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Customers satisfied with local bank service

Clients are picky when it comes to choosing their banks Keystone

Swiss citizens are generally satisfied with their banks and describe them as reliable, trustworthy and competent.

This content was published on March 10, 2005 - 09:47

But the latest annual survey commissioned by the Swiss Bankers Association (SBA) also reveals a number of apparent contradictions in public attitudes towards the banking sector.

For instance, while 79 per cent of people surveyed say they have a positive or very positive opinion of their local bank, only 53 per cent have a similar image of the Swiss banking sector as a whole.

SBA spokesman James Nason said he wasn’t surprised by the differences.

"These apparent paradoxes come up regularly in this type of survey and not just in the banking industry or in Switzerland," Nason told swissinfo.

"Choosing a bank is a very personal decision, rather like choosing a doctor, and a client's relationship with his main bank is much more personal and tangible than his or her relationship with the banking industry in general.

"Furthermore, Swiss banks strive to give good individual service and are fully aware that if a client is unhappy he will vote with his feet and switch his account to a competitor across the street."

Whose money?

Another apparent paradox relates to the role banks should play in bailing out companies in trouble.

While 76 per cent believe banks should support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in financial difficulties, 86 per cent say they should keep the risks within limits when it comes to managing funds deposited by clients – such as with loan decisions.

And 47 per cent believe banks should support even large companies when they get into hot water financially.

One banking analyst points out that a similar paradox arose at the time of the financial collapse of former national carrier Swissair in 2001.

A majority of people thought the big banks should help the airline out – until the banks pointed out that they would be doing so with customers’ money.

The annual survey of more than 1,000 Swiss citizens was carried out earlier this year by Lausanne-based research company MIS Trend. The findings were largely similar to those in previous years.

However, the survey did reveal a slight drop - 76%, compared to 80% a year ago - in the number of people who considered banks in Switzerland to be significant employers.

A growing number, 78%, up from 76%, supported the principle of banking secrecy – and 74% say Switzerland should carry on resisting any pressure to end bank-client confidentiality.

Dangerous games

Meanwhile, SBA chairman Pierre Mirabaud has spoken out strongly in favour of a "yes" vote in the two nationwide ballots on European Union-related issues widely expected to take place later this year.

With regard to the likely vote on the free movement of people for new EU member states, Mirabaud told a media conference in Zurich that supporters of a referendum were "playing a highly dangerous game".

"Opponents of the agreement are playing on voters’ fears of higher unemployment. In actual fact, however, quite the reverse is true," said Mirabaud.

"Rejection would lead to even greater unemployment in Switzerland over the medium term, as it would require us to consciously accept a decline in prosperity."

On the separate issue of the Schengen-Dublin accord on security and asylum, Mirabaud said it offered pragmatic solutions to specific security policy problems, without entailing any disadvantages in other key areas.

"Switzerland will not have an opportunity like this again," he said.

swissinfo, Chris Lewis

Key facts

The annual survey of more than 1,000 Swiss citizens was carried out earlier this year by Lausanne-based research company MIS Trend.
The findings were similar to those in previous years.
Where the Swiss bank: cantonal banks (27%), UBS (19%), PostFinance (18%), Raiffeisen (14%), Credit Suisse (9%), regional or savings banks (6%), rest (7%).

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