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Re-envisioning banking and creating an exciting experience. Making better financial decisions possible, no matter when, where or how the customer makes use of our offerings. To achieve this, we are investing in services and innovation. And that brings us right to the heart of what moves bank customers today. That is exactly what the comdirect brand stands for.

Annual Report 2014
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More than a digital bank branch

comdirect is investing in a range of banking products that’s as intuitive and straightforward as possible. An offering that gives customers direct access to all the services of a full-service bank whenever, wherever and however they want them. And banking with all sorts of access options, but without waiting times – and with just one opening time: always.

A modern-day bank branch now fits into every pocket and is open all hours. The bank customers uses this branch whenever, wherever and however they want to. It is becoming less and less common for customer accessibility to take the form of physical presence at the branch. Rather, it is increasingly a question of offering the right online and mobile channels – and a portfolio of products in keeping with modern bank customers’ lifestyles. Significantly more than half of all banking transactions are now made digitally, while the number of bank branches has fallen by a quarter over the past ten years.

Online banking increasingly popular:
55% of Germans manage their account online. The number of bank branches has conversely fallen by about 20% over the past ten years.
Source: Deutsche Bundesbank, Eurostat

Banks wishing to win over the new generation of customers need to offer more than just a free account together with bank cards. “Banking transactions need to be as straightforward and intuitive as possible,” says Kirsten Albers, Head of Banking at comdirect. “The tools should make everyday life easier and more comfortable. Ideally, it should even be fun for the customers to use them.”

For comdirect, re-envisioning ‘bank’ therefore also means involving the customers in innovation processes early on and developing ideas further in partnership with them. Turning invoices into money transfer orders without the lengthy process of entering details? A platform for informal exchange among customers? There are still plenty of ways in which a digital bank can be made more attractive.

This doesn’t always mean complex developments are needed. For example, last year comdirect introduced account opening via videotelephony, which saves new customers having to go to their local post office for the Postident identification process. This was an important step in the direction of being able to open an account in a single online session.

New cooperation partners

To increase the rate of innovation, comdirect works selectively with finance start-ups (otherwise known as fintechs), and these have, in particular, helped to advance finance management and payment solutions in recent years.

“Fintechs are becoming increasingly important as cooperation partners,” says Dr Sven Deglow, Chief Representative at comdirect. It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved: the start-ups can launch their ideas on the market more quickly in conjunction with the strong comdirect brand, and comdirect customers benefit from new, innovative services.

“It’s important to us that the customers are provided with the right tools with which to make better finance decisions. We therefore always welcome good ideas,” says Deglow.

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Greater returns within reach

Most things, be it shares, bonds or commodities, will generate greater returns in the long term than is the case with meagre deposit interest rates. comdirect has re-envisioned financial investment – and is making it easier than ever before for savers to take investments into their own hands and reap the full potential offered by the capital market.

Life assurance, daily money, fixed-term deposits: market interest rates close to zero have starved what were once the safe havens for German savers. If money is unable to grow, no wealth can be accumulated or provisions for old-age made. If the interest rate is lower than the inflation rate, the intended appreciation becomes depreciation. Private households in Germany nevertheless maintain almost a fifth of their assets as deposits that are due on demand, and are watching their savings slowly dwindle, while record highs are recorded on the equity markets.

Those who get the entire economy to work for them rather than simply depositing their money at the bank or in an insurance policy will generate greater returns in the long term. But according to Deutsches Aktieninstitut, only one in eight Germans benefit from companies’ growth and profits by means of funds or shares. The others tend to lack two things: the courage to abandon an already well trodden course of investment and a coach to assist them and who they can trust.

We firmly believe that every saver can take control of their investments and make the most of opportunities for returns coupled with limited risk if they are presented with the right products and tools. In 2014, comdirect developed its “Bessere Geldanlage” (“Better financial investment”) offering, to make it easier for customers to opt for securities. It allows customers to easily determine their own investment profile and to put together an ETF or fund portfolio for one-off investment or for a savings plan based on their risk preference and investment goals. The investment proposal also includes the costs involved in the investment. Preference is given to products that currently involve reduced order fees. “Our aim is for every investor to find a suitable solution that’s as inexpensive as possible,” explains Daniel Schneider, Head of Investing at comdirect. This gives everyone the opportunity to generate acceptable returns in spite of the low interest rate environment – without having in-depth financial market expertise.

Opportunities for returns hardly utilised:
Only 13.1% of Germans used the upswing of the capital markets in 2014 via stocks or funds.
Source: Deutsches Aktieninstitut

Online investment and asset accumulation is a line of business that has not yet been tapped, in spite of its vast potential. “The large target group of customers who would like to make their own decisions but who have been put off by the complexity of what’s on offer can only be won over with simple and transparent solutions,” says Schneider. “We continue to lead the way in this area.”

Award-winning quality

External experts have also determined that our “Bessere Geldanlage” product really is better. In September, it was awarded the 2014 Customer Innovation Prize by the German Institute for Service Quality (DISQ), the DUB journal for business owners and Goethe University Frankfurt.

For comdirect, this new product is a first important step on its way to becoming Germany’s leading bank for online asset accumulation. This is a promising investment, in particular in light of the fact that the number of customers wishing to manage their finances themselves is on the increase. According to a study conducted by the FOM University of Applied Sciences, six out of ten young professionals don’t bother with traditional investment advice.

