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Swiss Abroad and banks Lawmakers throw out plan to act on expat accounts

UBS bank logo with a clock in the foreground

UBS is one of the five largest Swiss banks which was asked to provide accounts under reasonable conditions for expatriates 

(Keystone)

Parliament’s refusal to guarantee banking access to Swiss expatriates has placed the onus on banks to solve the longstanding problem. However, the Organisation of the Swiss Abroad (OSA) remains confident that a solution can be found.

OSA Director Ariane Rustichelli said efforts are underway to improve information for Swiss citizens living overseas who wish to hold an account in Switzerland. In addition, a cantonal bank is willing to offer its services to expatriates, she said.

The OSA has held talks with representatives of five main Swiss banks since November to try and find a compromise.

More details about the agreement will be published at a meeting of the Council of the Swiss Abroad in Bern next month.

Her comments come despite parliament’s rejection of a proposal to give Swiss expatriates guaranteed access to an account with a major Swiss bank.

Lombardi is a senator for canton Ticino and Vice President of the Organisation of the Swiss Abroad

(Keystone)

The House of Representatives on Wednesday refused to confirm a decision by the Senate last September. The promoter of the motion, Senator and OSA Vice President Filippo Lombardi agreed with the move.

“The proposal has put pressure on the banks to find a pragmatic solution for the Swiss expats,” Rustichelli told swissinfo.ch.

Dialogue

The Swiss Bankers Association (SBA) which was not directly involved in the talks with the OSA has welcomed the latest development.

"We understand the concerns of the Swiss citizens living abroad. We are interested in continuing the dialogue," says Sindy Schmiegel, spokeswoman of the SBA. 

During Wednesday’s debate, OSA representative and parliamentarian, Roland Rino Büchel, warned that the banks would pay a high price if it opponents tried to block an accord on improved banking information for expat clients.

Another motion is still pending in parliament, asking PostFinance to offer Swiss nationals living abroad credit cards of the state-owned institution.

In a bid to end a ten-year battle, the OSA last September announced a strategy against the closures of accounts or high banking fees for Swiss expats.

+ Read witness accounts by Swiss expats who feel ‘messed around’ by banks

However, the banks argue that international regulations have caused time consuming and sometimes complicated client reviews. The lack of cross border service agreements with some countries also pose serious legal risks.

swissinfo.ch/urs


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