What is distinct about Apex’s offering in the Luxembourg market?
Renaud Oury: : Apex is one of the major service providers to the Fund industry in Luxembourg and is the largest third-party ManCo (Management Company) of the country with more than one hundred million euros in assets. Our major differentiator is our Single Source approach allowing us to cover all the needs of our clients. More specifically, Apex owns a bank in Luxembourg, the European Depositary Bank, a bank that is 100 percent dedicated to asset managers and corporate clients and that is 100 percent digitized. This is something completely unique. If you look at the market today on both the fund side and on the corporate side, one of the key elements for all clients is to be able to find a bank which can support their activity. Apex is today the only provider able to offer this solution combined with the traditional fund and corporate services.. This is supported by an element that I'm really passionate about: our centrall onboarding team. Onboarding may be perhaps the most difficult moment in the client relationship, specifically when a company like Apex is able to offer a multitude of services to its clients. To optimize this process, we are offering a single point of contact to our client to onboard them through all of our services, be it Management Company (ManCo) services, banking services, corporate solutions or fund solutions.
Apex owns a bank in Luxembourg, the European Depositary Bank, a bank that is 100 percent dedicated to asset managers and corporate clients and that is 100 percent digitized.
How has the pandemic changed our relationship with technology, specifically in the financial sector?
Alistair Stuart: It has fundamentally redefined our relationship with technology. And I'm not just talking about our work. I'm actually talking about “life 360”. I see two underlying trends. The first is “smart solutions'. I use Revolut (which operates in 33 European countries) as the challenger example in retail banking where they have built an outstanding digital solution which is highly intelligent and highly personalized. It has a very social media style. This actually has a lot of comparators to the corporate digital bank that we've built. The second trend I’m seeing is “delivery pace,” which is I want it instant or near instant. I want it delivered to me and I want it mobile. The days of your corporate technology being only accessible in the office have changed fundamentally.
What do your clients tell you about onboarding?
Alistair Stuart: In the last three months, I've spent a lot of time with clients across the Apex Group and all of our different regions, talking to them about digital banking. If there's one takeaway from those conversations, it's “I love the banking solution, but you know what the problem is? Onboarding, how to open an account!”. As an industry, it's a very poor experience, very paper-based. Wet signatures. Documents in the post, long, long lead times as we go through multiple legal documents to allow an account to be opened. A lot of that has to do with regulation, but a lot of that regulation is for good reasons. If you talk at an industry level, what our clients are telling us is if you can fix onboarding, we're going to absolutely love that.
Renaud Oury: It's really important to have a single point of contact that can smooth the global relationship with a client. So, it's about technology, about process and about people. We have to put those three together to offer a unique client approach. For the client, it makes a major difference.
It’s really important to have a single point of contact that can smooth the global relationship with a client.
Do you see the changes to our relationship with technology that came about during the pandemic becoming permanent?
Alistair Stuart: A lot of them aren't actually driven by the pandemic. So: digitized on-boarding. We will on-board you once for the entire organisation. That's efficient. It's quick. From my perspective, as a client, that's not pandemic related. Sure, because the world's moved to digital very, very quickly, that's accelerated my ability to do it. But it's not because of the pandemic. And when I'm out of the pandemic, would I actually like to send you paper? No, I'm done! Once I'm digitized, I like it. So, I think for a lot of these trends, the pandemic accelerated the change, but it wasn't the cause of it. Another example is the increasing acceptance of highly capable AI-driven chatbots, with Apex recently very successfully launching one called Alice.
What is the challenge for regulators with all of the changes in the banking sector?
Alistair Stuart: There are two fundamental challenges. The first is accelerating opportunities due to open banking. There are many different models now in the market. The second challenge being the then accelerated demand from businesses to really use those models. So how businesses interact with financial services organizations is more complex now. And then you sit as a regulator across the top with a mandate to say make sure this market operates effectively, is resilient and regulatorily compliant. I think the regulator has a difficult challenge and works hard to navigate that resilience and confidence in the market with a recognition that there's a real demand for rapid change through things like technology.