The online magazine of the Swiss Bankers Association
September 24, 2014


Swiss expatriates complain about Swiss banks

Swiss expatriates complain about Swiss banks

Max Mustermann, a Swiss living abroad, is having trouble finding a bank willing to open an account for him. Ms Schweizer has a different problem. The Swiss national and Australian resident finds it too expensive to have an account in Switzerland. Cases like this are now all too common.

There have been growing reports recently that Swiss expatriates are having problems holding or opening a Swiss bank account. For example, some clients are being advised by their bank that it has discontinued services to residents of a particular country, frequently due to red tape and regulation. Other clients have heard that their bank is putting up charges for existing accounts.

Price Supervisor finds a well-functioning market

Following a number of complaints, the Price Supervisor reviewed the situation with regard to bank charges last year. He concluded that rates varied significantly from bank to bank and that competition was therefore working well. Accordingly, the Price Supervisor decided not to take any further action on this issue.

Policy intervention by Organisation of the Swiss Abroad

In August, the Organisation of the Swiss Abroad submitted a resolution to the government calling for the government to order PostFinance to provide the following services to expatriates:

  • Current and savings accounts
  • Retirement savings accounts (Pillar 3)
  • Education savings accounts
  • Accounts for inherited funds originating from or acquired in Switzerland  
  • Mortgage and construction loan accounts for properties in Switzerland

PostFinance is to be compelled to operate bank accounts.

In tabling the resolution, the Council of the Swiss Abroad aims to raise awareness of the problem in Parliament and amongst the general public. A motion was previously put forward calling for action from the government in compelling PostFinance to operate bank accounts for all expatriates who want them. The National Council adopted the motion in September after it had been rejected by the Federal Council. The motion is now due to be debated by the Council of States.

Regulation has led to increased charges and account closures

The regulation of service provision to customers in different countries is posing ever greater challenges, while business risks abound.

Swiss expatriates still find a sufficient number of providers.

Expenditure has been rising steadily as a result. This in turn has driven up costs, forcing some banks to put up their charges for services to customers in certain countries. In extreme cases, banks may also need to withdraw from the countries concerned. Each institution will make its own decisions on the basis of business policy. Given the diversity of the Swiss financial sector, Swiss expatriates who want a Swiss bank account can still find a sufficient number of providers.