Banks, insurance providers and pension funds in Switzerland employ some 204,300 full-time equivalent staff and generate about 10% of the country's GDP. Switzerland's finance sector is the global leader in wealth management. It also ensures basic services for the Swiss economy and population such as loans and other financial services. The banking tradition in Switzerland dates back to the 16th century.
Banks and insurance providers
The banks are a pillar of the Swiss economy. In 2018 the sector generated value-added of around CHF 33 billion, or about 4.7% of the country’s GDP. If the value-added generated by the insurance sector is also included, the financial sector contributes about 10% to Switzerland’s GDP.
In 2018, the number of full-time equivalent employees in the financial sector was 204,300, some 105,000 of whom worked in banks. As well as the direct contribution to GDP, the regionally diverse banking sector provides the Swiss economy and the population with loans and other financial services.
Switzerland is one of the most important financial centres in the world. In terms of cross-border private banking, Switzerland was the world leader in 2017, with a market share of 27.5%. In 2017 Swiss banks managed assets worth over CHF 7.9 trillion, of which around one half were from abroad.
There are 253 banks in Switzerland (2017). The two banking giants UBS and Credit Suisse have an approximate 50% share of the market. The remaining 50% is mostly divided among the 24 cantonal banks, foreign banks, Raiffeisen banks, investment banks, regional banks, savings banks and private banks.
Origins and development
The banking tradition in Switzerland dates back to the 16th century, but it was only after the two world wars that the country became a leading international financial centre. Stability, neutrality and a strong Swiss franc, as well as the establishment of banking secrecy in 1934 were some of the factors that led to an influx of capital from abroad. The second half of the 20th century was a period of major growth for the banking sector. Between 1980 and 2005 the value-added generated by the financial industry grew by 3.5% year-on-year, while the rest of the economy grew by only 1.3%.
Swiss banks were also adversely affected by the global financial crisis of 2007/2008. International reforms to shore up stability and improve transparency in the financial markets (e.g. Basel III, automatic sharing of tax information etc.) forced the Swiss financial centre to revise its strategy. Switzerland's swift introduction of ‘too big to fail’ regulations and the subsequent adherence to international standards are designed to ensure that the Swiss financial centre continues to flourish in the future. Thanks to the stability of its currency and political system, as well as its high level of legal certainty, Switzerland remains one of the world’s most important financial centres.