Fulfilling its mandate in challenging times - the SNB is prepared

Barbara Janom Steiner, President of the Bank Council

114th Ordinary General Meeting of Shareholders of the Swiss National Bank, Berne, 29.04.2022

The Swiss National Bank has been faced with a series of challenges for some time now. It has managed to meet these challenges appropriately and to fulfil its statutory mandate in full at all times, which cannot be taken for granted. The SNB is continuously developing so as to be able to honour its responsibilities in future as well. The fulfilment of its mandate, however, could be rendered more difficult, even threatened, by a series of demands being made of the SNB.

The SNB continued to see its operations significantly affected by the coronavirus pandemic last year. Thanks to the measures implemented, which had already proven their effectiveness in the previous year, the SNB was able to fulfil its mandate fully at all times despite the difficult conditions. As with the coronavirus pandemic, the SNB was also successful in its management of another extraordinary situation when, in relatively quick succession, two members of the Governing Board had to undergo medical procedures. Ongoing operations were not affected by these obstacles and the SNB was able to make decisions and to act, without restriction and at all times. The SNB demonstrated remarkable resilience and its organisation and governance proved their worth once again.

Although the accusations of bullying, discrimination and sexism levelled unexpectedly against the SNB in certain media reports in autumn 2020 turned out to be simply incorrect, the SNB undertook further HR improvements where appropriate. These included, first, optimising the processes for hiring, promotion and salary-setting, by building on the processes already in place; second, modernising the process for reporting violations of regulations, and aligning it with the latest standard; and third, further developing the diversity strategy and reviewing the basic conditions for work-life balance.

The improvements, which were endorsed by external organisations in the form of certifications and attestations of quality, lent further credence to the conviction that the SNB's HR processes are exemplary. While the prerequisites for the fulfilment of the SNB's mandate are assured internally by proven structures and highly qualified employees, such fulfilment is under growing threat from external influences: namely, the steady stream of new demands by external stakeholders concerning the use of the SNB's assets and profits, and the simultaneous rise of ambitions in this regard. Earmarking SNB profits, or some part of them, and expanding its mandate, would gravely jeopardise the fulfilment of the SNB's core task, which is to pursue a monetary policy serving the interests of the country as a whole. The SNB, therefore, must not be limited by extraneous stipulations as it performs a function of such eminent importance for our country.