The Swiss National Bank - focusing on its statutory mandate in the interests of the country as a whole

Barbara Janom Steiner, President of the Bank Council

113th Ordinary General Meeting of Shareholders of the Swiss National Bank, Zurich, 30.04.2021

The coronavirus pandemic is not only having a huge impact on people's health, it also has serious economic consequences for households and businesses in Switzerland. In order to ensure that monetary policy can make a substantive contribution to managing the crisis, the continuity of the Swiss National Bank's (SNB) operations must be guaranteed at all times. Following the outbreak of the pandemic in spring 2020, the SNB put extensive arrangements in place to enable it to fulfil its mandate even under the difficult conditions. A key element is a set of precautionary measures with associated rules of behaviour, which is reviewed and adjusted on an ongoing basis. In drawing these up, the SNB relied on structures, resources and processes developed over recent years within the context of business continuity management. In addition, it was able to use the experience gained from regular crisis management exercises.

It is crucial that the SNB has highly qualified and dedicated staff who have proven themselves in crises and are willing to go the extra mile. For this reason it seeks to be an attractive employer offering ideal working conditions, and it has steadily optimised its HR processes over recent years. In autumn 2020, allegations of bullying, discrimination and sexism at the SNB were published in the media. An investigation was immediately launched, which concluded there is not a systemic problem within the bank in this regard. The SNB nonetheless took the opportunity to comprehensively review its HR processes and further develop its diversity strategy.

The SNB's narrowly defined statutory mandate - to ensure price stability, while taking due account of economic developments - has continued to prove its worth during the coronavirus crisis. If the SNB were to be given further objectives, it would have to decide which to prioritise at any given time. A sense of arbitrariness and unpredictability would be difficult to avoid, which would damage its credibility and effectiveness. Even in times of crisis, the SNB's mandate must therefore be focused on a clear objective. Fulfilment of its mandate is aided by its finely balanced governance structure with four statutory bodies - the General Meeting of Shareholders, the Bank Council, the Governing Board and the External Auditor - each with clearly delineated responsibilities. This ensures that all of these bodies are able to optimally perform their respective tasks.