Clouds gathering over Europe
After more than a decade of being constantly on the verge of a full-blown crisis - political, economic, monetary, or all of them at once - today, the European Union appears to be closer to that edge of the cliff than ever before.
With a war on its doorstep, an economy in disarray and an energy crisis that will potentially cost lives this winter, it is becoming increasingly difficult to imagine any scenario that doesn’t involve severe financial pain for most households and dangerous sociopolitical tensions flaring up.
Since the start of the year, inflation has been relentlessly on the rise, climbing from one record high to the next, and doing so with no sign of abating. And while many political excuses have been deployed by ECB figures and by politicians throughout the bloc, any diligent observer of monetary policy over the last decade most likely knows better.
Since the onset of the 2008 recession, the European Central Bank has implemented persistently aggressive and reckless policies to artificially prop up the Eurozone’s economy and its ailing currency. Mario Draghi, with his (in)famous “whatever it takes” stance, normalized the once absurd concept of negative interest rates, while overzealous money printing became the order of the day. And indeed, even after the 2011 Eurozone crisis, the currency did survive and all these efforts were widely celebrated, as was the man behind them. But not many investors or analysts ever stopped to think: at what cost?
The same “playbook” was followed during the covid crisis. In order to deal with the incalculable damage that the lockdowns and the forced business shutdowns inflicted upon the bloc’s economy, the ECB, this time under the leadership of Christine Lagarde, again turned to the printing press in search of a panacea. Once
more, after the worst of the pandemic was behind us, the central bank was widely praised for its role in saving the economy. Again, very few took a moment to ask: at what cost?
The answer to that question is now plain for everyone to see. After gathering a lot of compound interest for all these years, the bill has finally arrived in the form of an inflation rate of 10%. And while the ECB leadership tried with all its might to deny it for almost a year, by insisting that inflation would return by itself to the 2% target, the fact remains that the basic laws of economics still apply, and wishful thinking does not suffice to suspend them. Too much of anything in circulation diminishes its value and money is no different.
As for the steps taken to counter the problem, “too little, too late” is a gross understatement. For months after inflation established a clear upwards trajectory, the ECB insisted on maintaining its negative rates policy. Even after the Federal Reserve and the Bank of England reversed course and embarked on a series of rate hikes, Eurozone policy makers still very resolutely stuck to their “wait and see” approach. It was only on July 21, 2022, that the bank finally decided to act. For the first time in 11 years, it announced a 50-point increase of its key interest rates, which brought the official rate to zero and on September 8th, another hike followed.
As for the very root of today’s problems, President Lagarde still unapologetically stands her ground. While the purchases under the bank’s regular Asset Purchasing Program (APP) and the pandemic emergency purchase program (PEPP) may have come to an end, reinvestment of these bonds (that stood at 3.436 trillion euros at the end of August) will continue when they reach maturity. As she told the European Parliament at the end of September, “When we have completed our monetary policy normalization, using the most appropriate, efficient and effective tool, that are the interest rates, then we will ask ourselves: how, when, at which rhythm, at which pace, we use the other monetary tools that we have available, including quantitative easing”.
Record inflation has been making daily headlines in many Eurozone nations and, more often than not, there has been one common denominator that one can easily spot in the coverage: The focus is persistently, overwhelmingly on energy prices. Of course, there is nothing wrong with that, per se. Fuel costs exploded in Europe and energy is indeed one of the main drivers of the CPI’s skyward trajectory. Households and businesses are facing increases up to 750% in electricity bills since the beginning of the year and the impact on the real economy is already devastating. As the New York Times recently reported, “high energy prices are lashing European industry, forcing factories to cut production quickly and put tens of thousands of employees on furlough. The cutbacks, though expected to be temporary, are raising the risks of a painful recession in Europe. Industrial production in the euro area fell 2.3 percent in July from a year earlier, the biggest drop in more than two years.” And this, unfortunately, is only the beginning, with winter fast approaching and fuel demand expected to sharply rise.
While the energy crisis indeed presents a very serious challenge, it is important to note that extreme price increases have been a much wider problem. As we already outlined in our last issue of the Digger, countless households have been under pressure since the beginning of the year. Europeans are finding it increasingly difficult to cope with the relentless food price inflation, forcing many to make a choice they never thought they would have to face: “eat or heat”. According to the Financial Times, “butter prices in the EU have surged 80 per cent in the year to July, with milk powder up more than 50 per cent and beef 28 per cent higher”. Furthermore, the price increases can vary greatly between countries. For example, Hungarians, among the hardest hit by food inflation, are paying 66% more for bread and 49.5% more for cheese, compared to last year.
