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Is The Exodus of Wealth From Swiss Banks Accelerating? Massive Flight-of-Capital Acknowledged

Companies / Credit Crisis Bailouts Sep 18, 2012 - 07:17 AM GMT

By: DK_Matai


Best Financial Markets Analysis ArticleFinancial Privacy Wars

Swiss banks are now expecting withdrawals of hundreds of billions of Swiss francs according to the head of wealth management at UBS, Jürg Zeltner, as a result of steps to stop foreigners using secret accounts to evade taxes.  Although a long time coming, this is entirely consistent with the extensive investigations carried out by the ATCA 5000 Research and Analysis Wing (A-RAW) and the mi2g Intelligence Unit (mIU) as well as the Socratic dialogue we have subsequently initiated at the highest level in regard to the flight-of-capital from Switzerland. 

Zeltner has essentially acknowledged and criticised international pressure for this large scale capital exodus in his interview with "Swiss Bank."  UBS and Credit Suisse -- Switzerland’s two biggest banks and amongst the world's largest wealth managers -- alone may suffer outflows of 60+ billion Swiss francs as a result of accelerating international efforts to crack down on the usage of Swiss bank accounts for tax evasion and avoidance.

Also not immune to the reversing tidal flow are Switzerland’s smaller private banks.  They are also being affected by the growing international pressure to clamp down on tax evaders and avoiders.  Echoing the concern of Zeltner at UBS, a study by the German financial consultancy Zeb Rolfes Schierenbeck (ZRS) estimates that hundreds of billions of Swiss francs may drain away from Swiss banks over the coming few years out of the nearly three trillion Swiss francs held by its offshore banking industry at present. 

In recent years, Swiss banks have been heavily criticised as cash-strapped governments around the world have sought to fight tax evasion carried out by their citizens and corporations. 

[ATCA 5000 References: Switzerland: End of Banking Secrecy? Comment & Interview 3rd May 2012; and Swiss Banking: Asymmetric Threats Mount? 13th July 2012].

Swiss Flags Tilt

UBS and Credit Suisse

Jürg Zeltner, the chief executive of UBS wealth management, has said the largest Swiss bank would see a drain of 12 to 30 billion Swiss francs, as an increasing number of international wealthy clients run scared from Swiss banks.  Some insiders say that this may be an exceeding conservative estimate based on wishful thinking on the part of UBS.  In May this year, Zeltner said that European clients took out around 10 billion Swiss francs in the previous quarter from their UBS accounts.  He’s expecting to see more losses of significant assets adding that the European offshore business could face outflows for "quite a while yet!" 

Recently, a former UBS banker was paid 104 million dollars by the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for revealing systematic efforts by the largest Swiss bank to help rich Americans evade taxes in their home country, which resulted in UBS paying 780 million dollars in fines, penalties, interest and restitution to settle charges in 2009 that it helped 17,000 US clients hide 20 billion dollars. 

David Mathers, the chief financial officer at Credit Suisse, told investors in New York last week that since 2009, Europeans had withdrawn 32 billion Swiss francs from their accounts at the second largest Swiss bank and cross-border transformation including new tax treaties could result in outflows of up to 35 billion Swiss francs over the next few years.  This would be more than ten percent of the total European assets under management at the Swiss bank.  However, some private bankers suggest that this estimate may yet prove to be exceedingly conservative. 

American Pressure

The US is investigating eleven Swiss banks since last year on suspicion of helping US citizens evade and avoid taxes, and in January-February this year, the American authorities indicted Wegelin, the oldest Swiss private bank, for allegedly helping Americans to evade paying taxes on 1.2 billion dollars of their assets. 

The eleven banks on the radar of the US tax authorities and the Department of Justice (DoJ) are: 

1. Credit Suisse (including Clariden Leu);

2. HSBC Holdings;

3. Basler Kantonalbank;

4. Wegelin & Co;

5. Zuercher Kantonalbank;

6. Julius Baer Group;

7. Bank Leumi Le-Israel;

8. Bank Hapoalim;

9. Mizrahi-Tefahot Bank;

10. Liechtensteinische Landesbank; and

11. Neue Zuercher Bank (NZB). 

[ATCA 5000 References: What Really Happened To The Oldest Bank in Switzerland? Wegelin: Death Throes of Swiss Banking Secrecy & Asymmetric Risk to Swiss Banks 1st February 2012; Eleven Offshore Banks On The US Radar: What Happens Next To Swiss-Based Private Banking? 12th Feb 2012; and Swiss Banking Saga Takes Another Surreal Twist? 1st July 2012]

European Pressure

The accelerating flight-of-capital from Swiss banks over the past two years has been exacerbated by the repeated purchases of stolen Compact Discs or CDs containing details of German and other European citizens' private client data and account information by German tax authorities and their secret services.  While these intrusions into European citizens' privacy may have prompted some Swiss bank clients to provide information on previously undeclared assets to European authorities, there has also been speculation that other European citizens may have been moving assets to non-European financial centres such as Singapore, increasingly known as the Switzerland of Asia.  

