Overview Banking in Switzerland - Banking in the World

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Overview Banking in Switzerland

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Swiss neutrality and national sovereignty, long recognized by foreign nations, have fostered a stable environment in which the banking sector was able to develop and thrive. Switzerland has maintained neutrality on World Wars matter and is not a member of the European Union.

Some history about Switzerland Banking, it began in the eighteenth century by way of the riches of merchants. Wegelin & Co., established in 1741, was the oldest bank in Switzerland until it restructured into a new legal entity in 2013. Hentsch & Cie and Lombard Odier both private banks were founded in 1796 in Geneva, Pictet and Cie was established in 1805 as a merchant bank. Hentsch & Cie were a founding member of the Swiss National bank during 1852.

Switzerland is a prosperous nation with a per capita gross domestic product higher than that of most western European nations. In addition, the value of the Swiss franc (CHF) has been relatively stable compared with that of other currencies

Currently an estimated one-third of all worldwide funds held outside their country of origin (sometimes called "offshore" funds) are kept in Switzerland.

The Bank of International Settlements, an organization that facilitates cooperation among the world's central banks, is headquartered in the city of Basel. Founded in 1930, the BIS chose to locate in Switzerland because of the country's neutrality, which was important to an organization founded by countries that had been on both sides of World War

The Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) is a public law institution that supervises most banking-related activities as well as securities markets and investment funds. Regulatory authority is derived from the Swiss Financial Market Supervision Act (FINMASA) and Article 98 of the Swiss Federal Constitution.

The office of the Swiss Banking Ombudsman, founded in 1993, is sponsored by the Swiss Banking Ombudsman Foundation, which was established by the Swiss Bankers Association. The ombudsman's services, which are offered free of charge, include mediation and assistance to persons searching for dormant assets. The ombudsman handles about 1,500 complaints raised against banks yearly.

Banking privacy Swiss bank secrecy protects the privacy of bank clients; the protections afforded under Swiss law are similar to confidentiality protections between doctors and patients or lawyers and their clients. The Swiss government views the right to privacy as a fundamental principle that should be protected by all democratic countries. While privacy is protected, in practice all bank accounts are linked to an identified individual. Moreover, the bank secrecy is not absolute: a prosecutor or judge may issue a "lifting order" in order to grant law enforcement access to information relevant to a criminal investigation

Taxation in Switzerland
Swiss law distinguishes between tax evasion (non-reporting of income) and tax fraud (active deception). International legal assistance used to be granted only with respect to tax fraud. Under pressure from the OECD and the G20, the Swiss government decided in March 2009 to abolish the distinction between tax evasion and tax fraud in dealings with foreign clients. Switzerland adheres to the international OECD standards with regard to administrative assistance in tax matters (decision to take over the OECD Model Tax Convention, in particular Article 26)

For Swiss taxpayers the distinction remains in place. Although not considered a crime and hence not prosecuted in a penal court, tax evasion is a serious offence under Swiss tax law and hefty financial penalties apply. In domestic prosecutions, banking secrecy may be lifted by court order in cases of tax fraud or particularly severe cases of tax evasion.

Pressure on Switzerland has been applied by several states and international organizations attempting to alter the Swiss privacy policy. The European Union, whose member countries geographically surround Switzerland, has complained about member states' nationals using Swiss banks to avoid taxation in their home countries. The EU has long sought a harmonized tax regime among its member states, although many Swiss banking officials (and, according to some polls, the public) are resisting any such changes.

However, Switzerland did not want to be seen as an obstacle to closer tax cooperation among EU-member states and decided to support the international efforts to adequately tax cross-border investment income. The retention tax agreed with the European Union (EU) in the taxation of savings income agreement is a suitable and efficient means of doing so. The EU is committed to eliminating existing loopholes in the system of taxation of savings income. Switzerland has expressed to the EU its willingness in principle to correspondingly adjust the taxation of savings income. Here it should be noted that Switzerland has adopted the OECD standard on administrative assistance and that the Federal Council rejects the automatic exchange of information. Since July 1, 2005, Switzerland has charged a withholding tax on all interest earned in the personal Swiss accounts of European Union residents.

Switzerland is not a member of the European Union but, since December 2008, is a part of the Schengen agreement.

Swiss banks, as well as the post office (which handles some financial transactions) use an electronic payments system known as Swiss Interbank Clearing (SIC). The system is supervised by the Swiss National Bank.