To make matters worse, there aren’t too many reasons to hope that the steps being taken by governments to ameliorate the inflationary pressures will have any significant effect. In fact, given the nature of most of these policies, one can only hope they will not actually exacerbate the crisis. This is because this “patchwork” of solutions is geared towards throwing more money at a problem that was largely created by having thrown too much money at a previous problem. The Italian government sent out a €200 “cost of living bonus” to certain groups of workers, the unemployed, and pensioners. Germany is spending over €65 billion to combat high energy crisis, a package that included a €300 one-off payment for workers. France, Denmark, Poland and Greece have also adopted their own “fuel cheque” policies.
The role of the Ukraine war in Europe’s cost-of-living crisis can certainly be debated ad nauseam. There is no doubt that Russia’s move to massively cut gas supplies to Europe had a direct effect on prices and it is obvious that trade and logistics disruptions have caused price spikes in commodities like grain and impacted food costs. Nevertheless, it is also essential to bear in mind that inflation in the Euro area had already reached worrying levels months before the war broke out. Even more importantly, if we are to use political arguments to defect the blame from monetary and fiscal mistakes, a practice that most political and institutional leaders in Europe eagerly engage in, then we would be remiss if we didn’t mention the EU’s energy policy over the last years. Having fully embraced a “green agenda” and embarked on a premature energy transition away from fossil and nuclear sources, Brussels all but guaranteed the bloc’s absolute dependence on imports.
As is the case with virtually every economic crisis in- history, financial uncertainty and fear breed social and political frictions. The public looks for someone to blame and most of the time voters are justified to blame whoever is in charge, but the alternatives they gravitate towards are not always better replacements. We frequently see sudden shifts of support to the extremes of the political spectrum and to populists of all stripes who promise easy and painless fixes to very complicated problems.
We saw this after the 2011 Eurozone crisis and we’re starting to see it again now. Voters sent a clear message to President Macron who lost his majority in the last legislative elections in France. In Sweden’s election in mid-September, the far-right Sweden Democrats recorded their best result ever, with 20.5% of the vote. The latest nation to follow suit was Italy, where Giorgia Meloni, leader of the “Brothers of Italy” party, is now the country’s first female prime minister, heading the most right-wing government since WWII.
Overall, a lot of old arguments and debates are resurfacing in Europe. Immigration is once again becoming a hot button issue, which is quite predictable when most citizens are struggling to make ends meet and feel “there’s not enough to go around”. Extreme public pressure for governments to “do more” to provide financial help is also growing. Demanding minimum wage hikes or the expansion of various welfare programs and subsidies, workers have moved on from demonstrations to full blown, industry-wide strikes.
Airlines, airports, and railways have seen the most extensive disruptions, however, unions from other industries are also using strikes as leverage. In France, various labor and trade unions got together
to organize a national general strike to protest the loss of purchasing power and a similar action is
planned in Belgium, triggered by the exact same grievance.
It is quite clear that although the “return of the right” has been the focal point thus far of most mainstream
political analyses, given the nature of the current public demands and the leverage that unions have over an already fragile economy, we are more than likely to see a resurgence of the extreme left as well. And as the opposite ends of the political spectrum garner more and more support, social friction and
unrest become increasingly likely scenarios.
Given the present challenges, clearly the outlook for Europe, and for the Eurozone in particular, is rather bleak and an extended Ukraine-Russia conflict will not help. Even if a resolution were to be reached tomorrow, the bloc’s economic, and by extension political, woes would most likely persist. Taming inflation after it has already reached its present levels is virtually impossible without serious policy changes that could plunge the economy into a deep and prolonged recession. Clearly, either scenario spells trouble for the euro.
It is important to highlight, however, that while our outlook for the Eurozone as a whole might be far from positive, this doesn’t mean aren’t any interesting investments out there. On the contrary, diligent and patient investors are bound to find very attractive opportunities at cheap valuations amid the overall market turmoil, especially if their risk appetite is somewhat higher.
But for those who are focused on the long-term preservation of their wealth and on protecting what is rightfully theirs against both economic and political threats, it is by now self-evident that physical precious metals are still amongst one of the safest bets.,
Were challenger banks overhyped?
They promised to “disrupt” the banking industry, to reshape and reimagine the way we think about transactions, the way we save and the way we do business. They pledged to leverage modern technologies
and innovation to make all this profitable too and to exploit new ways of making money in the banking business.