The next step is for the entire investment universe, comprising ETFs, funds and savings plans, to be further expanded. comdirect already has more than 10,000 funds and upward of 1,000 ETFs that are fungible, of which some 570 are suitable for savings plans. Thanks to partnerships with major providers as well as special offers, a large number of products can be made available with reduced order fees or without front-end loads, which makes them even more attractive for the customers. Returns are therefore within reach more than ever before.

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Real-time customer dialogue

Modern bank customers no longer measure accessibility in terms of their proximity to the nearest bank counter: accessibility is about being in tune with digital life. This goes for comdirect’s Customer Services too, which can be contacted around the clock in a number of different ways. And which is as personal as the customers want it to be.

Video chats and live message-based chats are part of everyday life for an increasing number of people. Branch-based customer advisors with rigid working hours are no longer in keeping with the modern world. It’s therefore no surprise that only a small proportion of customer enquiries are now made at branches. Instead, more and more customers are interested in real-time digital dialogue.

comdirect’s Customer Services employees have always had a major part to play in our customers’ satisfaction and their willingness to recommend us to others, thanks to their high degree of expertise, their fast response times and their friendliness. Our next aim is to achieve customer services that seamlessly adapt to user behaviour – and that create a degree of personal accessibility that was once only possible if the customer visited their branch.

Real-time communication:
More and more customers contact comdirect Customer Services using the chat feature.
Source: comdirect

Taking video chats as an example, the format tested in the area of building finance advice has also been used for customer services since 2014. “The focus is still on our proven telephone service – but many of our customers appreciate being able to not only hear, but also see a member of staff,” says Henning Ratjen, Head of Customer Services at comdirect. In addition, in the case of live support the customer and the customer service staff member are able to see the same screen content, allowing complex matters regarding securities settlements or tax statements, for example, to be clarified quickly.

Chats instead of lengthy email dialogues

But the customers don’t always need lengthy explanations. Younger customers in particular know that the quickest way to get answers is via live message-based chat. Instant messages have long since become the primary means of communication in the private sphere. In contrast, they are still a relatively new phenomenon in the area of bank customer services. comdirect introduced a text chat function in 2014 that allows the customers to contact the bank informally and at any time of day. The Customer Services staff answer the questions asked via this function right away and can ask the customer questions themselves, too – and it’s all a lot more straightforward than with conventional emails.

It’s a service that is proving to be popular: “The number of chat sessions is increasing in direct proportion to the decline in emails,” says a delighted Ratjen. This is reducing the response time for enquiries made in writing, which is something that’s of benefit to both the customers and the bank. This modern format also further increases customer satisfaction and brand appeal.

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Capital market within reach

Trading instruments come in a variety of forms, be they shares, options, certificates or CFDs. And the people who use them are as diverse as the instruments themselves: highly active day traders for whom every second counts, conscientious strategists who rigorously adhere to their tactical approach, ambitious investors looking to improve their returns with the occasional trade. By further developing its array of brokerage products, comdirect is making its tools and platforms even more tailored to the needs of these individual target groups.

The trading community in Germany is anything but uniform. In addition to the small group of professional heavy traders and day traders, the community also includes a large number of market players who trade actively but don’t respond to every stock market fluctuation down to the last second every day. And this group in particular represents opportunities for growth: the lower the deposit interest rates and the greater the fluctuations in the stock markets, the more attractive trading becomes as an interesting alternative for investors.

In contrast to specialised and niche service providers, comdirect has always appealed to a broad target group with its brokerage services. After all, an offering that meets the needs of professional traders allows all the market players to generate greater returns. As such, comdirect customers trade on all the key stock exchanges both domestically and abroad, also trade over the counter in real time, can monitor limits, use numerous tools for technical, custody account and risk analysis, and effect their investment strategies conveniently and automatically.

Meanwhile, the new ProTrader trading platform has been specially developed for heavy traders for whom every basis point counts. It gives users an even better overview of stock exchange developments by integrating custody accounts, order books, watch lists, charts and news. Trading can also be effected much more quickly thanks to customisable menus and one-click order processes. The CFD platform is likewise designed with high expectations in mind: With Commerzbank as the market maker, comdirect provides access to a highly liquid market for more than 1,200 instruments, also allowing larger sums to be traded with low spreads. The platform was already being used by more than 10,000 active customers in the third year since its roll-out, many of whom were acquired as new customers. This makes comdirect the number three provider in Germany in this area.

Growth is to be secured by addressing the various customer groups in a targeted manner in the future as well. “As the market leader in the online securities business for modern investors, we aim to provide all of our customers with services based on their needs,” says Jan Enno Einfeld, Head of Trading at comdirect. The focus is on further developing mobile brokerage – with high requirements being made of functionality and performance – and on appealing to newcomers and occasional traders through the tailored services.

Excellent services from Germany’s performance broker:
73% of customers rate comdirect’s securities processing as “excellent” or “very good”.
Source: comdirect

“Not everyone has to pursue a complex trading strategy or trade in CFDs on commodities,” says Einfeld. “Rather, we are focusing more on also enabling securities savers to manage risks and to be able to use suitable instruments.” comdirect is therefore investing especially heavily in knowledge transfer and coaching. Old hands and newcomers can take part in free online seminars to learn everything they need to know about choosing the right securities, and trading tools.