Switzerland's financial centre in the European context

Jean-Pierre Roth, Chairman of the Governing Board

French Banking Federation, Paris, 22.05.2003

The success of Switzerland's financial centre is due to a number of factors. Some of these – like the expertise of the employees, the quality of the infrastructure and the confidence which clients have in Swiss institutions – are specific to the banking industry. Others, however, are more general. These include the pronounced openness of the Swiss economy to international markets, the country's liberal tax regulations, and a stable political and monetary environment conducive to banking operations. Although these factors still give the Swiss financial centre a number of comparative advantages, the situation in the banking sector is evolving rapidly. The Swiss banks are having continually to adapt themselves to this changing environment by exhibiting flexibility and an innovative spirit.

Four trends would appear to be particularly important to the future of the financial centres, both in Switzerland and around the world: fiercer global competition, lower revenues from financial operations, a loss of public confidence in companies' financial reporting and governance, and the mounting risks of financial crime. The Swiss financial centre has launched various initiatives to address these challenges. Its efforts are focused mainly on cost management, transparency of procedures, and measures to combat funds of dubious origin.

The launch of the euro has also been an event of major importance for the Swiss financial centre and for the economy as a whole. Since 1999, the co-existence of the Swiss franc and the euro has by and large been harmonious, and the single European currency has assumed a stabilising role on the international scene. Although the franc has appreciated, this tendency largely reflects the development of the Swiss economy's fundamentals. In these circumstances, the SNB will continue to pursue an independent monetary policy that also takes due account of exchange rate shifts.