8 june 2021
SILEX is happy to introduce its CEO Xavier Laborde's interview, in the latest SPHERE issue. If you want to learn more about the SILEX strategy, don't hesitate to read the article.
CEO @ SILEX, by Jérôme Sicard – SPHERE magazine
We had the right
intuition about wealth
Xavier Laborde is Chief Executive of SILEX, which he founded in 2016 with Fabrice Rey. In his role, he is responsible for driving the group's development and implementing its operational strategy. Previously, Xavier worked at Exane for 10 years as global head of sales and structuring on the Derivatives business. He started his career at Oddo & Cie in 2006. Xavier Laborde is a graduate of EDHEC, the Ecole des Hautes Etudes Commerciales.
Created five years ago, Silex has decided to put technology at the service of portfolio managers with very intuitive tools designed to optimise portfolio construction and risk analysis. At the same time, it leaves portfolio managers enough room to express their convictions and to use their own expertise, as Xavier Laborde explains.
1. Why did you launch SILEX?
Xavier Laborde: It was the combination of several factors that really made us decide to launch
the project. Firstly, the increasing regulatory pressure on wealth managers in Switzerland and their need to become more professional. This has been accompanied by a relative disengagement of banks in servicing third-party managers. Secondly, generating performance has become more challenging in a market context of very low interest rates, which justifies more sophisticated support. Finally, the need to adopt new digital tools which, in the long term, will
greatly facilitate the task of wealth managers. In our own way, we wanted to push the boundaries.
2. What are the solutions you provide?
From the beginning we wanted to differentiate ourselves in two ways. We felt it was essential to add value at every stage of the investment process by bringing
together specialists in allocation and portfolio management and by being able to structure tailor-made solutions. Somehow we had to combine a high degree of technicality with the need for customisation. At the same time, we have developed very advanced tools for portfolio optimisation and risk analysis, which still allow wealth managers to intervene and express their convictions. The machine must not take over from the human being
3. In the investment process, what are the steps you are talking about?
The first step is to scan the portfolio and analyse the risks and needs. Once this is done, we will be able to define with the client an allocation that takes
into account his objectives and constraints. Only then will we be able to propose suitable investment solutions. These may be collective management solutions, such as funds, or tailor-made solutions.
4. Which means?
The expertise that we provide concerns both the construction of the portfolio and the solutions that make it up. It is not necessarily linked to a product managed by SILEX and is part of an open architecture approach.
5. What happens after the investment decision is made?
We support our partners on a daily basis in generating ideas, monitoring portfolios and reporting, which is becoming increasingly important,
especially on the digital side. We have invested a lot in this area, so that our clients have seamless access to their portfolios, the related documentation
and can communicate easily with their own clients. In fact, the first version of our mySpark portal has just been released.
6. What is the dialogue between human and machine, to use your own words?
We have made a clear choice to avoid a black box and a systematic engine for asset allocation. The SPARK platform, as we have designed it, allows us to
combine human expertise and quantitative rigour, but with the idea that each manager remains in the driving seat. Above all, the tools help prevent
emotional bias, document the investment process and ensure that portfolios comply with the risk mandate.
7. Can you give us more details about SPARK?
It is a suite of tools to support investment decisions optimisation, performance monitoring, risk and fund analysis. These tools are brought together on a digital platform that acts as a sparring partner in terms of performance and risk management. From the client's perspective, Spark offers an integrated
approach with a dashboard that displays their investments, product events, and insights based on their existing portfolio.
8. How important is Tech at SILEX?
It is really important, since it represents about 15% of our workforce. SPARK has taken us four years to develop, with several business lines
working together in Geneva and Paris. It's a sort of mini research and development centre, bringing together data scientists, financial engineers and web developers. With our idea of democratising quantitative tools, we quickly realised that the question of UX was preponderant and that we should invest in ergonomics at least as much as in the algorithms themselves.
9. After five years of existence, what is your assessment of the SILEX project today?
The first observation is that our hybrid positioning is validated by our clients. We had the right intuition about the new needs of wealth managers in Switzerland and Europe, and we are succeeding in providing answers. The second satisfaction is that we have been able to attract and unite highly
talented people around this project. We have brought together specialists from different backgrounds, from investment banking, tech, asset management and even from other sectors such as luxury goods. There is a tremendous amount of energy in this group and we needed it last year with the Covid-19 full-scale stress test. Finally, the figures are also meeting expectations. In 2021, SILEX will have six offices, including Geneva, Zurich and Lugano, 80 employees, three billion in volume issued last year in structured products and 800 million in assets under management. We are ahead of schedule.
10. How many wealth managers are working with SILEX?
In our three main markets, Switzerland, France and Latin America, we now have more than 400 partners, about half of them in Switzerland.
11. What will be the key trends in the coming years?
In Switzerland, wealth managers are engaged in an in depth transformation of their business, both in terms of portfolio management and client relations. We want to become their partners of choice in this market, with a distinctive proposal and innovative solutions. In particular, this means becoming an established asset manager, increasing our assets and completing our range. I also believe that the coming years will confirm the evolution of the traditional model in wealth management. Many no longer fit into the traditional structures and will want to create new frameworks and new entrepreneurial projects. Technology may even make this easier for them. For these manager entrepreneurs, it is clear that we want to be their first phone call.