Additional information regarding banking systems is available in the “Financial Sector” sub-section of the Investment Climate Statement.
Last Published: 2/14/2019
Switzerland is one of the world's foremost banking and financial centers with 266 banks as of 2017. The banking network is highly developed, and Swiss banks are among the world's leaders in specialized fields such as private banking and asset management. The total assets of the Swiss banking system at the end of 2016 amounted to USD 6.8 trillion (Swiss francs 6.7 trillion) including assets managed by Swiss banks abroad. The physical presence of U.S. and other foreign entities in Switzerland is vital to successful financial services trade and continues to play an important role in the competitiveness of the Swiss financial services sector.  The banking landscape in Switzerland is diverse, including universal banks, cantonal banks, private banks, and wealth and asset managers.

Established in 1907, the Swiss National Bank (SNB) has executive offices in Bern and Zurich and branch offices in Basel, Geneva, Lausanne, Lucerne, Lugano, and St. Gallen. More than half of its share capital is held by the cantons, the cantonal banks, and other public bodies; Swiss citizens own the remaining shares.  Although the Federal Government is not a shareholder, it has statutory power to appoint the majority of the Bank Council members as well as the three members of the Governing Board and their deputies. As the SNB fulfills a public task, it is administered with the cooperation and supervision of the Confederation.

The SNB conducts the country’s monetary policy as an independent central bank. Its primary goal is to ensure price stability, while taking due account of economic developments. It determines and implements monetary and credit policy, has the exclusive right to issue or withdraw bank notes and coins, and serves as a clearing-house for inter-bank transfers.  Furthermore, it has an arrangement with the Principality of Liechtenstein to permit the use of the Swiss Franc as that country’s currency, and clears Liechtenstein’s transactions.
The SNB Bank Council oversees and controls the conduct of business by the SNB. It consists of 11 members. The Federal Council (Switzerland’s executive body of 7 ministers, including the President of the Confederation) appoints six SNB Council members, including the SNB president and vice president.  The SNB shareholders appoint the remaining five members. The SNB’s managing and executive body is the Governing Board, which is responsible for monetary policy, asset investment strategy, and international monetary cooperation. The Enlarged Governing Board consists of the three members of the Governing Board and their deputies. It is responsible for strategic and operational management. Upon the recommendation of the Bank Council, the Federal Council appoints the members of the Governing Board and their deputies.

The Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) groups together under one authority the government supervision of banks, insurance companies, stock exchanges, and securities dealers as well as other financial intermediaries in Switzerland. FINMA was formed in 2009 as a merger of the Federal Office of Private Insurance (FOPI), the Swiss Federal Banking Commission (SFBC), and the Anti-Money Laundering Control Authority. The aim of FINMA is to protect creditors, investors, and insured persons and to ensure the general functioning of the financial markets in accordance with financial market legislation. It thus helps reinforce Switzerland’s image and competitiveness as a financial center.  The provisions of criminal law on money laundering and the Federal Money-laundering Act are binding for all providers of financial services.
The Anti-Money Laundering Act, the Anti-Money Laundering Ordinance, and the FINMA Anti-Money Laundering Ordinance establish the significant legal basis for combatting money laundering in Switzerland, strengthening due diligence obligations on the part of banks and other financial intermediaries.

The following is information on the key players of the Swiss banking sector:
UBS AG and Credit Suisse: The two largest banks, UBS AG and the Credit Suisse Group, together account for nearly 50% of the assets of all Swiss banks. They are universal banks engaged in all types of banking business.

Cantonal banks: Cantonal banks are defined as banks with a statutory basis under cantonal law, with the canton holding a minimum of one-third of the banks’ capital and voting rights.  The 24 cantonal banks are engaged in all banking businesses with an emphasis on lending and deposits.
The Raiffeisen Group: The Raiffeisen Group consists of affiliated independent banks with strong local roots and organized along cooperative lines. In recent years, Raiffeisen has positioned and established itself as the third largest banking group in Switzerland. Raiffeisen meanwhile counts 3.7 million Swiss citizens among its customers.  Of these, some 1.9 million are members of the cooperative and hence co-owners of their Raiffeisen bank.
Private Banks: Private banks include individually owned firms, collectives, and limited partnerships. Their field of activity is asset management, chiefly for private clients.
Foreign banks: The 99 foreign banks in Switzerland each have a majority shareholder domiciled abroad.  All foreign banks in Switzerland are subject to the same laws and supervision as banks whose majority shareholder is Swiss.

Commercial & Investment banks: As a rule, commercial banks are universal banks for which mortgage investments play a significant role in addition to commercial loans.
Consumer credit institutes: Consumer credit institutes specialize in small loans to private individuals and industry.
Post Finance: The activities of Post Finance are run by the governmental postal service and include payments, investments, savings, mortgages, loans, and provident and retirement planning.  More than 3 million private customers use postal accounts and the PostFinance Card.  In 2016, customer deposits amounted to USD 111 billion (Swiss francs 110 billion).

SIX Interbank Clearing, a subsidiary of SIX Group, operates the SIC and euroSIC interbank payment systems. These systems allow participating financial institutions to securely make cashless payments in Swiss francs and euros in real time among themselves. The SIC system processes interbank payments in francs on behalf of and under the supervision of the Swiss National Bank. In association with Swiss Euro Clearing Bank (SECB), SIX Interbank Clearing provides the processing of euro transactions through the euroSIC system on behalf of the Swiss financial center.  Both interbank systems provide financial institutions within Switzerland and beyond its borders with efficient access to national and international payment traffic.

SIX Group, which emerged from the merger of the SWX Group, SIS Group and Telekurs Group at the beginning of 1988, is owned by its users (130 banks of various sizes and orientation).  As one of Europe’s leading securities exchange and financial market infrastructure operators, SIX Group offers services that address all aspects of Swiss and cross-border securities trading as well as securities offerings. The company’s other business fields focus on rendering cost effective and efficient services in the areas of clearing, settlement, securities safekeeping and administration, as well as supplying international financial information for investment advisors, portfolio managers, financial analysts and administrators of securities transactions. In addition, its services in the area of payment transactions cover the acceptance and processing of payments made with credit, debit and customer cards, as well as the handling of interbank transfers and e-invoices.

Eurex: Eurex is one of the world’s leading derivatives exchanges and is jointly operated by the German Futures and Options Exchange, Deutsche Börse AG, and SIX Swiss Exchange. Eurex offers a broad range of international benchmark products and operates the most liquid fixed income markets, featuring open and low-cost electronic access.  With market participants connected from 700 locations worldwide, trading volume at Eurex exceeds 1.5 billion contracts annually.

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