But what have they actually delivered?
The first “challenger banks”, or neobanks, popped up in the UK and Germany between 2013-2015. Among them were Monzo, Revolut, and the Peter Thielbacked N26. Especially in the beginning, they offered barebones services, often only a checking account with a debit card, and some only had a mobile app interface... not even a website! As expected back then, they weren’t exactly an overnight sensation. For most people, it took a while to take that leap of faith and abandon their friendly neighborhood banker at their brick-and-mortar branch who was there every time their card was stolen vs. having to deal with a chatbot instead.
Nevertheless, many were eventually won over by the deals offered by the neobanks. Most of them charged little to no fees. There were no transaction costs, no currency conversion charges, no extra fees for using another bank’s ATM to withdraw cash, and even if there were they were, nothing compared to what most traditional or “legacy” banks imposed. And then there was the onboarding process. It usually only took a few minutes, it was all done through the neobank's app, and all the paperwork that one had to submit was a photo of their passport and an address. There were no credit checks to speak of, no burdensome tax-related documentation or no proof required that the customer- to-be was in good standing with any other financial institution.
As the neobanks continued to grow, they spread to more and more countries and expanded their service range. They started offering investment options or saving accounts, for example, with extremely attractive rates, especially at a time when savers where earning nothing on their deposits. They also rolled out different account “tiers” that customers could upgrade to, for a small subscription fee, usually no higher than $10/month. These accounts included variety of “perks” formerly associated with exclusive “black cards” such as concierge services, travel insurance, and airport lounge access. And if that wasn’t enough for millennials, they also offered metal or customizable cards, which then certainly-sealed the deal.
Soon enough, investor interest was piqued and it didn’t take long for money to start flowing in. But it wasn’t only the spectacular customer base growth that generated all that buzz. It was also the prevailing narrative at that time: neobanks were leveraging innovation to serve all those that the big banks snubbed, like the growing ranks of the gig workers, the immigrants sending remittances back home, and every single person living paycheck to paycheck that simply had enough of seeing unreasonably large parts of that paycheck go to hidden fees. At their peak, the neobanks were seen as the world’s first “honest bankers”.
Overpromising and underdelivering
In the US alone, today there are around 60 challenger banks with about 23 million customers, a figure that is projected to more than double by 2025, according to consumer finance website Bankrate. com. On a global level, approximately 400 neobanks serve almost one billion customers. By now, it’s been quite a few years since the neobanks’ original promise to “disrupt” the financial services industry, and it’s fair to say that so far, the results have been underwhelming at best.
They did make good on their “financial inclusion” pledge by providing banking services to many previously unbanked or underbanked people. Countless neobank customers have reaped enormous, perhaps even life-changing benefits simply by being granted access to a checking account, by being able to receive small payments literally instantly (and not in 2 working days excluding bank holidays), or by having the ability to make international transfers for free. The importance of these benefits and the opportunities neobanks opened up for so many cannot be overstated.
However, it can be argued that one of the factors that stopped them from fully materializing their original potential was precisely this emphasis on inclusion, or “inclusiveness” as it is better known in the Zeitgeist today. The race to sign up as many new customers as possible came with serious, albeit quite predictable, downsides, especially as the challenger niche got increasingly crowded. That “streamlined” account opening process might have been very convenient for most new sign-ups, but it was even more convenient for bad actors. As Georg Hauer, a former general manager at N26, pointed out, the anti-money laundering (AML) and financial crime detection systems of challenger banks are “so inefficient that only 1% of suspicious activity is
stopped. Overall, 95% of those [accounts or transactions] flagged are false positives. It’s a huge problem for challenger banks… Any other system that has a 99% fault rate, you would kick out.” Almost all the leading neobanks have already had to pay hefty fines for AML and KYC lapses.
Another strategic mistake was prioritizing innovation and various gimmicks over security and reliability, unlike traditional banks. Without a doubt, they are slower to adapt, they still rely on old technologies, and they habitually get bogged down by red tape and bureaucratic processes. But there’s a price for simply doing away with all that, as many of the new challengers found out.
Revolut has and continues to suffer recurring payment processing downtimes, the N26 app had serious security flaws that made its customer vulnerable to hijacking attempts, while Chime suffered a daylong, total outage that left its 5 million customers at the time without access to their cash. The widespread and frequent outages and the security concerns have made it all but impossible for the neobanks to gain traction with businesses, costing them a huge, and much-needed, opportunity for further growth.