Since August 2011, the United Kingdom and Austria have struck agreements with Switzerland, entitling them to receive:

a. one-off penalty charges; and

b. a withholding tax

on previously undeclared assets held by their citizens in Swiss banks.  Switzerland is hoping to conclude similar accords with Italy and Greece at present.  However, the tax deal with the biggest economic power in Europe -- Germany -- is still pending ratification in that country, as it faces opposition from Social Democrats who see it as too lenient on alleged German tax evaders. 

According to the agreements hitherto inked between European powers and Switzerland, foreigners with non-declared funds in Switzerland can keep their anonymity, but their assets are taxed by Switzerland, which in turn transfers a portion of the earnings on their assets to their country of origin. 

[ATCA 5000 Reference: Smuggled Cash, Gold & Silver Seizures Soar at Italy's Borders -- Eurozone Crisis Escalates -- Diamonds Are Forever? 15th August 2012; and Cash Is King? Swiss Bankers' New Safe Haven: Safe Deposit Boxes Full Of 1,000-Swiss-Francs Banknotes 17th August 2012]


Switzerland has been the centre of off-shore private banking and wealth management for more than a hundred years.  It has been extensively used for capital preservation strategies by ultra rich individuals and corporations during times of war and peace.  Switzerland now finds itself at the epicentre of an evolving financial world war. 

The Swiss simply don't have the muscle to engage on equal terms or to fight back with the tax and justice authorities of the world's only remaining super-power, the United States, and the largest European economic power, Germany.  Multiple pressures from around the world on tax evasion and the potential for flat-rate taxes are all making Swiss banks less attractive with each passing day. 

Up until recently, the Swiss banks' vow of silence was so attractive to rich foreigners eager to avoid taxation at home that they did not mind that their accounts did not generate any income for them as long as the capital was preserved and the currency held its purchasing power.  The income generated via their Swiss bank accounts went primarily to the Swiss banks and the clients had relatively little income to show for their deposits.  However, now Swiss banking secrecy is no longer there and some would argue that it is gone forever, a new narrative is being born in regard to private wealth management. 

The experts in private wealth management state that the new centre for off-shore private banking and wealth management is on-shore!  So, transparency is increasingly the order of the day.  Does the future for ultra high net worth individuals (UHNWIs) seeking Swiss-style private banking lie in on-shore customised private wealth management solutions configured as Private Investment Offices with significantly reduced fees? 

What are your thoughts, observations and views? We are hosting an Expert roundtable on this issue at ATCA 24/7 on Yammer.

By DK Matai

Asymmetric Threats Contingency Alliance (ATCA) & The Philanthropia

We welcome your participation in this Socratic dialogue. Please access by clicking here.

ATCA: The Asymmetric Threats Contingency Alliance is a philanthropic expert initiative founded in 2001 to resolve complex global challenges through collective Socratic dialogue and joint executive action to build a wisdom based global economy. Adhering to the doctrine of non-violence, ATCA addresses asymmetric threats and social opportunities arising from climate chaos and the environment; radical poverty and microfinance; geo-politics and energy; organised crime & extremism; advanced technologies -- bio, info, nano, robo & AI; demographic skews and resource shortages; pandemics; financial systems and systemic risk; as well as transhumanism and ethics. Present membership of ATCA is by invitation only and has over 5,000 distinguished members from over 120 countries: including 1,000 Parliamentarians; 1,500 Chairmen and CEOs of corporations; 1,000 Heads of NGOs; 750 Directors at Academic Centres of Excellence; 500 Inventors and Original thinkers; as well as 250 Editors-in-Chief of major media.

The Philanthropia, founded in 2005, brings together over 1,000 leading individual and private philanthropists, family offices, foundations, private banks, non-governmental organisations and specialist advisors to address complex global challenges such as countering climate chaos, reducing radical poverty and developing global leadership for the younger generation through the appliance of science and technology, leveraging acumen and finance, as well as encouraging collaboration with a strong commitment to ethics. Philanthropia emphasises multi-faith spiritual values: introspection, healthy living and ecology. Philanthropia Targets: Countering climate chaos and carbon neutrality; Eliminating radical poverty -- through micro-credit schemes, empowerment of women and more responsible capitalism; Leadership for the Younger Generation; and Corporate and social responsibility.

© 2012 Copyright DK Matai - All Rights Reserved Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisors.

© 2005-2019 - The Market Oracle is a FREE Daily Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting online publication.

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