For three generations, the Goldwasser family has supported its clients in the management of their savings, as a good father. If the profession has obviously evolved since the beginnings of the patriarch, the brokerage firm has not changed its DNA for all that: it always puts the human relationship at the center of its activities.
The story begins in Antwerp in the diamond district at the end of the Second World War. Adolf Goldwasser, known as Dolly, is an accountant and administrative manager with several diamond dealers. He was then contacted by the Drogné house, a well-known stockbroker in Brussels, who wanted to benefit from his reputation for integrity and rigor to develop an activity in the Metropolis. Dolly Goldwasser thus becomes a stockbroker and starts trading in currencies and gold in Antwerp. Quickly, the local office is growing. Dolly becomes a partner at Drogne.
The story begins in Antwerp in the diamond district at the end of the Second World War. Adolf Goldwasser, known as Dolly, is an accountant and administrative manager with several diamond dealers. He was then contacted by the Drogné house, a well-known stockbroker in Brussels, who wanted to benefit from his reputation for integrity and rigor to develop an activity in the Metropolis. Dolly Goldwasser thus becomes a stockbroker and starts trading in currencies and gold in Antwerp. Quickly, the local office is growing. Dolly becomes a partner at Drogne. “In the early 1980s, my dad asked me to join him, recalls André Goldwasser. At the time, I was working at IBM after obtaining my civil engineering degree at ULB. to retire and we had to prepare for what followed. So I joined the Brussels office, did an internship there in order to obtain the official and compulsory title of stockbroker. One thing led to another, the departure of the partners gave birth, in 1986, at Goldwasser Exchange.” Thirty-six years later, Goldwasser Exchange is still there, avenue Demeur in Saint-Gilles, and even expanding. Nowadays, independent brokerage firms like this can be counted on the fingers of two hands. A decline that is due to the evolution of regulation. “Previously, stockbrokers had a monopoly on stock market order, remembers André Goldwasser. Many companies or independent stockbrokers therefore had banks as clients. This has never been our case. When these banks were authorized to operate themselves, it was the end of the stockbrokers in physical person. To survive, they would have had to set up an administrative and financial structure. Many were unable to do so.” When he created Goldwasser Exchange in 1986, André Goldwasser therefore chose to extend the historical activities to stock market transactions and wealth management. He started from a base of loyal customers in Antwerp. In the port city, it was customary to hear “In Dolly, we trust!”, by analogy to the official currency of the United States, printed on each dollar. “Goldwasser was a quality label, remembers André Goldwasser. The name inspired confidence. The fact that I am Dolly’s son and that I worked for a few years with him opened many doors for me. confidence in him remained. Some are still there. Or their children. In Antwerp, everything worked on trust. The personal relationship was crucial. Customers were interested in people, not in the structure that he there was behind it. It also imposed itself on my sons and my nephew when they entered the company.” Indeed, the beginning of the 2000s saw the arrival of the third generation. The one that will propel the family business into another dimension. Alexandre is the first to join his father after earning his law degree at Bar-Ilan University in the suburbs of Tel Aviv. He was followed by his brother Raphaël when he graduated from Ichec in 2004. Today, the latter is responsible for the financial part of Goldwasser Exchange: accounting, client accounting, investments, discretionary management, etc. “When I arrived, we had a small office in the diamond district, recalls Alexandre. We gradually developed other activities such as securities. At the time, the FSMA (the Belgian authority for services and financial markets, Editor’s note) had made it clear to us that for a small company like ours, it was smarter to specialize. We then focused on bonds. They were popular with our customers who liked to take professional risks but wanted a safe product for savings. In 2008, we launched Oblis.be, an information site on bonds. Its attendance remains very high today. This specialization, which protected us from the 2008 crisis , attracted people who had nothing to do with our background. It was this product that initially broadened the horizons of Goldwasser Exchange.” In 2013, André Goldwasser went one step further. He decides to open up the capital to two other people. First his nephew Jonathan Goldwasser. This graduate of the ULB polytechnic school had worked for Engie for seven years (power plants, onshore wind power, etc.). He brought to management the IT skills it lacked. Then, Alain Guigui, former classmate of Jonathan and tax lawyer at CMS-De Backer, who therefore moved from the bar to the legal and compliance aspects of the brokerage firm. “Goldwasser Exchange is a company under statute, confides the latter. Accreditation as a brokerage firm is not easy to obtain. Being a depositary is a serious asset. Since 1902, the year of creation of this statute, the regulations have not In some respects, we are now operating like a bank. Except that we are small and we have to be able to take on… This regulation and galloping digitization have sometimes been hard to swallow for certain structures. saved us was that we had all the skills in the management committee. From now on, Goldwasser Exchange no longer depends on anyone.” “The regulator is powerful and picky, adds André Goldwasser, but it is fair and correct. Savings are well protected with us.” Today, Goldwasser Exchange employs 13 people. The company manages 460 million euros. In 2004, it was 12.5 million… The company has therefore seriously diversified its clientele. “There are always clients interested in bonds, continues Alexandre. But when their rates fell, there was a transformation with clients rather focused on discretionary management with a more traditional approach. Given the persistence of low rates and uncertainty, this management has grown because it reassures and reassures. The savings market is large in Belgium. There is room for everyone. We are not in the niche of ultra- rich even if we welcome them with pleasure! (Laughs) Let me explain: when you have a big fortune, you will be well received everywhere. You will be invited to Francorchamps or Roland-Garros. When you are a ‘simple’ saving with 500,000 euros for example, it seems that we no longer find a real service from a bank today. This is what recently arrived customers explain to us. They are disturbed by the dehumanized side of banks with their call center, the changing manager all the time, etc. What we offer, most banks no longer do. A real link, a real level of accessibility, an exchange of ideas, an ease of placing orders without too much constraint, etc. Most of them went directly by phone. Our customers like to talk to a human being who knows their needs and requirements. And since we do everything ourselves, we have the answer to everything on the slip. Financial services with a human face have always been the family’s hallmark.” “We have only one strategy, adds Raphaël. This is management as a good father. It is sometimes difficult to understand when the stock markets are good. But in years like the one we are living through, it allows us to remain zen. No one has asked us to sell anything so far. What matters to us is that the client benefits from the rises, certainly more moderately, but is protected from the falls and avoids giving in to panic.” A human face, therefore, but with a solid IT infrastructure behind it, to fulfill its role custodian and ensure a high-performance back office, in particular via Goldwasser Online, an interface that allows clients to consult the evolution of their portfolio on all media and even to view bond interest and future stock dividends. Like many financial institutions, however, Goldwasser Exchange is plagued by talent shortages and admits that finding staff who combine real human qualities with financial and technical skills in the market is a real challenge. serene spirit in 2017, André Goldwasser is not however too worried about the future, waiting to see the emergence of the fourth generation. Having the same spirit would be great, he concludes. There are many children but it is much too early to imagine them in the company. And there is no shareholder pact in this sense. But what touches me is that it is a family company that bears the name of the family. This name has become a label.” “I am sometimes asked how the outsider situation is managed in a family company, smiles Alain Guigui. In fact, I don’t feel that way. We are in a peaceful situation between professionals who know their job inside out. We have created a favorable climate for customers but also for ourselves. Frankly, it’s an ideal situation to allow the children to continue.”