Survey 2015: Banks make significant reputational gains, protection of privacy central, but bank-client confidentiality in Switzerland viewed in differentiated manner

Basel, March 26, 2015 A representative survey commissioned by the Swiss Bankers Association (SBA) indicates that the Swiss population has newly increased confidence in the banks. The survey participants want a high level of protection of privacy and data protection. Bank-client confidentiality in Switzerland is viewed in a differentiated manner and opinions vary on how it should be defined in future. The Swiss also recognise the importance of banks for Switzerland as a business location.
M.I.S Trend was commissioned by the SBA to survey 1,000 Swiss citizens in January 2015 regarding their attitudes towards the banking sector and the overall importance of banks for the economy. The survey indicates that confidence in the banks has increased significantly. Protection of financial privacy is important for the majority of the respondents, while at the same time, many expect they will have to disclose more information in future. The contribution the banks make to a strong economy is recognised.

Satisfaction and confidence in banks at pre-financial crisis Levels

An impressive 86% of the Swiss rate their banks as good to very good: 32% are very satisfied with their banking institution, 54% are satisfied, and only 2% are dissatisfied. The number of “very satisfied” customers has increased in comparison to the 2013 survey (+3%). The banks’ soundness, reliability and trustworthiness, as well as bank employees received particularly good scores. 65% of respondents feel the banks in Switzerland are financially solid and economically stable.

Compared to 2013, the standing of the sector as a whole rose in all language regions and reached the best result since the onset of the financial crisis. Every second Swiss person (51%) has a very positive or positive attitude toward the Swiss banks (43% in 2013). When asked about the reputation of the financial centre abroad, 68% believe the Swiss financial centre enjoys a good and professional reputation.

Bank-client confidentiality and privacy are viewed in a differentiated manner

The Swiss want their financial privacy protected from third parties: 85% are in favour thereof. This view spans across all age groups and political orientations. At 89%, approval is highest in the 18-29 year-old segment. However, 72% believe that the protection of privacy will diminish in future.
In this year’s survey, respondents were asked for the first time what role they attribute to bank-client secrecy. The respondents view it first and foremost as a means for private individuals and companies to protect their financial privacy (38% primary role). 21% see its most important effect as being protection from the state, and 23% that it protects tax evaders abroad. Only 8% see it primarily as a tool for tax evaders living in Switzerland. This year also marks the first time that respondents were surveyed on whether or not and how tax information relating to Swiss clients should be exchanged within Switzerland in future (domestic exchange of information). Opinions on the matter are divided.
The regulation currently in place enjoys the highest level of support at 41%. Around one-fifth (21%) of participants are of the opinion that taxpayers should be able to decide in favour of or against a direct exchange of information between their bank and the tax authorities. Around one-third (34%) is in favour of the abolition of bank-client confidentiality in Switzerland. These results demonstrate that the Swiss view the future of bank-client confidentiality in Switzerland in a differentiated manner.

Contribution made by the banks to the overall economy is significant

For more than half of the Swiss (51%), the banking sector is one of the absolute heavyweights of the Swiss economy. A further 35% consider it fairly important and only 3% view the banking sector in Switzerland as not playing an important role. In the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland, the importance of banks as an industry branch is particularly strong: 70% of all respondents there consider the banks very important. The importance of the sector for the labour market is also clearly recognised. 44% of the Swiss have no doubt that the jobs in the banking sector are important.

Recognition of importance of banks’ ability to compete internationally

94% of participants believe that the ability of banks to compete internationally is also important or very important. The international competitiveness of the Swiss financial centre is also supported by 70% of respondents. At the same time, optimism is decreasing: 21% expect a decline in competitiveness in the next five years, while only 16% expect an improvement. However, two years ago, 35% (14% more) expected a decline. According to the respondents, the competitive advantages of the Swiss financial centre are Switzerland’s stability and training in the banking segment.

Method and random sampling

The SBA has regularly conducted a representative survey since 1995. The random sampling comprises 1,000 Swiss citizens (500 German-speaking Swiss, 300 French-speaking Swiss, 200 Italian-speaking Swiss, weighted according to the demographic ratio of each language region) aged 18 and over (with no upper age limit). The sampling error is no greater than maximum +/- 3.1%. The random sampling has not changed significantly to previous years and the questionnaire was amended only where necessary. The consistency in methodology therefore allows for reliable long-term comparisons. The questionnaire was conducted from 5-20 January 2015, by the independent research institute M.I.S Trend SA, Lausanne/Bern.