GFI in the l'ECHO newspaper 03/04/21

GFI in the l'ECHO newspaper 03/04/21
Posté sur Press
03/04/2021

Gold & Forex, New management

  • Founded in 2005, Gold & Forex has weathered the crisis well in its precious metals business.
  • On the other hand, foreign exchange is at half-mast. This has led to the need to explore new opportunities.
  • For example, a deposit activity will be created.
  • The company can count on the support of its new shareholder, Whitestone Partners.

Gold coins

©saskia vanderstichele

Simon Souris

03 April 2021 02:45

The holding company Whitestone Partners, created by former CNP employees, has become the majority shareholder of the Belgian leader in foreign exchange and precious metals.

Behind the relative calm of the Rue du Midi, the Gold & Forex International (GFI) trading room is buzzing with activity. A team of 13 people is busy with the rhythm of almost constant phone calls. On the screens, the price of a Napoleon, a Krugerrand or an ounce of gold rises and falls according to supply and demand. Welcome to the discreet world of currency and precious metal trading.

The company nestled in the heart of historic Brussels is the market leader in Belgium. Its customers? From the average person, who can obtain more than 60 currencies in banknotes on the same day before an urgent departure abroad, to the country's banks, via family offices or wealth managers.

"The crisis has reinforced the appeal of safe havens such as physical gold.

Alexandre Convent Head of the trading desk at GFI

 

Last year, turnover amounted to 238 million euros, compared to nearly 157 million pre-Covid. This is a sign "that the crisis has strengthened the appeal of safe-haven assets such as physical gold (known as investment gold)" and other precious metals, which account for the vast majority of the business, says Alexandre Convent, head of the trading desk.

 

But not everything is rosy, due to the crisis. In the foreign exchange business, the travel ban has quite logically weighed on volumes. "Today, we work mainly with the dollar, the pound sterling and the Swiss franc," says the counter clerk, who has been in the business for 35 years.

A revitalization of the offer is therefore being studied. With the key, why not, an emphasis on numismatics that continues to animate the few shops in the historic center, as well as enthusiasts on the web.

After all, the world is changing. Quickly. Drastically. So it would be dangerous to ignore it. Multiple diversification plans are on the table, such as the possibility of buying gold by the gram, which would eventually be physically converted once the weight of a 10 gram ingot is reached, for example. This would open the door to new generations, inspired by the Bitcoin model.

Last year, Gold & Forex launched an e-commerce platform allowing gold purchases up to 60,000 euros.

 

Last year, an e-commerce platform was also launched for gold purchases up to a maximum of 60,000 euros. "The idea is to increase this to 15% of sales within three years," says Nicolas Portello, head of operations and digitalization.

Moreover, a deposit activity will be launched next week. This will enable anyone who wants to have their precious metals stored in a safe place, outside the banking system, which was sometimes rendered inaccessible at the peak of the crisis. GFI will provide a remote deposit management tool in the process that will handle any physical interaction.

Ammunition needed

But with ambition... comes the need for ammunition. In this sense, GFI can now count on the support of its new shareholder since January, the young investment holding Whitestone Partners, we learn. Co-founded by former members of the Compagnie Nationale à Portefeuille (CNP) of the Frère family, the company has taken a majority stake in the Brussels-based company.

 New management team

Nicolas Portello (left) is the son of one of the founders. He will be supported by the new CEO and shareholder, Sandro Ardizzone (center). With Alexandre Convent (right), they will form a trio at the head of the company.

©saskia vanderstichele

 

However, the founding families remain on board to ensure the transition. No deadline for exit. "You aim for the long term when you come on board a company," says Sandro Ardizzone, co-founder of Whitestone and now also CEO of GFI.

"You aim for the long term when you come aboard a company."

Sandro Ardizzone

Co-founder of Whitestone and CEO of GFI

 

Approved by the financial markets authority FSMA, GFI was launched in 2005 by Didier Jacques and Thierry Portello, two heavyweights in the sector with more than 40 years of combined experience.

The summary:

  • Founded in 2005, Gold & Forex has weathered the crisis well in its precious metals business.
  • On the other hand, foreign exchange is at half-mast. This has led to the need to explore new opportunities.
  • For example, a deposit activity will be created.
  • The company can count on the support of its new shareholder, Whitestone Partners.

Trading Desk