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Swiss Abroad pressure banks at home

Zurich, the Swiss financial hub, manages assets from all over the world. But Swiss customers abroad have trouble opening an account here. Keystone

The Organisation of the Swiss Abroad (OSA) is putting political pressure on Swiss banks for their treatment of Swiss clients living abroad. Specifically, OSA is calling for legislative changes. 

This content was published on August 17, 2017 - 16:23

“We have to teach the banks that the 775,000 Swiss abroad are a part of Switzerland,” OSA President Remo Gysin said at a media conference in Basel on Thursday. 

Since 2008, it has been difficult for these Swiss nationals to maintain Swiss bank accounts on reasonable terms. Many Swiss living abroad have had to contend with closed accounts, frozen assets and cancelled credit cards. After Swiss banks were targeted by foreign courts for helping foreigners to hide taxable funds, they refused to provide certain financial services – not just to foreigners in certain countries, but also to Swiss living abroad.

OSA complains that even when services are provided, the fees and minimum balance requirements are far too high. Especially problematic is the fact the Swiss people often need a Swiss bank account regardless of where they live. For example, certain health insurers or pension plans require one; similarly, those with Swiss property need a local account. 

“Neither repeated requests to the relevant government departments, nor the contact with the Swiss banks, the Swiss Bankers Association or the Swiss bank ombudsman have resulted in a consensual solution,” Gysin said at the media conference kicking off the group’s annual conference. 

“A business model that excludes Swiss citizens living abroad is discriminatory, brings the financial centre into disrepute and harms Switzerland,” Gysin said. 

Because banks with system relevance would benefit from federal aid in the event of financial difficulties, they should be obliged to accept Swiss citizens as customers, argues OSA.  In May, the House of Representatives just barely rejected a motion to that effect. A similar motion is now pending in the Senate. 

The Swiss Bankers Association has expressed its understanding of the banking challenges faced by Swiss abroad. However, as the association told the Swiss News Agency, client policies depend on domicile, not nationality. Giving Swiss clients special conditions would not be acceptable.

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