Switzerland is not only well-known for chocolate and its watch-making industry. It is also famous for its unique banking and financial system. Banks play an important role in Switzerland’s economy. Swiss banks have been considered to be the most secretive in the world for many centuries. About a third of all money held outside a person’s home country – hundreds of billions of dollars – is deposited in Swiss banks.
Banking in Switzerland goes back to the 18th century. In the past , not only rich people but also authoritarian regimes and dictators have secured their money in Swiss banks. Foreigners who live in unstable and troubled areas also tend to keep money in secure Swiss banks instead of their own. During World War II German Nazis deposited much of the country’s wealth, especially money and gold taken away from Jews , in Switzerland.
Switzerland has two large banks – UBS and Credit Suisse. Private banking also has a century-long tradition in the alpine country. Currently, about 130 000 people work in the banking sector. Major banks have overseas branches that employ thousands.
Switzerland’s popularity as a safe bank haven has many reasons. For one, the country has a very stable and prosperous economy, and one of the highest per capita incomes in the world. It has been neutral for many centuries, especially during the two world wars. In addition, the Swiss franc is one of the most stable currencies in the world.
Swiss banks have to follow very strict privacy rules. In 1934, a law was passed that forbade Swiss banks to reveal the name of account holders. Banks protect the privacy of their clients in a way no other country in the world does. If a Swiss banker reveals anything about a person’s bank account without permission they commit a criminal act. Such regulations have made Switzerland a popular destination for foreigners who do not want to pay taxes in their own country.