Empowering customers to navigate the world of investment with confidence, MeDirect is a pan-European bank and a one-stop-shop for investments, savings and mortgages. As CEO at MeDirect since 2019, Arnaud Denis channels his decades of banking experience and history of retail digital business transformation to both lead the bank forward and pioneer the future of the financial sector.
For Arnaud Denis, life has two key ingredients: people and passion. Whether it’s building and nurturing teams as CEO of MeDirect or creating something new for customers, giving people the chance to learn and grow through his characteristic ‘joie de vivre’ has become something of a career signature.
“Our most precious assets are our people and the tech we use to serve our clients. I believe in what I do, and I try to convey that passion and enthusiasm so that others can feel the same,” he says.
“As a CEO, if you don’t succeed in building teams, success will not follow. Only through teamwork, solidarity and transparency can we realise our mission to help customers. Everyone in the organisation has an impact on the experience of a customer – and I have always had a customer experience obsession! At MeDirect, our flat organisational set-up allows our 350 team members to communicate, exchange business ideas, discuss problems and evangelise the company vision. We want to change the world of investing.”
Living this ethos throughout his more than 25 years of international experience in banking and finance, Arnaud’s career has circumnavigated the globe and absorbed cultures. “I have had a full career evolution through travel, which has been interesting from a cultural standpoint. In every location worldwide, I have been lucky to grow lasting friendships,” he continues, referring to key positions on his resumé including as First Deputy CEO of ROSBANK Group, Société Générale’s Russian retail platform; CEO of Eurobank SA, the Polish subsidiary of Société Générale; and MD in Société Générale’s Fixed Income division based in New York.
Arnaud blends knowledge of the traditional financial system with a uniquely creative mind and a keen sense of intellectual curiosity – transforming him over the years from banker to tech pioneer. “Although my career has spanned both the banking and technology sectors, one common aspect of every role has been building new businesses and transforming existing ones. With every experience, I have managed challenges, achieved goals and looked to the future. But my landmark career moment is always today.”
While he has undergone his own career transformation, he has specialised in guiding businesses to do the same, particularly in the digital sphere – not least MeDirect itself, which he has turned from a medium-sized traditional bank into a digital champion in a few years.
Acquired by private equity firm AnaCap Financial Partners in 2009, the company spent the next five years raising online deposits in Malta and establishing an international corporate lending portfolio. Between 2015 and 2018, its Belgian branch obtained a banking licence and the MDB Group – which MeDirect forms part of – joined the Single Supervisory Mechanism, involving direct supervision by the European Central Bank in partnership with the MFSA and the National Bank of Belgium. MeDirect registered Client Financial Assets as above €3 billion at the end of 2018. Then, with the appointment of a new management team in September 2019 – including Arnaud as CEO – the company launched a fresh WealthTech-driven strategy, including a balance sheet transformation from international corporate lending to residential mortgage lending, starting with Dutch Government-guaranteed mortgages.
When I joined MeDirect, I hoped to implement a client strategy that built towards something more meaningful than raising deposits in Europe, as had been the bank’s previous model,” he goes on. “Shaped around empowering clients and growing their confidence in the investment process, this strategy opens the doors of investment to more people and bridges the gap with a low entry requirement. But when it comes to investing, most clients today are lost. The process is anything but simple, with pain points along the customer journey unless you are an expert or trader. So, we built an online, one-stop shop WealthTech platform that offers both investment and daily banking products, with a simple range of wealth solutions for them to choose how to grow their money. Our goal is to become the Maltese online digital champion.”
MeDirect’s investment solutions universe translates the bank’s distinct mission of customer empowerment into its simple, innovative and user-friendly products. Through the MeSolo product, customers can steer their own investments, taking advantage of the open architecture worldwide market – with over 850 funds, 400 ETFs and 3,000 stocks – to find investments fitting their needs. Should the customer want MeDirect to manage their money, they could instead choose the MeManaged module, whereby the experts at MeDirect can pursue the investment opportunities on their behalf. Finally, when launched in the early part of 2023, MeGuided will operate as a brokerage-style portfolio builder.
Marking one of its most recent milestones, the online platform and retail mobile app also earned MeDirect Bank Malta the Best Use of Technology in Business Transformation category at the 2021 eBusiness Awards organised by Tech.mt, which celebrate the most innovative technological initiatives in Malta’s eBusiness community.
Meanwhile, another key niche Arnaud has keenly explored at MeDirect is that of mortgages. “For clients, this is a must-have, green, synergistic product, which promises to implement new standards of customer service on the island,” he elaborates. “We can offer a commercial quote within 24 to 48 hours instead of two to three months, which is the current norm in the Maltese market.”
Among MeDirect’s core values, sustainability is high on Arnaud’s agenda. In recent years, the company has transformed its business model to one with lowcarbon emissions, reducing office space and investing in digital and automated solutions to improve operational efficiency and decrease environmental impact. MeDirect’s sustainability efforts have then been validated through an overall score in the top 15 per cent of the more than 85,000 companies rated globally by EcoVadis, one of the world’s most trusted providers of business sustainability ratings.
MeDirect’s product range also reflects its ESG goals, Arnaud explains. “Customers who apply for our Green Home Loans receive a better interest rate than that of a normal home loan, as they are contributing to energy-efficient homes,” he says. “MeDirect has also launched its Sustainability Filter for Investment Products, which investors can use to identify and filter funds and ETFs that focus on sustainability, as per the EU Sustainable Finance Disclosures Regulation. This classification increases transparency through light green funds, which promote environmental or social characteristics, or dark green funds, which have sustainable investment as their main objective.”
With such clarity of vision, the curveballs that continued to impact international industry throughout 2022 did little to derail MeDirect’s course. “Our job is to manage uncertainty and rapidly changing markets, so nothing changed,” Arnaud confirms. “In fact, the bank’s greater focus on digitalisation created opportunities more than challenges. We were able to roll out our Pan-European and B2B strategy to position ourselves as a clear digital leader, boosting brand awareness and building strategic partnerships with other players.”
Looking forward, 2023 promises more of the same at MeDirect. “Digitalisation will increase, as will interest in cloud computing, data storage and, of course, AI,” Arnaud predicts. “We will keep improving the mortgage process and Malta’s financial services sector in terms of data and AI, as this will affect how foreign investors perceive the island in the future. And as ever, we will work towards further personalisation of our customer experience and expand our product offering on the platform. Our launch of virtual and physical bank cards in the near future to complement our online platform will transform us into a daily bank. And that will be a game-changer!” the CEO reveals in conclusion.
This article is part of the serialisation of 50 interviews featured in MaltaCEOs 2023 – 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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