organizational structure and strategy following the sale of the cards business to Worldline, while consistently maintaining the quality of our services. However, in 2020 the challenges were greater still. In times of considerable market uncertainty and one of the biggest crises in the last 100 years, we continued with our core business and also handled major projects such as the acquisition of BME, the establishment of SDX and the Switzerland-wide introduction of the QR-bill – and we did so with most of the staff working from home. Our annual result reflects the high level of reliability and efficiency provided by our systems – and by our employees!
Why did you not put the growth ambitions for SIX temporarily on the back burner in this difficult year of the pandemic?
Jos DijsselhofFirstly, because we didn’t have to: We were comfortably able at all times to ensure the security and stability of our infrastructure and thus the quality of provision in our core business, even in the times of greatest market uncertainty. Secondly, because we couldn’t allow ourselves to do that: The radical changes in financial market infrastructures are global and fundamental, and they are proceeding at a rapid pace. In view of the huge challenges it faces, the sector is consolidating. We cannot afford to lose touch with all this if we wish to survive and further develop our position as an independent Swiss infrastructure provider in the long term.
Dr Thomas WellauerWe are growing in order to remain profitable and hence fit for the future in a business that depends on scale. The cost-effectiveness of our infrastructure can be improved significantly by additional volume. The resources this makes available can be invested in innovation or system optimization that benefits us as well as our clients and the whole of the financial center.
Where do you see the greatest growth potential?
Dr Thomas Wellauer We seek primarily to grow organically by offering our customers innovative services at competitive prices. This growth can be accelerated through acquisitions and partnerships. We want to grow in all four businesses: trading and post-trading, financial information and banking services. In the long term we see great potential in digital assets. With the launch of our digital exchange, SDX, we have established ourselves as a pioneer in this important area for the future. The further development of the associated ecosystem will be something we can also utilize in our other areas of business.
Jos Dijsselhof In order to grow organically we need to increase the transaction volumes on our infrastructure, extend our geographical reach, improve our profitability, and continue to foster a positive and open corporate culture. The acquisition of the Spanish stock exchange operator BME, completed in 2020, will help us on all these points. SIX and BME are an outstanding match along the entire securities value chain. The merger will strengthen the competitiveness of both the Swiss and Spanish financial centers.
Let’s hazard a prediction: what will the company SIX look like five years from now?
Jos Dijsselhof We will have made best use of the available synergies with BME and thereby considerably improved our profitability. We will be one of the leading financial market infrastructures in Europe, and we will have international appeal – especially as a forward thinker and market leader in digital assets. As a company we will have become more open to the world and more agile, and we will be attracting the best talent with our culture of innovation.
Dr Thomas Wellauer Not least, we will be a strong and reliable partner for our shareholders and clients and we will be fulfilling a central function for the stable and sustainable development of the financial economy in our markets. SIX is a provider you can’t go past in Europe. ■
Dr Thomas Wellauer