The value of assets held by Swiss banks rose nearly 8% last year to CHF6.66 trillion ($6.9 trillion) – more than half of which came from foreign sources. But the number of banks and bankers fell, according to a Swiss Bankers Association (SBA) survey.
The SBA’s annual Banking Barometer, released on Thursday, found that improved market conditions and strong wealth inflows from Asia had given Swiss banks some solace from their regulatory and strong franc woes. Switzerland still accounts for a quarter of all cross-border wealth management.
But the findings also confirmed a widely held belief that there is a growing divide between more profitable and struggling banks. Aggregate profits increased 19.3% from 2013 to CHF14.2 billion. On the other side, unprofitable banks saw their combined losses swell by more than a quarter to CHF6.8 billion.
Unsurprisingly, the barometer also reported a decrease in the number of banks operational in Switzerland – from 283 in 2013 to 275 at the end of 2014. The biggest losses came among the foreign-owned banks in Switzerland.
As a result, there were 1,682 fewer bank employees, with a total of 104,053 staff recorded in 2014. The category of private banks shed the most jobs proportionately. However, the SBA said it was confident that staffing levels would rise as new technologies infiltrating the banking system would require a new breed of highly trained specialist.
On the domestic front, a boom in house buying pushed loans up 3.6% to CHF1.072 trillion. This inflated the aggregate balance sheet 6.8% to more than CHF3 trillion.
The barometer found that taxes paid by banks leapt 36.8% to CHF2.6 billion last year.