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Bank profits soar in 1999

The Paradeplatz in Zurich - the heart of the Swiss banking world.

(Keystone)

Swiss banks enjoyed a "very successful" business year in 1999, with annual profit increasing by 19.6 per cent to SFr17.3 billion.

In a preprint of the Swiss National Bank's statistical yearbook, the balance sheet total amounted to SFr2,243.8 billion, surpassing the previous year's figure by nine per cent.

The report says that "brilliant results" were achieved in commission business and services but interest income - not least due to fiercer competition among the banks and a more risk-sensitive credit policy - only showed a slight rise.

Staff costs increased by 26.5 per cent to SFr20.9 billion, probably due mainly to wage increases and bonus payments. The report adds that the 0.8 per cent increase in the number of staff hardly made a difference.

The banks' total staff in Switzerland again expanded for the first time in ten years, reaching a level of 119,597. However, the big banks continued to trim their workforce both in Switzerland and abroad in 1999.

At the end of last year 372 banks reported to the Swiss National Bank, four institutions fewer than at the end of the previous year. The process of restructuring and streamlining which began ten years ago and caused the number of banks to shrink by just over 250, has therefore slowed down.

The report notes that the number of branch offices operated by the banks declined markedly last year. The total was 2,973 compared with 3,199 at the end of 1998, with the big banks continuing to streamline their branch networks.

The full report will be available on the Internet in the second half of this month at the link below.

swissinfo with agencies.


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