Major banks
UBS and Credit Suisse are respectively the largest and second largest Swiss banks and account for over 50% of all deposits in Switzerland; each has extensive branch networks throughout the country and most international centres.

Due to their size and complexity, UBS and Credit Suisse are subject to an extra degree of supervision from the Federal Banking Commission.

The Swiss National Bank (SNB) serves as the country's central bank. Founded by the Federal Act on the Swiss National Bank (16 January 1906), it began conducting business on 20 June 1907. Its shares are publicly traded, and are held by the cantons, cantonal banks, and individual investors; the federal government does not hold any shares. Although a central bank often has regulatory authority over the country's banking system, the SNB does not; regulation is solely the role of the Federal Banking Commission.

United States and Swiss Banking


Swiss bank accounts cannot be opened without the holder signing a legal document asserting that they have no outstanding financial obligations to the IRS. Despite this, Swiss banks have been criticized for improperly shielding tax evaders.

In January 2003, the United States Department of Treasury announced a new information-sharing agreement under the already extant U.S.-Swiss Income Tax Convention; the agreement was intended to facilitate more effective tax information exchange between the two countries. However, Swiss policy has continued to come under international criticism, and in March 2009 Switzerland agreed to renegotiate more effective tax cooperation with the United States and other countries.

Money laundering

There are several measures in place to counter money laundering. The Money Laundering Act sets forth requirements of account holders' identification, and requires reporting of any suspicious transactions to the Money Laundering Reporting Office.

According to the CIA World Factbook, Switzerland is "a major international financial center vulnerable to the layering and integration stages of money laundering; despite significant legislation and reporting requirements, secrecy rules persist and nonresidents are permitted to conduct business through offshore entities and various intermediaries..." However, Switzerland's cooperation in transnational financial issues has been praised by several major U.S. officials. A Federal Bureau of Investigation anti-terrorism official noted that Switzerland was one of several countries to participate in joint task forces targeting financing of Al-Qaeda terrorist cells; a former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury praised Swiss cooperation and the country's assistance in the finding and freezing of terrorist and Iraqi assets.

Numbered bank accounts
Some bank accounts are afforded an extra degree of privacy. Information concerning such accounts, known as numbered accounts, is restricted to senior bank officers, rather than being accessible to all the employees of a bank. However, the information required to open such an account is no different from that of an ordinary account; completely anonymous accounts are not allowed by law. Should a criminal investigation take place, law enforcement has access to information related to a numbered account in the same way it has access to information about any other account.


Swiss banks and World War II

Several inquiries have been made into the conduct of Swiss banks during the Nazi Germany period (1933–1945), especially regarding funds deposited by or allegedly stolen from victims of the Holocaust. The campaign causing the highest outlays (US$1.25 billion in 1999) on the part of the Swiss banking industry as of 2009 was the World Jewish Congress lawsuit against Swiss banks launched by Edgar Bronfman, president of the World Jewish Congress, in concert with US Senator Alfonse d'Amato of New York.

The audit run by the Volcker commission which resulted from this lawsuit cost CHF300 million and gave its final report in December 1999. It determined that the 1999 book value of all dormant accounts possibly belonging to victims of Nazi persecution that were unclaimed, closed by the Nazis, or closed by unknown persons was CHF95 million. Of this total, CHF24 million were "probably" related to victims of Nazi persecution. In addition the commission found "no proof of systematic destruction of records of victim accounts, organized discrimination against the accounts of victims of Nazi persecution, or concerted efforts to divert the funds of victims of Nazi persecution to improper purposes." It also "confirmed evidence of questionable and deceitful actions by some individual banks in the handling of accounts of victims".

In response to the lawsuit, the Swiss government commissioned an independent panel of international scholars known as the Bergier Commission to study the relationship between Switzerland and the Nazi regime. It reached similar conclusions about the banks' conduct in its final report, and found that trade with Nazi Germany did not significantly prolong the war.

Allegations of black money

Swiss Banks are alleged to stash black money (money not reported to the government for tax purposes); reportedly, the value of deposits in Swiss banks by Indians exceeds the value of deposits by any other nationality. Editor-in-chief for WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, noted that, as per documents of bank accounts by a former banker and whistleblower Rudolf Elmer, the "names in the documents came from 'US, Britain, Germany, Austria and Asia' – from all over"




 
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