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Approaching the finish line: The too big to fail project in Switzerland

International Center for Monetary and Banking Studies, Geneva, 17.05.2011

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Today, the failure of a big bank would have enormous and incalculable negative implications for Switzerland - not least because a state bail-out would be unavoidable. This risk is no longer acceptable. That is why strenuous efforts have been made over the past eighteen months to find a solution to the 'too big to fail' problem. 'Too big to fail' means that the state has no choice but to rescue a company because its demise would seriously affect the entire economy. In this regard, the Federal Council has recently presented a carefully thought out, balanced package of measures for Parliament's consideration. Implementing these measures in full will make an effective contribution to significantly reducing the problem in Switzerland. This package considerably lessens the probability of a big bank crisis and the ensuing need for state support in such a crisis - which would create an intolerable strain in terms of regulatory and fiscal policy - and at the same time restores market discipline. Regulation is never implemented without some cost to those regulated. This is part of the plan and makes economic sense. Concerns about the extent of the potential negative repercussions are unfounded. There are no theoretical or empirical grounds to indicate that the Swiss economy will be adversely affected by the proposed regulation. Not least because consideration has been given to the costs involved during the drafting of the new rules. In particular, the newly introduced convertible capital will contribute to limiting the costs of stricter capital adequacy requirements. What is more, the organisational measures do not constitute excessive interference with the freedom of scope and responsibility enjoyed by a bank's management. Measures of this kind can only be subsidiary in nature.The increased stability brought about by this package will help not only Switzerland but also our entire financial centre to emerge from the latest crisis significantly stronger than before. The proposed amendments to the regulations will also soon create legal certainty for the banks and allow them to plan concretely, while at the same time promoting the reasonable, long-term development of the financial centre. There is no doubt about the positive long-term consequences for the entire Swiss economy in terms of income and employment.