What also heavily contributed to the demise of numerous neobanks and to the losses of many more investors who bet on the industry as a whole was a general misunderstanding about what the companies in this space actually are and how they turn (at least in theory) a profit. For one thing, it’s important to understand that neobanks are not banks; they are tech companies that partnered up with small or largely unknown banks to offer their services and to provide protection to checking and savings accounts, as regulators demand in most countries. So, they do not keep and lend out customers’ deposits the traditional way to make money in the banking business. And they don’t charge any fees (as they never tire of reminding us). Their profit is made from charges imposed on the merchant side and increasingly from subscriptions.
As the last couple of years have made abundantly clear, these revenue sources are nowhere near enough. According to a recent report by Simon Kucher & Partners, out of the twenty-five biggest neobanks, it was revealed that only two reached profitability and less than 5% of all of them are breaking even. And investors are paying attention: after a record year for funding in 2021, fresh flows are now starting to dry up. According to CB Insights, the second quarter saw a a 77% decline in funding from the same period last year.
The “honest banker” that never was
As profitability proved to be elusive and as funding declined, some neobanks simply went bust, while others downsized and withdrew from many regions. Many of the ones that kept going, however, managed to do so by turning to some of the oldest tricks in the banking playbook: confusing terms and conditions, offers with caveats, and lot of “small print”.
For example, as Bloomberg reports: “New Yorkbased Current claims more than 4 million customers and an interest rate on savings of 4%, which is far higher than the national average of 0.06%. But customers can apply the 4% rate only to a maximum of $6,000 set aside for savings, according to the company. Similarly, Chime in San Francisco, which has more than 13 million users, says it doesn’t charge overdraft fees and allows users to exceed their balances by as much as $200. The stipulation: The nofee option is available only to accounts with at least $200 in direct deposits a month, and customers need to qualify first.”
It didn’t take long for practices like these to start attracting regulatory attention. The CFPB announced earlier this year that it would use a “largely unused legal provision to examine nonbank financial companies that pose risks to consumers”.
Sticking to what one does best
Of course, none of this means that the innovation and the opportunities that neobanks brought to the market should be disregarded. What it does mean, however is that following the hype uncritically is a dangerous, and often doomed, investment approach. As we always advise our own clients, investors have a responsibility to “check under the hood” before making a decision, and whenever they feel they are not adequately versed in the specifics of whatever industry they’re looking into, they should seek expert advice. Media coverage and articles in the mainstream financial press do not qualify as such.
As it turns out, it was a similar kind of mentality that caused the demise of many neobanks. They overextended themselves and they ventured into areas they had no experience in, such as investing, payday advances, and micro-loans, losing track of their initial vision. Nevertheless, they still have their place and will most likely continue to do so as long as they can refocus on their core strengths.
They have an undeniable advantage in instant and often totally free transactions and their apps are perfectly suited for everyday purchases and online shopping. The demand is obviously there, as a billion neobank customers will testify. The only question is whether they will be able to adjust their business model and find a viable and realistic way to profit from it.
As for the “legacy” banks, they continue to have their place too, even if that “place” is getting increasingly smaller thanks to FinTech and to the crypto revolution. Maybe these pressures will force them to evolve, or perhaps we are already hearing their death knell.
But one thing is certain, as we at BFI Bullion know very well: the value of human relationships, personal service and expertise is irreplaceable, especially for decisions and guidance on saving and financial planning, wealth management, and investments.
“Jurisdictional Diversification”: A mouthful, but more important than ever!
Since the dawn of this latest decade, 2020, we’ve dealt with Covid, geo-political flare ups we couldn’t have predicted, widespread social unrest the likes of which we have never experienced in our lifetimes, and immense global recession concerns created by years of “easy money” and astronomical debt, persistent inflation, etc. This challenging new era we find ourselves in requires more flexibility and thinking outside of the box again: all considerations should be on the table!
I recently met some long-time clients and their three adult children as part of going to the vault to have a look at and count the metals they have in storage with us. As I drove the siblings to the vault, I was tasked by their parents to describe to their children why holding precious metals outside of the US and outside of the banking system was so important.
In explaining the benefits of storing metals – or for that matter, just holding any kind of assets – outside of their home country, I spit out the words, “jurisdictional diversification”. One of the siblings stopped and asked me to repeat what I said. I apparently said it quite fast, and he wanted to be sure he understood me. I repeated it, explained it, and continued on with my other reasons.
