The SNB’s legal basis

The SNB, as Switzerland’s central bank, is a special-statute joint-stock company. Find documents here on the entire statutory framework governing the activities of the SNB. 

Constitution and laws

The constitutional basis of the Swiss currency and the activity of the Swiss National Bank are contained in article 99 of the Federal Constitution. The monetary article enshrines the SNB’s independence in the Constitution and requires it to set aside sufficient currency reserves from its earnings, also specifying that a part of these reserves be held in gold. This is intended to help maintain public confidence in the value of money. The central bank mandate consists in the obligation of the SNB to pursue a monetary policy that serves the overall interests of the country. In addition, art. 99 para. 4 of the Federal Constitution stipulates that the SNB shall allocate at least two-thirds of its net profits to the cantons.

The National Bank Act (NBA) of 3 October 2003 (in force since 1 May 2004) serves as the statutory framework for the SNB and its activity. The NBA sets out in detail the SNB’s constitutional mandate and its independence. As a counterbalance to this independence, the SNB has a duty of accountability and information towards the Federal Council, parliament and the general public (arts. 5–7 NBA). Furthermore, the NBA implements the SNB’s constitutional mandate of setting aside sufficient currency reserves from its earnings. An explicit rule on the determination of profits allows the SNB to set aside provisions in line with the development of the Swiss economy (art. 30 NBA).

Moreover, the NBA sets out the instruments and monetary policy powers that the SNB has at its disposal to implement its monetary policy. The instruments based on contractual transactions are only broadly outlined in the provisions on the SNB’s scope of business (arts. 9–13 NBA); details can be found in the ‘Guidelines of the Swiss National Bank on monetary policy instruments’ and the ‘Investment Policy Guidelines of the Swiss National Bank’. The monetary policy powers include the collection of financial market data (arts. 14–16 NBA), the obligation of the banks to hold minimum reserves (arts. 17–18 NBA) and the oversight of systemically important financial market infrastructures (arts. 19–21 NBA). With effect from 1 January 2016, some of the provisions on the oversight of systemically important financial market infrastructures are set out in arts. 22 et seq. and art. 83 of the Financial Market Infrastructure Act (FinMIA). Individual provisions on the monetary policy powers are contained in the National Bank Ordinance.

The National Bank Act also governs the SNB’s organisational structure (arts. 3, 33–48 NBA). The corporate bodies of the SNB are the eleven-member Bank Council, the Governing Board, the External Auditor and the General Meeting of Shareholders.

Implementing regulations on the monetary policy powers of the SNB (collection of statistical data, minimum reserve regulations and oversight of systemically important financial market infrastructures) are laid down in an ordinance issued by the SNB Governing Board on 18 March 2004. The legal basis for this ordinance is art. 15 para. 3, art. 18 para. 5 and art. 20 para 5 NBA.

In the ‘Statistical surveys’ chapter, the NBO spells out the principles of data collection as well as the rights and obligations of the financial market participants required to provide information. The collection of statistical data must adhere to the principle of reasonableness. The coverage and frequency of statistical surveys as well as the parties required to report statistical data are described in the annex to the NBO.

The ‘Minimum reserves’ chapter is relatively brief, since the most important elements of the minimum reserve regulations are already laid down in the wording of the law itself.

Finally, the ‘Oversight of systemically important financial market infrastructures’ chapter contains the provisions on determining systemically important central counterparties, central securities depositories and payment systems and their business processes, as well as the special requirements with which these financial market infrastructures must comply. These requirements are aligned with international standards. In order for the SNB to identify the central counterparties, central securities depositories and payment systems that may pose a risk to system stability, they must provide the SNB with information and documentation.

The Federal Act on Currency and Payment Instruments (CPIA), which entered into force on 1 May 2000, lays down the currency unit and contains regulations on all the characteristic features of currency and money (legal tender). In addition to coins and banknotes, Swiss franc sight deposits at the SNB are also deemed to be legal tender. The institutions that process payment transactions (commercial banks and several of their jointly operated organisations, Swiss Post and large cash-in-transit operators) are entitled to open a sight deposit account with the SNB.

Guidelines and regulations

The National Bank Act only broadly outlines which transactions are at the SNB’s disposal for performing its monetary policy tasks. Further details are spelled out in the ‘Guidelines of the Swiss National Bank on monetary policy instruments’ adopted by the Governing Board. These guidelines are a corollary to the SNB’s monetary policy concept and describe the instruments and procedures used for implementing this policy. In particular, they specify the terms on which the SNB concludes transactions and the procedures that are to be observed in such cases. Further, they specify the types of collateral that are eligible for monetary policy transactions involving the SNB.

These guidelines are supplemented by SNB Instruction Sheets on the individual monetary policy transactions. In addition, counterparties are bound by the Terms of Business and any specific contractual agreements they have entered into.

The ‘Investment Policy Guidelines of the Swiss National Bank’, issued by the SNB’s Governing Board, define the scope of the SNB’s investment activity. In addition to investment policy principles and details on the investment instruments, the guidelines also lay down specifications for the investment and risk control process. They serve to inform the interested public and potential counterparties. The Terms of Business as well as any specific contractual agreements are also binding on the SNB’s counterparties.

The Organisation Regulations issued by the Bank Council of the Swiss National Bank and approved by the Federal Council lay down the SNB’s internal organisational structure: As an addendum to the Act, they define in particular the responsibilities of the Bank Council and of the Governing Board.

These regulations govern the recognition and representation of shareholders of the Swiss National Bank.

These regulations govern the compensation of the Bank Council members and the salaries of the Governing Board members and their deputies in accordance with art. 42 para. 2 (j) of the National Bank Act (NBA).

On 9 March 2012, the Bank Council of the SNB approved new regulations on private financial transactions by members of SNB management. These regulations subject members of the Governing Board, their deputies  and other management staff specified by the Bank Council to far-reaching restrictions relating to the management of their financial assets.

On 22 June 2012, the Bank Council of the SNB approved new regulations on the acceptance of gifts, invitations and third-party considerations by members of the Enlarged Governing Board.

The Swiss National Bank has an internal directive which defines restrictions on private financial investments and financial transactions by SNB staff.

The Swiss National Bank’s values are expressed in the Charter.

The Swiss National Bank has a code of conduct which lists the principal rules of conduct and provides references to other regulatory texts.

The Swiss National Bank has a code of conduct for members of the Bank Council which lists the principal rules of conduct.

The Swiss National Bank has principles governing procurement. They are intended to reduce procurement risks.


This page contains documentation on the Federal Act on the Swiss National Bank (1953/1978) and the legal environment of central bank activity prior to the entry into force of the totally revised Act on 1 May 2004. Moreover, it also contains documents on the revision of the National Bank Act 1953/1978 (dispatch of the Federal Council on the National Bank Act, consultation papers on the National Bank Act and the National Bank Ordinance, etc.).

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The SNB as an organisation

Learn all about the SNB’s structure and organisation.

Annual financial statements and profit

Here you can find the balance sheet, income statement and interim results, and learn all about the profit distribution.

The monetary policy decisions

Here you will find all publications regarding the monetary policy decisions, sorted by year.

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