Thursday, April 24, 2008

"IXE opens string of trendy banks"

(Published March 22, 2008 in the Guadalajara Reporter)

The first thought that comes to mind stepping into one of the 12 new IXE banks in Guadalajara is that you've accidentally walked into a Starbucks. And just as your eyes adjust to the warm, designer lamps you notice that there is, in fact, a cafĂ© to your right…and is that Norah Jones playing overhead?

IXE Grupo Financiero has, since only October of last year, neatly established its attractive, trendy bank branches all over the city. The company plans to open a total of 20 locations, each one appearing to be pulled straight from an Ikea catalog with a striking absence of every hassle a bank trip normally entails.

IXE, a word in nahuatl that essentially means "he who practices what he preaches," has for the last 13 years been one of the front-runners in Mexico's investment sector, providing foreign exchange, asset and wealth management to corporate and private clients. IXE most recently added banking services to that list.

Roberto Manuel Bejar Orozco, director of the Ladron de Guevara branch in Guadalajara, explains that the bank grew out of their investment house (casa de bolsa) in Mexico City. Clients of IXE's services there complained of having to use separate institutions for banking and brokerage.

"It was our clients that asked for the bank services," Orozco explains. "It was very successful in D.F., and now it's growing at a national level."

Many current members of IXE bank services were top clients of other investment firms, as well as former clients of IXE employed bankers who brought them along when they joined the new company. Orozco refers to IXE's clientele as the "premier" sector.

That explains the absence of long, ticker-tape lines-the idea is to maintain few clients, exclusively of professional and corporate backgrounds, in order to provide a high quality experience. The more clients a bank has, says Orozco, the more it will lose. In fact, IXE bank barely advertises; most new clients come by word of mouth.

Unlike most banks that require a minimal sum to start an account, an IXE account opens at a hefty 20,000 pesos. This exclusivity, however, is exactly what a typical bank does not provide even to its premier customers, and is what draws big investors to the new bank. Because investment and banking services are combined, IXE is able to offer lower fees than most brokers.

Pamphlets and signs inside the bank emphasize the bank's personalized services. "Because you deserve it," says one, referring to a rewards program. "We treat every client as if he were the only one, and every client is the most important one."

This sentiment is immediately perceived: customers are genially greeted upon entering and promptly offered a beverage from the coffee bar. Three shiny Macintosh computers are available in the front window for browsing the Internet.
IXE prides itself on small details, such as a toll-free phone line for clients sans robot assistance-a live voice will always answer inquiries. The bank even provides a free document courier service to clients' home or office addresses.

"The main benefit is that at IXE bank you are treated like a person, with unique and high quality service," Orozco says.