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President pleas for return to traditional values

The economic crisis could have been dampened had the country's financial sector adhered to traditional Swiss values, according to Finance Minister Hans-Rudolf Merz.

Speaking at a seminar for Swiss cooperation in Interlaken, he said Switzerland must draw the appropriate lessions from the financial crisis, which had revealed weaknesses in the banking system.

He said money managers had ignored "the traditional values of the classic banker such as: know your customer, prudence when lending money, closely monitoring dossiers, respect for money and risk".

"Our country and its people have long and quite successfully pursued qualities and virtues such as modesty, consistency, prudence, diligence, dedication to work and a sense of the common good," he said.

"Our prosperity is in no small measure the result. But here too, we seem to have lost ground."

While the current economic outlook was "fairly bleak", Merz said banks must work to restore their credibility by demonstrating "seriousness and constancy" with clients.

Merz, who is this year's Swiss president, also said Switzerland's financial centre must continue to remain competitive by offering innovative products and services.

"However, innovation also requires an evolution in terms of our banking secrecy laws," he said, without elaborating.

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