Banks release more dormant account names

Swiss banks want to clear their books of dormant accounts Keystone

Swiss banks have added another 300 names to a public website listing accounts that have been dormant for at least 60 years. Since the list was started in December 2015, just 5% of dormant accounts have been claimed by descendants of the original depositor.

This content was published on November 16, 2016 - 11:38

The dormant account registerExternal link was started last year as a result of changes to the banking law. It obliges banks to publicise the names of account holders with whom contact has been lost for at least 60 years, provided the account holds at least CHF500 ($498).

They are not linked to the Swiss accounts of holocaust victims – a scandal that was resolved in 1998.

The original list of 2,600 accounts, containing CHF44 million in assets, will be updated annually. The 300 new names added on Wednesday are accounts from 1956 that have seen no activity or client contact since that year. They contain CHF8 million in assets.

Other names have been added to the dormant account website, bringing the total number close to 4,000.

Descendants of the depositor have one year to make a claim. This is extended to five years if contact between bank and client was lost in 1954 or earlier.

The paltry number of successful claims made so far could be attributed by the patchy information provided in the dormant accounts register. In some cases, the bank did not have the names of the account holder, let along birth dates or last known address.

Anti-money laundering laws in Switzerland have for two decades required that banks know their customer before accepting deposits, ending an old tradition of the secret numbered Swiss bank account.

In practice this means that banks can no longer open accounts from anonymous clients depositing suitcases of cash.

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