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Swiss mortgages and bank profits rise as jobs scale down

People walking in Paradeplatz
The Swiss banking industry continues to turn in a profit despite low interest rates. © Keystone / Gaetan Bally

Swiss commercial banks achieved higher profits last year, mortgage loans tipped the CHF1 trillion ($1.02 trillion) mark and costs were saved by reducing headcounts. These are the findings of an annual report from the Swiss National bank (SNB).

The SNBExternal link’s “Banks in SwitzerlandExternal link” annual report shows combined Swiss and foreign mortgage loans hitting CHF1 trillion in July 2018External link, and the same landmark being breached for purely domestic loans in November. Total mortgages had increased by CHF35.5 billion (or 3.6%) by the end of last year.

The rise was fuelled by people taking advantage of a continuing climate of low interest with rates on Swiss mortgages declining seven basis points to 1.45%, the report states. On the other side of the coin, Swiss savers saw little return. The average rate of interest on bank accounts fell two basis points to 0.12%.

The report notes that there were five fewer banks in Switzerland last year (248) than in 2017. Out of these, 216 reported a profit which totaled CHF12.8 billion ($13 billion) when added together – an increase of CHF2.5 billion from 2017. The big banks, UBS and Credit Suisse, made up nearly CHF5 billion of this total (up year-on-year from CHF3.2 billion).

The remaining banks recorded combined losses of CHF1.3 billion (CHF700 million more than 2017).

The number of full-time posts in the banking sector fell by 1,547 to 107,388. This resulted in cost savings of CHF1.3 billion, practically all booked by UBS and Credit Suisse who between them saw a decline of 1,257 full time posts.

Foreign-owned banks also saw a staff reduction of 1,000 posts, but headcount in the banking sector was boosted by other banks hiring personnel.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR