Exclusive interview: In talks with BDSwiss’ Chief Risk Officer Gregory Papagregoriou

Gregory Papagregoriou is Chief Risk Officer at BDSwiss Group and has over 13 years’ experience in the audit field of the oil and gas and capital markets industry. After getting his Bachelor in Accounting and Finance from the Nottingham Trent University, Gregory gained experience in the industry as an auditor, financial controller and risk manager.

Gregory joined BDSwiss in 2016 as a Financial Controller and later moved on to lead the Risk function with responsibilities for setting up and driving the group’s Enterprise Risk Management strategy and framework.

LeapRate sat down with Gregory to discuss how the company has been managing through this challenging period of global uncertainty and it’s future plans.

Gregory Papagregoriou, BDSwiss

LR: Hi Gregory and thank you for joining LeapRate today. How has BDSwiss been managing through this challenging period of  global uncertainty around the COVID-19 pandemic?

Gregory: The exceptional circumstances surrounding COVID-19 brought to light risks with a new sense of urgency. Even though BDSwiss is well-positioned to weather the COVID-19 pandemic, it has still been unlike any business challenge we’ve faced because it poses a threat to our employees’ safety and day-to-day business operations.

With a robust risk management structure already in place, we were able to take additional strategic steps to ensure business continuity. Our online operational model remained agile by switching our international operations to a remote work model to mitigate the challenges brought by COVID-19. We also addressed our employees’ concerns and minimised disruptions to our operations by ensuring they had access to all the necessary equipment and support to continue delivering outstanding customer service in a work-from-home environment.

During the lockdowns, we’ve seen unprecedented levels of market volatility, leading to a large number of investors turning to online trading as a way to capitalise on the short-term market opportunities. This created a huge influx in our trading volumes, and we take pride in being able to onboard many new clients seamlessly and efficiently, without impacting our operations. As our trading volumes tripled, we were also faced with increasing customer needs, so we had to make important investment decisions including acquiring more servers, hiring new talent and working relentlessly to refine our products and platforms.


LR: You must have some insight into how the global markets have been responding to the coronavirus?

Gregory: As COVID-19 spread, equities plummeted, and market volatility skyrocketed across the charts. Most analysts, including Marshall Gittler, our Head of Investment Research, agree that due to the disruptions in international trade, the economic fallout from COVID-19 continues to be devastating. We’ve seen companies’ share prices in major sectors take a hit, including those in banking, retail, aviation, hospitality and entertainment.

We’ve also seen energy markets hit rock bottom, with crude oil prices turning negative at -$40 per barrel for the first time in history. This was of course because oil reserves overflowed as the world was put at a standstill causing demand for crude and Brent oil to diminish.

Looking at our market analysts’ reports, as safe-haven prices appreciated, we’ve also noted attractive buy opportunities during the pandemic. Gold prices, for example, added 25% YTD, while the value of silver doubled.

In the forex markets, the pattern was quite clear: the “safe haven” JPY and CHF were the top gainers, while the US Dollar also benefited, thanks to the enormous appetite for the currency around the world in the face of the global economic panic. Whether positive or negative, these extreme price fluctuations created a lot of short- and long-term trading opportunities for CFD traders who sought to capitalise on these trends through online trading.

LR: In light of the recent economic scandals in the fintech industry, are there any observations you would like to share?

Gregory: Like many other brokers, we too had to deal with the adverse consequences of failing banks and payment processors, including Wirecard and Commerzbank. These scandals highlighted not only the importance of multi-regulation but also the need for robust internal controls and effective risk management practices.

Seeing how these high-profile fintech companies and banking institutions can be compromised by poor governance or even end up filing for insolvency, serves as a cautionary tale for the rest of us in the sector. It also underlines the importance of having a comprehensive Enterprise Risk Management model in place and of forging the right partnerships with legal teams and financial advisers. BDSwiss has an ongoing strategy seeking new opportunities in the Banking sector and agreeing terms with rated banks in order to strengthen diversification process and avoid adverse consequences.

LR: Would you like to share what steps your company has been taking to address the myriad concerns of clients, employees and partners around safety, operations stability and risk mitigation?

Gregory: Our commitment to crisis preparedness has enabled our Group of companies to remain highly adaptable and make efficient, strategic decisions when faced with unprecedented risk. Our actions have also helped to strengthen even further the trust that our partners, clients and employees place in us.

We also believe that a holistic approach to risk management that continuously learns from the crises we face is vital to business sustainability. We’ve built a transparent governance model that starts at the top with our Group’s senior management. Setting out a strong risk framework, our Compliance department has put in place strategic policies and practices to mitigate risks. At the same time, our dedicated Risk Management Committee is responsible for monitoring the day-to-day risk exposure of the Group, using internal tools designed to calculate capital adequacy and to perform regular stress tests.

When a workforce suddenly becomes dispersed, this also becomes a cyber risk. It’s why, as part of our ERM model, we ensured digital resilience by employing the latest security protocols and protections to safeguard our networks and client data.

At BDSwiss we endorse “stakeholder capitalism”, in the sense that we focus on serving the interests of all stakeholders – employees, clients, investors and partners – whom we consider to be just as important as shareholders in managing shared risks and creating and sustaining business value. Ultimately, BDSwiss continues to persevere and remain strong despite the pandemic.

LR: How does BDSwiss’ Risk Management approach affect company culture and employee trust?

Gregory: Our Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) programme enables us to “predict the unpredictable.” We maintain optimal communication across all areas of our Group, which in turn helps us foster a culture of transparency and trust.

We believe the heart and strength of every organisation are its people. It’s why we invest in our employees’ safety, and work hard to earn their trust. We listen to them and make sure to communicate clearly all the risks, as well as our crisis management plans, operational challenges and business continuity goals. We take the time needed to share what each plan entails and how it can evolve, while also seeking our employees’ engagement and input.

LR: Would you like to share with us any plans?

Gregory: As we move into Q4, we’ll continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation and take appropriate action when needed. Maintaining a safe working environment, as well as providing the best possible service to our clients, remain our top priorities. At the same time, we’re working to substantially expand our product offering and
introduce new services, including ETFs.

In times of uncertainty, creating meaningful relationships with employees, clients, and partners becomes even more vital to business sustainability. We’re pleased that – despite the challenges we face – we remain on a successful growth trajectory in 2020. We’re also expanding to new markets through strategic partnerships
while investing internally to ensure optimal operations are maintained at all times. Last but not least, we’ll be fine-tuning our risk management processes and internal controls through testing and employing automated and new risk management tools to ensure our growth is robust while remaining highly agile and adaptable to navigate the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

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