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swissness adds to banking success

Dominique Leimer says Dubai is perfect for Swiss banks

(swissinfo.ch)

It is only in Switzerland that you will find people who have lost confidence in the Swiss image and the Swiss name, says Dominique Leimer of the Julius Bär bank.

The bank's CEO for the Middle East says that in his part of the world, Swissness helps to open doors and make those all-important initial contacts.

One major reason for the success of Swiss private banks abroad is that they embody such internationally-appreciated Swiss virtues as professionalism, reliability and discretion, says Leimer, who has worked in the United Arab Emirates for several years.

"In the Middle East the smaller banks exploit Switzerland's image just as the large, international institutions do.

"Their attachment to traditional national values sometimes makes Swiss bankers tend towards a rather conservative investment policy," adds Leimer. "But the key skill of the banker in this area lies in making the correct assessment of the customer's risk profile."

To tackle this problem, the bank has set up multicultural teams with Swiss expatriates working alongside locally recruited personnel, or Swiss citizens whose roots are in the Middle East. These teams work together on "Relationship Management".

Multiculturalism

In Dubai, multiculturalism means not only having colleagues from the Gulf region, but also from elsewhere in the Arab world, such as Lebanon. Other members of the team may be Pakistanis, Indians and Iranians.

Middle East experts see considerable potential for the banking business in the Gulf area. But customers for Dubai's banking services are most likely to be

citizens of the Emirates, Leimer explains.

This is because exports of capital from the biggest and most populous countries in the area, such as Iran, Pakistan and India, are subject to strict controls, as indeed those from Italy and France were until as recently as the 1980s.

As for Iraq, the current political situation is highly unstable. Clients from these countries therefore face considerable obstacles if they wish to transfer their assets to be managed in the Emirates. In this area Swiss reliability is held in particularly high esteem, as is Swiss discretion and honesty, says Leimer.

He stresses that it is not only

citizens of the Emirates who are familiar with these virtues, but also the many expatriates from countries like Sri Lanka or the neighbouring Arab states.

Old connections

Chronic political upheavals in their homelands mean that many of them have had dealings with Switzerland for decades, perhaps in connection with its peace-making activities or with the Swiss-run Red Cross.

"Such contacts often have a positive influence on business relations," he points out.

In consequence Leimer sees the Swiss image as something much more far reaching than simply specific products or brands.

"There is Swissness in machines and products, as there is in tourism or banking," he says.

"In the Middle East, if you represent a "Swiss made" product or a service, this often helps to open doors, and to embark on a long term business relationship."

When Swiss enterprises "go global", this has a number of positive consequences, says Janwillem Acket, chief economist of the Julius Bär Bank.

"Many of the good financial results reported by Swiss service enterprises have been achieved abroad," he explains.

He adds that results such as those which enabled the domestic stock

market rates to grow as they did in 2005 are not generated solely at home, even though they are, of course, reported in Switzerland.

swissinfo, Alexander Künzle

Key facts

According to private banker Ivan Pictet of Geneva, Switzerland manages just under a third of global transnational assets.
This is equivalent to about 10% of all assets worldwide.
Only about 3-4% of global private and institutional assets are managed by financial centres in Switzerland, Pictet says.
Private assets are estimated at about SFr3,000 billion ($2,488 billion) worldwide.
Institutional assets are put at SFr1,000 billion.

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In brief

Switzerland's service industries abroad pay dividends.

In 2003 returns of SFr83 billion came back to Switzerland from direct investments and securities invested abroad (source: Swiss National Bank).

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