|The Bahamas Investor Magazine
January 1, 2016
January 1, 2016
Playing the markets can be daunting for even the most seasoned investor. Chasing a profit in volatile trading conditions requires not just skill and nerve, but also the right tools. Swiss firm, Cornèr Bank Group brought its new trading product to The Bahamas just over a year ago and says island traders are seeing how the multifunctional platform, combined with a traditional private banking approach, can yield some very positive returns.
CornèrTrader gives users direct access to the market— allowing them to trade currencies, stocks, options and futures through a number of channels including desktop, web and portable devices. But the product is much more than a stand alone trading tool, according to Cornèr Bank director Vittorio Cornaro (pictured, above), who says the level of support and personalized feedback that comes with the platform sets it apart from anything else on the market.
“We are unique in what we are doing,” he says. “You have a lot of online trading players in the market that have excellent platforms, but they have a brokerage mentality where all they want to do is enroll more customers, hand them the username and password, and let them trade.
“We have tried to bring the best practices within private banking to CornèrTrader. We stay close to our clients, we meet with them; we do not just hand them the passwords.”
The personal touch is important to Cornaro whose grandfather founded the bank in Lugano in 1952. He says the traditions of Swiss private banking—trust, integrity, consistency—are the driving force behind CornèrTrader, which blends all the benefits of modern technology with good, old-fashioned service.
“You need to know who you are dealing with. You can find lots of brokers but, with most of them, if something happens you have no idea where your money is going to end up. We have a history of more than 60 years. We are very well recognized [in the industry]. It is not just a question of competing on price, but also showing that you can give something more and this is very much appreciated by our clients. They do not want to call a toll-free number and get put in a queue. We provide a personalized service,” says Cornaro.
The bank offers its CornèrTrader clients seminars and webinars to guide them through using the platform. For those new to trading, there are also tutorials on all aspects of the markets. With close monitoring, Cornèr Bank staff ensure that their clients are fully informed, know the risks and are comfortable with their trading strategy. With its emphasis on client service, the bank recognizes the importance of having excellent staff in place. “Having good staff is key. People who trade on these platforms are tech savvy and they clearly have an understanding of the markets, but you need to have a person who knows what you can and cannot do with the platform,” says Cornaro. “You can have the best brand, but if you do not have the people it will not work.”
Bringing it to The Bahamas
There are 32 staff in Cornèr Bank (Overseas) Ltd, the bank’s Bahamian operations, which began in 1996 with a staff of just three. CornèrTrader launched in The Bahamas in September 2014, two years after its initial pilot in Switzerland. “We wanted to make sure everything was working and that we were up to speed. This took a while. As we rolled it out, we realized there was demand for it and [demand for] the same offering out of The Bahamas,” Cornaro explains. The bank trialled the product with a select group of clients before embarking on a public marketing campaign—hosting events, sponsoring activities and advertising.
Assistant vice president of private banking Myriam Larbi, who spearheaded the launch in The Bahamas, was very pleased at the response. “We have had a very positive welcome,” she says. “Especially from professionals used to private banking. People really like the idea of a mix of technology and personal service.”
Cornaro agrees and says that word-of- mouth has proved a big asset in the small Bahamian financial community. “A lot of our customers were already dealing with some brokers, mostly in the US, but we are providing pretty much the same thing, so they thought ‘why keep my account in the US when I can have it in The Bahamas?’ It started gradually, step by step, but now business is increasing and clients are opening more and more accounts. Word of mouth is spreading on the island.”
And as business grows, Cornaro says it is more important than ever to have boots on the ground in the jurisdiction. “Having a physical presence does matter,” he says. “Yes, we are talking about the Internet and you can do everything remotely, but clients want to shake my hand, see the offices, see how we are structured and feel that if they want something, they know where to go.”
Technology and growth
Clients may value the human component, but they still want their trading to be fast, convenient, easy and accessible. The CornèrTrader service offers a flexible workstation accessible from desktop, tablets and smartphones. Cornaro says clients appreciate having these options at their fingertips and has noticed an interesting trend. “We have multiple channels. Clients tend to open positions mostly from the Internet [via a laptop or desktop computer], but close from an iPad or a mobile phone. People tend to use the web [to open] because when you are logged in you can see more charts and have a better sense of how the market is.”
The bank realizes that technology is not infallible however. At their offices in Nassau, there is a trading desk, so if a user’s iPad is broken or their Internet connection is not available and they need to make a quick trade, they can call and get immediate assistance.
As with any Internet service, data protection is paramount and Cornaro says the bank is aware of these challenges and completely secure in its systems. He says that this is an area where best practices have been rigorously applied and accounts are closely monitored to ensure there is no unauthorized activity. “Security has not been an issue. Your account might be online but we still handle any money transfers in the same way we handle a private banking account.”
With a product such as CornèrTrader, it is vital that the bank keeps up with technology and remains at the cutting edge of online banking. “Online trading is not new. It has been around from when the Internet started, but it has evolved. It has become more sophisticated. We monitor how the industry is moving. It is a constant effort to make sure we are up to speed,” says Cornaro.
Another challenge for the bank is growth, and how to achieve it while retaining the personal touch that has been a core part of their family-run business since it began. Cornaro says the bank knows its niche and is not interested in competing with larger firms at the expense of their clients. “The market is huge. There is a limit to what we can trade, and what clients want to trade. You can go deeper and deeper and try to cover all the market, that is the challenge. It is like pushing on the gas pedal of a car. We might need to slow down if we see too much growth. Growing at all costs is not what we want if we cannot offer a service that sets us apart from any other player.”
As it celebrates 20 years in The Bahamas, Cornèr Bank says the jurisdiction is still a vital and thriving part of the firm’s operations. “The Bahamas is important to us,” says Cornaro. “It is a core part of our business. We believe that there is big, big potential in The Bahamas.” And the country isn’t just important to the bank. Cornaro first visited the islands on a sailing trip to Exuma nearly 20 years ago and is now a regular visitor, bringing his family over every two or three years. “The Bahamas is a very special place for me. It is great for me to be able to go to a place where you can relax and forget everything. It is one of the few unspoilt places in the world.”