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Foreign Exchange

Saxo makes first major acquisition: Synthesis Bank

For market anoraks like me, the story of Saxo is fascinating. Its growth has been spectacular – according to founder and joint chief executive Kim Fournais, its turnover has expanded by 50% every year since its launch back in 1992.

So far, this has been grown organically. But this week, the bank announced its first major acquisition with the purchase of Synthesis Bank.

I went off on a bit of a jolly down to Geneva to listen to the rationale behind the deal. On the surface, the acquisition is relatively small. Saxo declined to put a precise value on it, saying that Synthesis’ former owners will now hold 6.7% of the combined company and that there was also a cash component. However, Saxo’s management were naturally upbeat about it, saying it will form a key plank of their future strategy. Lars Christensen, Saxo’s other founder and chief executive, says that in some ways the takeover is a test to see if the company’s management can grow it through acquisition as well.

Synthesis has been a long-term partner of Saxo and it has a good foothold in the wealth management business. This currently accounts for around 10% of the now-enlarged Saxo’s business, and it is seen as one that offers real potential – for which a Swiss banking license is seen as vital; perhaps another factor in the deal. Charles-Henri Sabet, who formed Synthesis, will now take a role in Saxo’s senior executive management with responsibility for global trading.

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