Back in 2000, when internet access was a fledgling market in Egypt, the founders of Sigma Securities were ahead of the financial services market in launching the first online trading platform. Today, Sigma remains at the forefront of online brokerage in Egypt through its ongoing investment in its people and technology. Sigma offers the full range of brokerage service available to investors in Egypt, all of which are powered by a comprehensive web-based platform. Since its inception, Sigma has relied on the recognition that quality brokerage comes from combining an end-to-end brokerage service with the dynamism of technology. It is this recognition that sets Sigma apart.
When Sigma was founded, internet access in Egypt was a young market; few online services were available to users. Nonetheless, it was clear to the founders of Sigma, spearheaded by Mr Ahmed Marwan, that the future lies in the use of technology to build an organisation that empowers the brokerage service provider, and ultimately the customer, with a quality brokerage and investing experience. Armed with years of experience in the financial services industry and a clear vision for the future, the founders set out to build a world-class securities brokerage service catering to the Egyptian market. With focus on quality at the heart of its vision, Sigma's goal was to build a robust organisation that relies on top-notch human resources and state-of-the-art technology. The first step towards achieving this goal was the creation of a web-based internal platform that automates brokerage processes, thereby increasing service efficiency. As a result of its technological investments, Sigma gained a platform that not only optimises operational efficiency, but also was the best online trading application available for end-users.
Sigma established its dominance of the Egyptian online brokerage market by launching the first customer-facing online trading platform in 2000. Since that first launch, Sigma has been channeling its harnessed experience in online trading towards retaining its position of dominance.
Sigma's online trading platform goes beyond being a user friendly human interface. A quality online trading platform enables traders to make sound trading decisions through availing all the resources and functions that they may need in a single stop. In addition to standard trading actions such as buying and selling, Sigma clients have the benefit of accessing an unmatched resource of real-time market statistics and data as well as reports and analyses. Sigma is the only brokerage company in Egypt that provides a web-based quotes streamer, allowing clients full trading mobility. As quick decisions are an integral part of trading, Sigma guarantees near 100 percent service up-time for its online brokerage service. This is complimented with Sigma Plus, a human brokerage assistance service created specifically to ensure that all the needs of Sigma's online traders are addressed in a timely fashion, including brokerage, banking, research as well as technical computer assistance
Behind the scenes
Sigma's edge in online brokerage is a result of the company's focus on innovation. Sigma continuously pursues the answer to the following questions: how can service quality be improved? What are the needs of Sigma's customers and how are they best fulfilled? Sigma's investments in technology and innovation provide the necessary basis for the company's service advantages. A robust and flexible combination of hardware and software integrated with multi-layer connectivity ensure an unmatched service level in the Egyptian market, creating the necessary capacity and scalability to withstand the traffic demands of Sigma's current and future online trading customers while retaining service quality. This is achieved through careful planning and constant diagnosis that ensures business continuity even when faced with multiple failures from third parties.
The quality of the online brokerage service that Sigma's customers see on the front-end cannot be possible without full automation of all company processes in the back-end. Since the first phases of development, the dynamic nature of Egypt's budding brokerage industry led to the need to ascertain the system's adaptability as an integral part of development requirements. Consequently, Sigma prides itself on quick responsiveness to customer needs regarding the delivery of new system features and upgrades. During the course of 2009, there have been multiple cases of a 48hr turnaround time for features requested by Sigma's clients outside the capital of Cairo. Sigma recognises that hardware and software alone are essentially useless without the human intelligence that moulds them and creates purpose. Simply put, the whole team spends a great deal of time thinking about how to do the job better in a more efficient and timely manner.
Sigma's focus on technology for service quality is driven and solidified by the company's investment in human capital. At the heart of Sigma's success is the finest team of professionals in the financial services industry in Egypt. From traders to analysts to technology specialists, Sigma boasts the industry's top subject matter experts in the local market. At the helm of management is Mr Mohamed Hammam, Sigma's Managing Director, with career experience focused on brokerage operations management. A core element of Sigma's success can be traced to the values that constitute the guiding principles for all business strategies, decisions and execution thereof; values that are diffused throughout the organisation and in every single process and action performed every day. Sigma strives to set the standard for ethical practices in Egypt's brokerage market, focusing on transparency and fair-dealing with all stakeholders. The importance of continuous learning and innovation is another value that contributes to Sigma's leadership position, especially in light of Sigma's reliance on technology as one of its main differentiators. These values serve as a basis for Sigma's ultimate mission: to lead the industry in customer satisfaction and retention.
A well-deserved payoff
As a result of Sigma's investment in building its organisation and services, the company has been experiencing spiraling growth since 2007. Sigma's volume of trade grew 17 fold between 2007 and 2009 compared to a three-fold market growth. As an indicator of the growth in Sigma's online brokerage business, Sigma's online trading platform now serves 60 times the customers it served in 2007, constituting about 37 percent of Sigma's total trading volume. Sigma's total customer base has seen a 100 percent increase between 2007 and 2009. This magnificent growth trajectory has been serviced by a 300 percent increase in the number of Sigma employees, and has lifted Sigma's ranking amongst brokerage firms in Egypt, rising from 50 in 2007 to 11 throughout the second half of 2009. Due to its reliance on automation and technology, Sigma's organisation is by far the leanest in the industry, thereby maximising its margins. More importantly, Sigma's name has become synonymous with the benchmark of quality brokerage service in Egypt.
Right place, right time
The future looks bright for the economy of Egypt in general. Despite the global financial crisis, Egypt sustained a five percent growth in real GDP in 2008-2009, and FDI continues to grow in the wake of reforms in Egypt's commercial sector. With economic prospects looking favourable, Sigma is poised to continue its rapid growth trajectory through its continued focus on customer satisfaction and innovation. This growth will be achieved through Sigma's ongoing expansion into the retail market through the establishment of branches and representative offices throughout Egypt's governorates. Capitalising on its web-based platform, Sigma is also looking to extend its customer reach through relying on its virtual organisation to cater to the needs of clients throughout the Middle East region. Over and above, Sigma plans to spread the reach of its services beyond the Egyptian brokerage market, availing trading on international exchanges through its online trading platform. These developments are scheduled for launch during the first half of 2010.
Amr Rakha is Sigma Capital's Business Development Manager.
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