When we got to the vault and got out of my car, he said, “Jurisdictional Diversification…I like those words. I think I get it…I’ll never forget those words”. I joked with him that he should try to say it three times fast!
Jurisdictional diversification is a term I’ve used many times during my tenure here at BFI, but finding an actual Webster’s dictionary definition, I discovered, is quite difficult. To describe it in the simplest of terms, at least in the way I use it, it refers to the act of holding your assets in different countries than your home country. But if you pare it down, it could apply to a different location other than your house, or a different city, a different state or county, etc. Quite simply, if you, your assets, or your family are in more than one place, you are jurisdictionally diversified, whether you realize it or not.
The goal is to diversify, mitigate, and reduce the risk that can come about by keeping all your investment “eggs” in one basket. Here’s a very easy example to explain what I mean, and I’ll use gold coins for the example since this is what we deal with at BFI Bullion. Let’s say you own 100, 1oz gold American Eagles, and you store them all at home in a safe…or perhaps under your mattress or in a sock drawer. Let’s call your home your “jurisdiction”. If a thief breaks in and robs your home, they have access to all your coins. You could be completely emptied out and left with nothing. 100 to nothing in a heartbeat!
If you would have even stored a quarter of those in a different location – say, a bank, or a storage location with safe deposit boxes, or even at another family member’s home – you wouldn’t have lost everything. Plus, having assets in another place would allow you to go to that place, access your assets, and help you to get back on your feet quicker.
The importance of holding assets in more than one jurisdiction today
It was widely reported at the beginning of October that America’s gross national debt exceeded $31 trillion, edging perilously close to the statutory ceiling of $31.4, or the artificial ceiling Congress has placed on the US government’s ability to borrow.
Maya MacGuineas, President of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, was quoted in an email as saying, “In the past 18 months, we’ve witnessed inflation rise to a 40-year high, interest rates climbing in part to combat this inflation, and several budget-busting pieces of legislation and executive actions”. She rightly concluded, “we are addicted to debt." Economics professor, Sung Won Sohn, from Loyola Marymount University, highlighted another obvious, but extremely worrying fact: “it took this nation 200 years to pile up its first trillion dollars in national debt, and since the pandemic we have been adding at the rate of 1 trillion nearly every quarter."
It’s pretty fair to say that the US, as well as most other western governments, are getting more desperate by the day. Prior to covid, the global tendency was already headed towards centralization and a larger role for government in our lives. And now compounding all of the issues we’ve seen of late, we should expect that desperate times could lead to desperate measures.
It’s therefore not too surprising that we are hearing concerns again from American prospects and clients over possible gold confiscation like Executive Order 6102, which in 1933 required every American to deliver all but a small amount of their gold bullions, gold coins, and even gold certificates to the Federal Reserve in return for a fixed exchange. President Roosevelt at the time basically banned private ownership of gold, forcing Americans to sell their gold at $20/ounce (only to re-evaluate it to $35 a few weeks after, turning a profit for the government).
While some would argue the reasons were different then, and there’s no way the government could do that now, the fact is we have some very real situations that have occurred not so long ago that make one wonder. Ask Greek residents about the that day in 2015 when they woke up to find their banks closed and capital controls imposed, placing limits on how much savers and investors could withdraw from their own accounts. Or in 2013, when Cyprus banks were closed to avert a run on deposits and the goverment actually reached into personal bank accounts and took whatever it needed to pay its own overdue bills.
"It’s pretty fair to say that the US, as well as most other western governments, are
getting more desperate by the day... And now compounding all of the issues we’ve seen of late, we should expect that desperate times could lead to desperate measures."
One can diversify these risks by holding some assets outside of their home country. As I’ve always said, holding some assets in another jurisdiction will, at the very least, afford you time to decide what to do. But if you are going to jurisdictionally diversify, practical thinking dictates you should do so in a place where chances of something like gold confiscation, or a government being able to run amok with controls is unlikely to happen. Even banks you use serve you best when they are in jurisdictions with healthy finances, rule of law, and respect for private property.
Just remember, investing assets outside of your home country doesn’t mean you get the right to stop reporting them, or not declaring them in your taxes depending on the rules and regulations of your home country. However, what it does mean is that you’ve been thinking and preparing more than others.
How and where to start
In our BFI Capital Group’s Special Report, "On the Brink of a New Era – Are You Prepared?", which we published just over two years ago, we were already recommending the easiest ways for diversifying our country risk through the use of storage of metals, like what we offer at BFI Bullion, or through the use of foreign bank accounts, and even through investing in foreign entities.
