Saxo Bank CEO Kim Fournais at 50. A look at the achievements of one of our most prominent leaders

Saxo Bank’s energetic CEO Kim Fournais turned 50 last week. As one of the world’s most successful and forward thinking FinTech leaders, we take a look at his route to success.

Saxo Bank’s CEO, Kim Fournais, is a passionate believer in digitalisation and a visionary leader able to turn ideas into reality. As he celebrated his 50th birthday on June 30th we explore what drives the man behind Saxo Bank’s success.

“We have democratized access to financial markets” – Kim Fournais, CEO, Saxo Bank

No one who has ever met Kim Fournais would doubt that the spirited co-founder and CEO has Saxo blood running through his veins. He has headed Saxo Bank for almost half of his life and knows the bank and the technology which underpins it inside out.

I have spent 25 years in this industry as of this month, and have had the great privilege of making some tremendous, lifelong friends and associates through my years in interbank and institutional technology, and those who lead and provide inspiration with new innovations, attention to detail and quality of product are those who most come to mind when I look back across those fascinating two and a half decades.

When meeting Kim Fournais, I can always sense the enthusiasm and all-encompassing interest in driving the business forward with leading innovations, which to my mind sets him out as one of our industry’s most significant thought leaders.

The Digital DNA

It all began in 1992 when Kim Fournais spotted a gap in the market for traders and investors who wanted to have access to financial markets unconstrained by banks’ branch opening hours. He had just entered the stockbroking industry, but quickly decided to start his own business the age of 26.

With an initial seed capital of DKK 500,000 (approx. EUR 70,000 today) and three months to prove the viability of the company, Mr Fournais was joined by London-based stockbroker, and compatriot Lars Seier Christensen who came on board as an investor.

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Nerve center for innovation: The office of Saxo Bank CEO Kim Fournais

Over the next three years, Kim Fournais would serve as CEO of the brokerage firm Midas A/S which was run from humble premises in central Copenhagen, before Lars Seier Christensen relocated to Copenhagen from London. Midas A/S obtained its banking license in 2001 and changed its name to Saxo Bank the same year.

A pioneer in his field, Kim Fournais is an industry stalwart who recognised the opportunities stemming from the emergence of the Internet, and in 1996 he embarked on a journey which would deliver his vision of giving private investors the same access to the world’s financial markets as that enjoyed by institutional investors.

Having stated operating in the foreign exchange markets, Saxo Bank has since 2001 expanded its asset class coverage and today its clients can trade everything from stocks, commodities, bonds, ETFs and currencies, all from a single platform. “We have democratised access to financial markets,” said Kim Fournais in an article in December 2013 on his vision for the company.

Kim Fournais’ strong beliefs in the power of technology and in the bank’s digital DNA have been the driving forces behind Saxo Bank’s focus on, and commitment to, becoming a financial markets facilitator and provider of technology and systems to other banks and brokers around the world.

In 2001, Saxo Bank signed the first major partnership with a local bank as an outsourced provider of trading solutions – namely Saxo Bank’s award winning platform – to the partner bank’s end-clients. Today, the number of banking partners is more than 120 and Fournais’ ambition to continue to expand Saxo Bank’s role as a financial markets facilitator is stronger than ever.

Energetic, impatient and private

Kim Fournais is not the type who twiddles his thumbs and sits back waiting for results. His impatience is one of his strengths and he has previously been described as a force of nature who makes things happen.

“Kim is very energetic and impatient and would rather get things done today than tomorrow. We have always tended to discuss things through. There is not a man I respect more than Kim in a business context”, says his long-time business partner Lars Seier Christensen. Seier Christensen stepped down from Saxo Bank at the end of 2015 and still owns 26 per cent of the bank.

Honest capitalism in peripheral Denmark

Very private when it comes to his personal life, Fournais has kept his family out of the media, however, he is not one to keep his private investments in the dark. Mr. Fournais dubbed it “honest capitalism” when he bought in 2005 the island of Vejrø, off the north coast of Lolland in Denmark, to conduct a massive clean-up, removing 100 tonnes of waste and developing a hotel, marina, restaurant and other facilities in the island’s old buildings, open to everyone.

“Many people would say that I am mad to invest in such a venture, but fortunately it is not forbidden to enjoy one’s investments,” said Kim Fournais on TV in Denmark when they asked him why on earth he has spent money on a self-sufficient, organic farm and tourism in peripheral Denmark.

He later added the Stella Maris hotel facing the coast of Svendborgsund to his portfolio and, after a comprehensive renovation, turned it into one of the best hotels in Denmark.

Kim Fournais has always enjoyed being in the driver’s seat and this is also the case when he takes the controls of his own plane whether he is flying for business or pleasure. His love of freedom and the urge to take matters into his own hands also applies to his big passion for sailing.

Sport and health are very important features of Kim Fournais’ life. When at Saxo Bank’s HQ in Hellerup, he is regularly seen taking five flights of stairs, using it as an opportunity to meet and greet Saxo’s more than 700 staff based in Hellerup.

As a performing athlete, he has a black belt in karate, practices several forms of martial arts as well as cycling and running.

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