This European Fintech Unicorn Is Low Profile and Bootstrapped

Saxo Bank is low profile unless you have been deep into currency trading, but check out these numbers:

2011 Revenue: US$594m (3,526.9m DKK at 5.94)
2011 Profit: US$104m (617.8m DKK at 5.94)

Apply a similar revenue multiple that is applied to a hot VC funded company and you get to north of that $1 billion market cap unicorn milestone quite easily. Actually a measly 2x revenue multiple gets you there.

It has Bank in the name, but Saxo Bank is closer to a Fintech startup, with four differences:

1. Age. Founded in 1992. That is young by the standards of banks that like to talk about being founded before the 20th century. However, it is prehistoric by the standards of Accelerators, Angels and VCs.

2. Bootstrapped. They did not take outside capital until 2005 and since then have made a number of acquisitions to add both functional capability and geographic reach.

3. The technology came later. Founded in 1992, Bank License in 2001, new platform built in 2005 (outsourced to a Russian vendor).

4. Location: Copenhagen, which is not one of the obvious Fintech Capitals.

One other feature that is unusual but which I suspect we will see more of, is that Saxo Bank is a:

  • Consumer brand. It was their advertising in Geneva airport that caught my eye.


  • White Label service to other Banks. This seems to be their strategy for the huge and challenging American market.

It is also in America that they will meet established companies of a similar age and determination, such as eTrade and Charles Schwab. This might explain why they opted for a white label approach to the American market.

What impresses me about Saxo Bank is that they offer Joe Q Public the types of tools that have tended to be reserved for Hedge Funds.

Specifically, Saxo Bank enables you to trade:

1. Across asset classes. Saxo started in FX, but you can also trade equities and bonds. That enables innovation such as letting you use your equities portfolio as collateral to leverage up to trade FX.

2. Global. Coming from the FX market, Saxo clearly thinks global. Being based in a small market like Denmark will also make you think global.

Saxo looks like one of the players who will help democratise financial markets. Startups entering this market should be wary of Saxo Bank which has an interesting mix of size, agility and ambition.

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