Other options, albeit in some cases more involved to do or coming in with higher minimums or costs, were and still are private managed accounts, private banking, and second passports/citizenships. As an Americ an myself, I understand that it hasn’t been easy for Americans to diversify internationally. But technology, the fact that financial advisors and institutions have gotten used to the rules, and lets’ face it, time, amongst other things, have benefited us all with opportunities to further protect our assets.
It is also important to remember that where you diversify to is just as important as the vehicles you choose to do it. For us, Switzerland still remains one of the best alternatives. I could understand if you think we are biased, but the fact remains that we still have direct democracy here and the people can bring an issue to a vote anytime we feel the government has over-stepped its boundaries. There’s also an amazingly deep-rooted respect for private property. I'd go far enough to say that the majority of the Swiss are probably storing at least some gold at home. Can you imagine how a proposed gold confiscation would fly here?
The idea of holding assets or storing gold hundreds or even thousands of miles away may come off as being strange, or something only for the ultrawealthy, but clearly we have cases in history where it can be a bad idea to keep everything at “home”.
“Jurisdictional diversification”: yes, it is a mouthful to say. But the fact is that it is now more important than
ever to consider it for at least some of your assets. All seriousness aside, in hindsight, you should be happy I didn’t start with “multi-jurisdictional diversification”!
From Application to Purchase… in a Snap!
As we are coming up on the one-year anniversary of the inception of our online onboarding, or online application, process which kicked off in the late fall 2021, we felt it was a good time to share the success story with you.
Armed with internet access on a laptop or PC, a valid passport or national identity card, a scanned utility bill not older than 3 months old at the ready, a cell phone with picture and video-capture capability, and about 20 minutes of time, a new BFI Bullion prospective client can now go through our application process completely
The online onboarding process allows our new clients to avoid the process of completing an application by hand, having to go to a notary to get their ID copy notarized, and mailing all of the originalsigned, originally notarized documents to us here in Switzerland. Individuals, joint owners, and even entities can apply using the online system!
The process, in brief
Before explaining the steps, note that if you are an existing client that has purchased or has holdings at BFI Bullion already, there is no need to go through the process. The fact that you have access to our Client Portal will mean the system will recognize your email and identify you as in our system already.
However, if you plan on applying perhaps with a new entity, or as joint account holder with someone that isn’t in our system, then you can certainly take advantage of the online onboarding. If you have any questions in that regard, you can always feel free to contact us.
You can start the application process by visiting our website. Take a look around the website while you are there, as we’ve made a few changes over the past few months you might find interesting.
After entering some basic information, like one’s name, address, and contact details, the applicant will be provided access to their very own Client Login Portal where they are requested to set up a Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) for an extra level of security in gaining access to the site.
With the MFA established, using the technology of Swiss company fidentity AG, and after linking their phone via QR code provided onscreen, the process has the applicant scanning their valid passport or national Identity card before then taking a couple of selfies of themselves. No notary needed… just a smile!
Back on screen, the applicant is asked to attach their current utility bill connecting them to the address in the onboarding process, and has to answer the usual questions we are required to ask in order to meet our anti-money laundering (AML) and Know Your Client (KYC) regulations in Switzerland.
And “presto”, the process is completed!
For us, the identification technology also uns a check on the applicant regarding their PEP (politically exposed person) status and is able to warn us along the process if something isn’t right or if the applicant stopped the process and at what point. The applicant also has the capability of starting and stopping the process, so they can come in again and pick up where they left off.
The technology has already allowed us to onboard more than 110 new clients, and more than 70% of those turned around and executed their first purchases within a day or two of applying.
With all the talk of technology, we can still assure you that BFI Bullion will continue to offer the same services as always, and we will always still accept physical paperwork in the onboarding, trading, and other processes. But even with our physical application process, by getting the completed documentation to us electronically, we’ve also been able to get clients to their initial purchases in record time.
In this Digger, we wrote about neobanks having become successful in part thanks to a quick onboarding process that only takes minutes. But their race to sign up as many new customers as possible came with consequences, because their processes cut corners in many cases, leading to their running afoul of regulators.
Our process takes 20 minutes, but the time is worth it. We’ve taken the steps to get metals in the hands of our clients quicker while still making sure we abide by the rules. And just like the service we like to provide our clients, we too like to sleep well at night!