As CEO of MeDirect, Arnaud Denis has steered the banking group through significant transformation and growth in Malta and across Europe. With a focus on customer-centric and innovative product offerings, he has guided MeDirect through its transition into Malta’s first digital bank.

Leading a company in the challenging world of finance is no easy task. But with a vast background in banking and having once managed over 8,000 employees, Arnaud Denis, CEO of MeDirect, is leading the charge, bringing together a team that’s building a leading pan-European digital retail challenger which is focused on mortgage and WealthTech businesses. With a career marked by innovation and strategic foresight, Arnaud’s leadership style, commitment to excellence and focus on delivery are proving vital to positioning MeDirect at the forefront of the rapid transformation of the financial sector.

Arnaud’s perspective on his role is clear. “My role is essentially to build and nurture our talent pool, that can drive a highly efficient organisation. Senior managers will then do the same with more junior colleagues, creating a virtuous circle.” It is this focus on talent that has allowed MeDirect to transform radically. “We are committed to excellence and speedy delivery, being forward-thinking, being customer-centric and, most of all, teamwork,” explains Arnaud. Yet, he also believes in the power of intuition – a perspective that not only guides his decisions but also shapes the culture at MeDirect.

The bank leverages the transformative power of digitalisation and technology as a core pillar of its competitive advantage. “Operating with cuttingedge and flexible technology and constantly looking to simplify digital customer journeys will continue to be emphasised,” the CEO asserts. But technology and ease of access are not enough. While MeDirect has now become a hybrid between a tech company and a bank, with some 70 per cent of staff working in technology and UX design, the group is also preserving a human touch through its Malta-based call centre and small network of branches.

“We want access to financial services to be inclusive and democratic. Yet, our industry tends to leave many customer needs unaddressed. People want guidance and we need to build confidence through simple customer journeys, while offering product choice, access to high quality wealth and daily banking services, and providing continuous customer support,” adds Arnaud.

Discussing the challenges and joys of his role, Arnaud offers a weighed and evaluated view. While he relishes the opportunity to shape the future of finance and drive MeDirect’s growth, he is also acutely aware of the challenges that come with leadership. Balancing business imperatives with personal passions is a constant endeavour. He explains that his ability to focus on the moment, regardless of whether it is a business or personal activity, and his love of music and yoga are key to achieving balance. “I have also just become a father for the fourth time, so family is really important to helping me maintain a proper perspective on things.”

MeDirect’s journey tells a story of strategic growth and, most of all, adaptation. Originating in Malta as a traditional bank, it has now been transformed and is looking to expand. The group’s strategic vision was never confined by geographical boundaries. Having established a banking subsidiary in Belgium years ago, 2023 saw further expansion into the Netherlands.

“About 40 per cent of investors in Belgium have heard of us, which is a big data point, and we are now benefitting from this,” Arnaud explains. “Beyond Malta and Belgium, the Netherlands is new, bigger and it demonstrates different behaviour. We continually evaluate potential markets based on their unique opportunities and challenges because each market offers something distinct. Whether it’s the depth of Belgium’s financial sector or the unique consumer dynamics of the Netherlands, our expansions are always strategic. Nevertheless, the challenge is to scale globally while maintaining a local feel. Our tech platform allows us to precisely do so, meaning we can flexibly enter new markets or client segments at low marginal costs, with quick time to market and an ability to customise our offering when necessary.”

The company’s recent foray into the Netherlands not only underscores its pan-European vision but also offers MeDirect an opportunity to refine its offerings and approach further, testing its ability to use its platform to scale while creating an identity that makes sense locally. This approach is perhaps best illustrated by the launch of MeManaged, a digital discretionary portfolio management service, across all three markets. MeManaged combines accessibility with robust financial tools and exemplifies MeDirect’s innovative spirit. With an entry requirement of just €100, MeManaged democratises the process of investing, as well as its benefits, by making it accessible to a broader audience.

“MeManaged’s accessibility is a testament to – and a direct result of – our commitment to digitalisation,” states Arnaud. MeManaged is also a great example of MeDirect’s goals, particularly since the company’s directional transition in 2019. “The purpose of our transformation was to build something more meaningful for our customers, so that they can make more comfortable and confident decisions with their money.”

Sustainability is another cornerstone of MeDirect’s operations, and the company ranks in EcoVadis’ top 15 per cent for business sustainability. Far from being a simple accolade, this reflects MeDirect’s commitment to stable, viable and self-sufficient practices.

Despite the company’s growth and success, MeDirect’s journey has not been without its surprises, particularly in recent years with unforeseeable events including the COVID-19 pandemic, wars and global tensions, and rising interest rates.

“Despite all these challenges, we steadily transformed MeDirect from a traditional bank into a dynamic financial entity with multiple growth engines. For instance, building on our own proprietary tech platform which is scalable and compliant with regulations, we can now consider offering our digital product solutions to other banks and financial institutions on a white label basis. We are specifically targeting the ‘embedded-wealth’ segment, enabling other institutions to effortlessly incorporate advanced retail investment solutions into their own banking app,” Arnaud elaborates.

Looking ahead, Arnaud is optimistic about the future of Malta’s investment and financial industries. MeDirect is now embarking on the next phase of its transformation, driven by the inclusion of Gen AI. This new technology is viewed as having the potential to help the organisation take the next leap forward. Rather than posing a threat to jobs, AI can free up employees’ time, enabling them to focus on more value-added tasks that continue to improve customers’ experience. While it will be a major change, the implementation of Gen AI will provide a crucial tool to enhance the efficiency of financial services operations, spanning from client interactions to internal business processes. Key to the successful integration of this technology is the fact that it is being driven by employees who are being asked to put forward their ideas and use cases for AI and how it can help them in their day-to-day work.

While Arnaud’s drive for 2024 is to consolidate gains and explore new opportunities and further digitalisation, a final important element for MeDirect is education and how, through partnerships, MeDirect can promote itself as an employer of choice in Malta’s financial and tech sectors. “We want to be the go-to company for people looking to work in this sector,” he concludes.

This article is part of the serialisation of 50 interviews featured in MaltaCEOs 2024 – the sister brand to MaltaCEOs.mt and an annual high-end publication bringing together some of the country’s most influential business leaders

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