"We will continue to innovate to maintain our technological lead" – interview with Alexandre Zeller, Lombard Odier Partner

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"We will continue to innovate to maintain our technological lead" – interview with Alexandre Zeller, Lombard Odier Partner

Why did you choose to join Lombard Odier?

I must admit that just a few months ago, I thought I would stay in Zurich until the end of my career! Initially, I was surprised when Patrick Odier contacted me to become a Partner. But my mind was quickly made up especially as I was already familiar with the company, whose Board of Directors I had joined when the legal structure was changed in 2014.

 

Did Lombard Odier's status as an independent company with a long family tradition influence your decision?

Yes, it certainly played an important role. I have had the opportunity to sit on the board of directors of family companies such as Maus Frères and Kudelski for a long time, which has made me appreciate the model of being built for the long term. When partners speak with one voice, the model allows you to bring about real change, as with sustainability at Lombard Odier. I would also say that working for a firm that is more than 220 years old and whose mission is to accelerate digitalisation is a challenge that attracted me!

Working for a firm that is more than 220 years old and whose mission is to accelerate digitalisation is a challenge that attracted me!

As Head of Technology and Operations unit, what major projects lie in store for you?

Before I talk about projects, I would first like to say that I firmly believe we have one of the best banking platforms for investment, which is a great asset. I have seen many IT systems in my career and I am impressed by the computing power of our G2 system and the operational possibilities. But we must continue to develop it. This platform requires constant investment, both in terms of technology and client experience. Over time, we could also consider integrating certain market solutions in a few specific fields. We can't be the best in every single area! We also want to automate some processes in order to reduce costs and improve services. So we will continue to innovate to maintain our technological lead.

I firmly believe we have one of the best banking platforms for investment, which is a great asset.

Will any other projects have an impact on clients?

We are considering the possibilities of online payments and electronic signatures. But for that to happen, there has to be a standard in Switzerland, so we are monitoring the market. We are also examining different cloud technologies which are increasingly being used in the banking system, thanks to their data protection and encryption capabilities.

 

You have a good overall vision of the challenges of digitalisation and innovation in the banking sector. How do you think Lombard Odier is positioned?

We have excellent assets, but we must not rest on our laurels. In the coming years, we will focus on two main objectives: firstly, to improve and strengthen the core of our IT system even more and secondly, to make it more agile. These two axes are essential in a world that is changing at an ever-faster pace.

We have excellent assets, but we must not rest on our laurels

You have worked for very different financial institutions such as Credit Suisse, Banque Cantonale Vaudoise, HSBC and SIX. What key experiences have you gained at the technological level?

I remember that we audited our IT system about 15 years ago at BCV. The conclusion was that our platform would be dead within seven years, and yet it is still working well today! When it comes to technology, I think it's important to keep a cool head and not rush system changes. But we do need to be extremely vigilant about the rapid development of new technologies. The second significant experience I would mention is that of HSBC, in particular the data theft that occurred before I arrived but for which I had to manage the crisis when the information was disclosed. This was mainly due to organisational shortcomings within the bank. Of course, you can never have full control over everything, but internal security processes and data protection are essential.

When it comes to technology, I think it's important to keep a cool head and not rush system changes.

You are known mainly for your banking background, but you have also sat on the board of directors for various companies. What have you learned from these experiences?

I think it is always interesting to see how another organisation works, with different models and systems. At Kudelski, I also liked being at the heart of cybersecurity issues. At Maus Frères, it was more the branding aspect that I found interesting, with a portfolio of brands ranging from Manor to Lacoste. Not to mention the pleasure of building long-term relationships with these families.

Your passion for the mountains is also part of your personality. You say that when you’re at the summit that you make important decisions, is that correct?

They always offer moments for reflection, which I really need. I try to set aside time for rock climbing or running in the mountains whenever possible. At the beginning of the year, I went to Colombia with friends to do just that. And of course, I enjoy our mountains in Switzerland a great deal.

If something fundamentally goes against our own values, we must not be afraid to disagree and take the necessary decisions.

You said in an interview a few years ago that "the greatest failure of all is to lose your freedom." What freedom were you talking about exactly?

Freedom in terms of choices and decisions. This is one of my main drivers. If something fundamentally goes against our own values, we must not be afraid to disagree and take the necessary decisions. I have always tried to take this into account in my management, by not imposing arbitrarily but listening to my teams. For this to work, of course, employees must be committed and pull in the same direction. That's also why I joined Lombard Odier.

 

Alexandre Zeller – Key Dates

1961: Born in Geneva to a father in the military and a mother who was a porcelain painter.

1987: Joins Credit Suisse after three years at Nestlé. Becomes a member of the Private Banking Executive Board in 1999, then CEO in 2001.

2002: Appointed CEO of Banque Cantonale Vaudoise.

2008: Takes over the management of HSBC Private Bank Switzerland in Geneva.

2013: Appointed Chairman of the Board of Directors of SIX Group, the operator of the Swiss stock exchange.

2014: Joins the Board of Directors of Bank Lombard Odier & Co Ltd.

2016: Becomes Chairman of the Board of Directors of Credit Suisse (Switzerland) and then a member of the Board of Directors of Credit Suisse Group (2017)

2019: Becomes a Partner of Lombard Odier.

Important information

This document is issued by Bank Lombard Odier & Co Ltd or an entity of the Group (hereinafter “Lombard Odier”). It is not intended for distribution, publication, or use in any jurisdiction where such distribution, publication, or use would be unlawful, nor is it aimed at any person or entity to whom it would be unlawful to address such a document. This document was not prepared by the Financial Research Department of Lombard Odier.

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