Swiss banking spokesman: Swiss News meets James Nason, head of international communications for the Swiss Banking Association, the trade associations for banks.

AuteurLittlejohn, Simone
Fonction Expat Profile

All 340 of the banks that operate in Switzerland belong to the Swiss Banking Association. The association serves three major roles in the banking industry:

* It represents the interests of member banks vis-a-vis the authorities in Switzerland and abroad;

* It promotes Switzerland's image as a leading financial centre in Switzerland and around the world,

* And it serves as a self-regulatory body for member banks and issues self-regulator directives and guidelines.

If the Swiss federal banking commission accepts these directives and guidelines they become part of the body of law that governs banking in Switzerland.

Swiss News speaks to James Nason, Head of International Communications for the Swiss Banking Association about Swiss banking: the myths, the legends and the reality.

Swiss News: In your travels around the world for the Swiss Banking Association, what myths and legends about Swiss banks do you dispel?

'The anonymous account' without a doubt is the most popular myth about Swiss banking. You cannot have an anonymous account here because the law forbids it. We can't stress this enough.

Swiss banks have to identify the client. So, the first question when you open an account is: 'Who are you?' and then you have to prove you are who you say you are. They'll want to see a passport or an identification card. The second question is: 'Is this your money that you're bringing to the bank or is it somebody else's?' If it's somebody else's you have to declare who the beneficial owner is.

The next myth is the fabulous numbered account. I always say as a joke, that I have yet to come across a bank account that does not have a number. Yes, you can have a numbered account here and there is a lot of excitement about it but at the end of the day, the procedure to open a numbered account is exactly the same as for any other type of account. The bank must identify you and find out if you are the beneficial owner of the assets. The trick here is that within the bank, instead of your business being done under your name, it is done under a number or a code.

There are a lot of misunderstandings about these numbered accounts. Yes, they do exist but they are simply a security measure within the bank that restricts knowledge of your identity to a small group of people. Otherwise they offer no fancy shelter. You cannot be anonymous, If criminal proceedings start against you, a numbered account offers you no privileges, If, for example, a cantonal judge or the Swiss attorney general walks through the bank's door wanting information in regard to a crime...

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