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The Truth Beyond the Myth
March 31, 2014

The Truth Beyond the Myth

Switzerland’s critics should change their one-dimensional perception of Swiss banking, says Jakob Schaad, Head of Financial Markets International. The reasons why investors come to Switzerland are others than tax evasion.
The public debate on offshore finance is nothing if not polarising; and not without its fair share of misinformation. With this in mind I agreed to speak at an international symposium hosted this week at the Gresham College in London. I took the opportunity to present a more balanced picture by outlining three key issues facing the world's leading financial centres as we emerge from the global financial crisis.

Debunk the Myths around Tax Evasion

The first challenge is to debunk the myths around tax evasion. Far from seeking to encourage wealthy individuals or companies to evade their tax liabilities, the Swiss international financial centre has a strong commitment to working with our international partners to ensure that only taxed assets are managed in Swiss Banks. The message is quite simple: Switzerland is not a home for untaxed assets. The adoption of FATCA and Automatic Exchange of Information (AEOI) will have a transformative impact on the tax planning environment and, our detractors should take note, Switzerland is fully preparing for this new reality.

Stability, Universality, Responsibility and Excellence

The second challenge is to explain better what it is exactly centres like Switzerland do. Rather than trading on tax evasion and avoidance, as our critics suggest, the Swiss banking sector has been highly successful in offering clients excellent service and market expertise, a universal banking proposition which is managed in a responsible manner, all combined with those particularly Swiss attributes of certainty and stability. And it is these four watch words - stability, universality, responsibility and excellence - which help to explain why it is that Swiss banks remain so attractive to a wide variety of global clients.

Work Together

The final challenge, is to become more collaborative and work more closely with other financial centres. Naturally, the world's leading financial centres are all competing against each other to attract global business. But we also have much in common, and have a number of shared challenges and risks. This explains why, for example, Switzerland has been working very closely with our partners in the UK to address shared concerns about developments in the European Single Market. It is equally important to both countries that financial services can move freely not just within the EU, but also between the EU and the rest of world. Global investors want investment opportunities in Europe, just as European investors want opportunities to invest in the rest of the world. Maintaining access to open, globalised capital markets is therefore vital. And that is something all financial centres can champion together.