Switzerland is world famous for its banks and thriving economy, with a GDP higher than most Western European countries. The price of the Swiss franc (CHF) was also quite stable compared to other currencies. In 2009, the financial sector in Switzerland contributed around 11.6% to the total gross domestic product and employed almost 195,000 people (136,000 of them in the banking sector specifically), which corresponds to almost 6% of the total Swiss labor force. In addition, Swiss banks employ around 103,000 people abroad.
Today, approximately thirty-three percent of all the world's funds are held outside the home country (also known as offshore investments), held by Swiss banks and financial institutions. In 2001, Swiss banks managed a total of 2.6 trillion US dollars in net assets.
Data protection declaration of the Swiss banks
The Banking Act of 1934 made it a criminal offense for a Swiss bank to disclose information about an account holder. The Swiss bank secrecy guarantees the secrecy of the bank customers. The anonymity guaranteed by Swiss law is in its essence similar to a level of confidentiality protection between doctors and patients or lawyers and their clients.
The Swiss authorities recognize the right to secrecy as a core principle to be upheld by any democratic state. While confidentiality is guaranteed, all bank accounts are linked to an identified individual, also known as the ultimate beneficiary. It should also be noted that even the principle of banking secrecy is not absolute per se: a prosecutor or a judge has the power to issue an executive order granting the right to grant court-enforced access to bank details required for conduct an investigation are required.
However, everything changed on May 27, 2015, when Swiss authorities signed an agreement with EU officials. The latter agreement brought the banking practices of Swiss banks and financial institutions into line with common European requirements and standards, ending the data protection directive that EU-based clients of Swiss banks had been enjoying lately. According to the provision of the agreement, both parties involved, Switzerland and the member states of the European Union, will automatically exchange information on each other's bank accounts from 2018 onwards.
Wealth management industry in Switzerland
Wealth management is a rapidly developing business in Switzerland. To ensure that the Swiss financial center actually prospers and benefits from this development, several local banking and financial associations have developed the Asset Management Platform Switzerland. This platform fulfills the tasks previously performed by the Asset Management Initiative, which was launched back in 2012. The ultimate goal of the platform is to make Switzerland an attractive destination for wealth management purposes on a global scale.
Asset management in Switzerland is to be developed into one of the leading forces in the Swiss financial center. The wealth management industry is recognized worldwide for a high level of trust and quality. The aforementioned platform is to be used to further develop wealth management in Switzerland as a strategic industry. This is intended to diversify the Swiss financial center by reintroducing existing business guidelines and compensating for declining sectors. Wealth management will also develop into a fully-fledged pillar of the financial center and the Swiss economy for private customer business and customer-oriented investment banking.
At the beginning of 2008, there were 327 registered and licensed banks and securities dealers in Switzerland. The companies on this list are diverse and include the two big banks as well as numerous smaller banks. Click here to view our Swiss bank catalogue.