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Financial institutions target growing band of small investors

Fonds 2001 is aimed at people looking for a new kind of investment product (picture: Fonds 2001)

Switzerland's financial institutions have taken their investment products to the customer at "Fonds 2001", the country's largest investment trade fair.

Aimed at people seeking new kinds of investment products, Fonds 2001 revealed just how vast a selection is available in Switzerland, Gregor Johner one of the organisers of Fonds 2001, told swissinfo.

"There are 2,600 mutual funds on offer here alone. So it is difficult for people to get an overview as they have to go from one bank to another or from one insurance company to another. Here though they can see all the financial service providers in one place."

Held at Zurich's Kongresshaus, Fonds 2001 attracted 100 companies as exhibitors, and more than 10,000 visitors over its three-day run, which ended on Saturday.

Unlike many investment products, which are aimed at rich clients, those on show at Fonds 2001 were more oriented towards the man or woman in the street. Most were designed to combine gradual saving with investment, allowing investors to build up a fund on a monthly basis.

The success of Fonds 2001 reflects the fact that investors in Switzerland are becoming more sophisticated in their investment choices.

"People are investing much more in stocks than in bonds - Switzerland was much more bond oriented five years ago," Johner told swissinfo. "People now realise it's better to have more than one or two stocks in their portfolio so they see mutual funds as the best thing to invest in."

The crowds at Fonds 2001 were due in part to the buoyant state of the Swiss economy and last year's strong performance of the Swiss Stock Market.

Michael Theurillat, chief executive of Direkt Anlage Bank, which was among the 100 firms present at Fonds 2001, told swissinfo that customers are learning more about financial products themselves, rather than leaving all the decisions to an adviser.

"Investors are becoming more and more self-directed. They ask the right questions they think about it and they tend more and more to make their own decisions."

Banks and insurance companies have responded to this trend by offering a more personal and flexible service to smaller investors.

"The Swiss banks are no longer just offering their own products, but also those of other banks - this is an interesting development," said Johner.

He added that other factors contributing to the increase in investment includes the ageing population. "As people grow older and have more leisure time they have more time to focus on following their investments. This trend is being followed by those marketing financial products."

by Tom O'Brien


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