“A credible policy for promoting the Swiss financial centre is vital”

In their first joint interview, Marcel Rohner, Chairman of the Swiss Bankers Association (SBA), and SBA CEO Jörg Gasser look back on a challenging and yet successful year.

Marcel Rohner, you have been Chairman of the SBA for just over a year. What has been your personal highlight so far?

Marcel Rohner: For me, the constructive working atmosphere within the Board of Directors and its efficient relationship with the offices feels like a permanent highlight. The fact that we have already finalised the self-regulation on sustainability is testament to our highly focused approach.

Your stated aim is to get the Swiss financial centre back on track for growth. What role can the SBA play in this respect?

Marcel Rohner: For our financial centre to grow, it must be competitive. This requires a high intensity of competition on the financial market. The Association can play a key role here in shaping the framework for this competition. We need to ensure a level playing field and transparency and keep the entry barriers as low as possible. A credible policy for promoting the Swiss financial centre, for example in terms of education and training, is also vital. We need as many people as possible who have been well trained in our dual education system. Ultimately, we want to preserve Switzerland’s traditional advantages, especially its high degree of stability and legal certainty. These are important factors in times of geo-political uncertainty.

Jörg Gasser, the Swiss financial centre is highly exposed at the moment, both politically and in the media, as a result of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine and the sanctions the West has imposed on Russia. How is the SBA dealing with this?

Jörg Gasser: The Association made it clear immediately after the war broke out that it condemns Russia’s aggression and is rigorously enforcing national, international and supranational sanctions. We have consistently communicated to the media and politicians in an objective but emphatic manner that the Swiss financial centre is internationally compliant. Switzerland meets all international standards on combating money laundering and on tax transparency.

“The Association made it clear immediately after the war broke out that it condemns Russia’s aggression and is rigorously enforcing national, international and supranational sanctions.” 

Jörg Gasser, CEO

Putting the sanctions into practice remains a huge undertaking for the banks. What role does the SBA play here?

Jörg Gasser: We do our best to support the banks in implementing the sanctions. From an operational standpoint, we act as an interface, a kind of communication and information platform, between the banks and the authorities and ensure that the sanctions are implemented coherently. We do this through regular dialogue with the authorities in order to get quick answers to our members’ questions and thus provide them with practical implementation assistance. Media and public relations work at both national and international levels is also important. It is clear that Switzerland, as the world leader in cross-border wealth management, does indeed manage assets belonging to Russian clients, but we must always remember that only a fraction of the Swiss banks’ Russian clients are subject to sanctions. The vast majority of them are not, and banks – be they in Switzerland or anywhere else in the world – manage their assets in accordance with the applicable laws and regulations.

On the subject of sustainable finance, the SBA has developed a decisive action plan. Where does the industry currently stand?

Jörg Gasser: As the umbrella organisation of the banks in Switzerland, we pull many different threads together. We finalised and published our self-regulation on sustainability in June. In addition, the government has worked with the industry to develop the Swiss Climate Scores, which represent a key milestone for Switzerland in the international arena. We are the first country in the world to introduce transparency on the Paris alignment of financial investments. This shows that Switzerland has the courage of its convictions and brings us a step closer to our ambition of becoming a leading location for sustainable finance.

InsightSustainable finance

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Patrick Griesser
Former Head of Publications & Senior Communications Manager
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