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2011 opinion poll: protection of financial privacy continues to enjoy strong support. Swiss financial centre fares well in international comparison due to stable image ratings and highquality client service.

The survey respondents remain firmly in favour of the protection of their privacy in financial matters (91%), with a strong majority supporting the preservation of bank-client confidentiality (73%). The Swiss banking sector enjoys stable image ratings, and the banks – in particular the client’s main bank – are perceived as solid, reliable and trustworthy. The majority of the Swiss population is positive about the attractiveness of Switzerland as a financial centre and believes it has a clear competitive advantage over other countries.

Since 1995, the Swiss Bankers Association (SBA) has conducted a representative survey of Swiss attitudes towards the banking sector and about the general importance of banks for the Swiss economy. The consistency of methodology over the years enables long-term comparisons to be drawn with high reliability.

Support for bank-client confidentiality remains strong

Almost all of the Swiss population are of the opinion that financial privacy must be guaranteed, with 91% stating that they want bank clients’ financial data to be protected against third parties (2010: 89%). In other words, it is not just about showing positive sentiment towards the banking sector. This is also reflected in the fact that bank-client confidentiality continues to enjoy the firm support of the Swiss population. As was the case in 2010, 73% of survey respondents believed that bank-client confidentiality should be preserved. Abolishing it for domestic clients would therefore enjoy little support.

Banking sector image settles at a stable level

The cantonal banks have retained and consolidated their leading position, with 29% of respondents as clients, followed by the Raiffeisen banks and Postfinance, which are running neck and neck with 20%. Although the Swiss population did not rate the main banks they use quite as positively as last year (2010: 87% positive), a result of 85% is still encouraging. It is interesting to note that 37% of German-speaking Swiss citizens had a very positive opinion of their main institution – significantly more than in French-speaking Switzerland (23%) and Ticino (30%). Only 7% of Swiss participants have doubts over the solidity and reliability of their main bank. Broadly speaking, the perception of the banking sector among the Swiss population has remained stable. The damage to the banking sector’s image resulting from the financial crisis has not yet been fully repaired, but respondents with a positive attitude towards the banks (46%) still outnumber those whose opinion is negative (23%).

Swiss financial centre fares well in international comparison

59% of the people interviewed – slightly more than the previous year’s figure of 56% – view the position of the Swiss financial centre as favourable in comparison with the UK, Singapore, Luxembourg and the USA. Switzerland is attractive as a location due to its political and economic stability, as well as the courteous client service provided by Swiss banks. Respondents saw the fact that the country has preserved its protection of financial privacy as a further advantage over international competitors.

Method and random sampling

The survey covers a sample of 1,000 Swiss citizens (500 German-speaking, 301 Frenchspeaking, 199 Italian-speaking) over the age of 18. The sampling error is no greater than +/-3.1%. The sample group was not significantly different to that used in previous years and, to ensure that the results could be compared in terms of time periods, only minor adjustments were made to the questionnaire. Only one additional item linked to international competitiveness was included in the survey – this focused on the importance of clients’ financial privacy (page 30 of the report). The survey was conducted in January 2011 by the independent research company M.I.S Trend SA, Lausanne/Berne. This means that responses to section 5, “Money laundering and dictators’ funds”, were given prior to the upheavals in North Africa.