Inside Swiss Banking

Inside Swiss Banking

The Sudden and Seismic Transformation of a Global Financial Brand

LULU Publishing, 2010 more...

Editorial Rating



  • Eye Opening
  • Background


A numbered Swiss bank account might rank high on your dream list, but don’t count on it providing the same level of economic privacy that it once did. Now that financial transparency has become a weapon against global terrorism, tax fraud and political chicanery, Switzerland is no longer assured of its place as an island of banking privacy. Beat J. Guldimann’s self-published, well-informed (but not well-proofread) book outlines the history of the Swiss banking industry and its overriding emphasis on client confidentiality. Guldimann, a former legal counsel and senior executive for major Swiss and Canadian financial institutions, says high-profile global investigations into tax evasion, political embezzlement and misappropriation killed Swiss banking secrecy. He acknowledges that some banking crimes took place, but posits that the Swiss financial establishment’s complacency and its business-as-usual attitude helped bring about the nation’s decline as an offshore banking haven. This dodges the question of where Swiss banks’ competitive advantage now might lie. At times the book comes out swinging against Switzerland’s perceived enemies, including the U.S., though Guldimann also offers their points of view. getAbstract suggests this illuminating look at a secretive industry to students of financial history and to all those who hold numbered accounts (or who dream of them).


A Safe Haven

In January 1997, Christoph Meili, a night watchman at a major Swiss bank in Zurich, discovered trash cans filled with banking records dating back to World War II. The files, about to be destroyed, were evidence in a case pitting the U.S. government against UBS, Switzerland’s largest bank, for restitution of assets purportedly owned by Holocaust victims. This case and several other high-profile disputes placed Swiss banks and their vaunted confidentiality of client information on the hot seat globally. These banks are the world’s largest money management firms and handle the biggest share of offshore funds owned by the world’s richest people. Now, however, Swiss banks increasingly must defend practices that just a few decades ago constituted their raison d’être and their competitive advantage: protection of client information. Global terrorism, electronic funds transfers and political corruption threaten the cozy enclave that Swiss banks have always provided to the wealthy – and the famous or infamous. Indeed, some Swiss see new banking strictures as attacks against their sovereignty. After all, who should decide what practices are correct for Swiss banks: Switzerland...

About the Author

Beat J. Guldimann, LLD, was a senior executive and legal counsel for major Swiss and Canadian banks. His firm, Tribeca Consulting Group, specializes in consulting for private banks.

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