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Banking in Switzerland

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Swiss Banking all you need to know - major banks, main players, types of accounts -

Who can open a Swiss bank account?
In principle, any adult person can open an account at a bank in Switzerland. However, the legal provisions of the home country with regard to cross border business have to be respected. Banks reserve furthermore the right to reject customers. For example, a bank might refuse to offer banking services to a so-called "politically-exposed person" who the bank believes would pose too great a reputational risk if he or she were to become a client. A bank might also refuse to start a banking relationship if it has doubts about the origins of the potential client's funds because Swiss banks are forbidden by law to accept money which they know or must assume stem from crime.

Swiss Bankers Association (SBA)
The Swiss Bankers Association (SBA) was founded in 1912 in Basel as a trade association and today has 347 institutional members (Raiffeisen banks are counting as one institute) and approximately 17'600 individual members. Self regulation organ and representative of the interests of banks in Switzerland, the SBA is one of the most important institutions of the Swiss Financial Centre. The Association’s Office employs a staff of 66. 11 commissions and associated working groups deal with key issues affecting the financial market policy. Serving on these commissions are some 700 representatives of various banking groups.

Swiss Banking Ombudsman

Any customer who has a dispute with his/her bank but does not want to go to court may contact the Swiss Banking Ombudsman, whose services are free of charge. The ombudsman is a neutral and independent office for resolving customer disputes. Although it has no powers of arbitration, it mediates between the parties to the dispute. Instead of prescribing a particular judgment, he recommends a legally not binding, negotiated solution. Nevertheless, the ombudsman successfully mediates in many cases.

SIX Group

SIX Group operates the competitive infrastructure underpinning the Swiss financial center, catering to an ever-increasing global client base. Its business fields provide infrastructure services relating to securities trading, securities clearing and settlement, payment transfers and financial information. This includes the operation, regulation and monitoring of electronic exchange trading, the calculation of indexes, downstream settlement and custody processes for securities trading, the distribution of reference and market data, operational processes relating to the issuance and acceptance of credit, debit and prepaid cards, the settlement of cashless transactions and electronic bills, and interbank payment transactions in Swiss francs and euro. SIX Group generates around one third of its revenue abroad and has a presence outside Switzerland in 22 countries, where almost one third of its employees work..

Swiss National Bank (SNB)

The SNB is the central bank of the Swiss Confederation, and it runs the country's monetary policy independently. It can act as lender of last resort, providing liquidity to Swiss banks if special conditions are met. However, unlike the Bank of England, for instance, it has no regulatory powers - banking supervision is the purview of the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority

Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority

The FINMA is responsible for the regulatory supervision of banks, exchanges, securities traders and collective investment schemes. It grants new banks authorization to begin conducting business and supervises them continuously through statutory auditors. In the event of a violation of law or other abuses, the FINMA can order appropriate corrective measures. If the case is serious enough, it can withdraw the bank's operating permit.

Financial intermediaries without bank status

In addition to the banks and their various bodies, the Swiss financial sector also plays host to financial intermediaries without bank status. These intermediaries, which are regulated by a special federal authority, include the management companies of Swiss investment funds (under the Investment Fund Act), life insurance companies (under the Insurance Supervision Act) and securities traders (under the Stock Exchange Act). A number of other financial intermediaries are only subject to the Money Laundering Act. These include anyone who looks after other people's assets or helps to invest or transfer them, such as asset managers, brokers, bureaux de changes, lawyers, credit card companies etc.Independent asset managers in particular form a large and important group. They are brought together in the Swiss Association of Asset Managers (SAAM) VSV. The total assets under management by SAAM members is estimated at CHF 375bn, which equates to 13% of all assets under management in Switzerland. Independent asset managers maintain close relations with one or more banks, the banks serving as custody banks for the clients’ assets.


PostFinance is another non-bank financial intermediary. As one of the Swiss Post’s business areas, it is part of an independent federal institution. PostFinance engages primarily in domestic and international payment transactions. Its activities comprise increasingly also investments, pension schemes and lending. Moreover, PostFinance offers selected financial products such as investment funds and insurance policies, in co-operation with banks as its external partners.

We recommend Offshore banking Advisor for opening Swiss personal or corporate bank account with International Debit Card.

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