Switzerland and LiechtensteinWT/TPR/S/208 Page 111
Structure of the Swiss banking system, 2008
Balance sheet total (Sw F billion)
Large commercial banks
Regional and savings banks
Other banks, of which:
Stock exchange banks
Other banking institutions
Branches of foreign banks
Source:Swiss National Bank (2008), Banks in Switzerland 2007, Volume 92. Viewed at: http://www.snb.ch/de/iabout/stat/statpub/bchpub/stats/bankench [14 July 2008].
The SFBC, an independent federal authority, is responsible for bank regulation and supervision.39 It supervises all financial institutions that are active in licensable activities, in particular the acceptance of deposits from the public on a professional basis. Thus, SFBC supervises banks, securities dealers and stock exchanges, investment funds, and the two mortgage bond institutions, as well as the disclosure of shareholdings and public takeover bids.40 As PostFinance is not a bank, it is not subject to the Banking Law and is supervised by the Federal Council, the Federal Department of Finance, and the Department of the Environment, Transport and Energy and Communications.
The establishment of all branches, subsidiaries or agencies of foreign banks in Switzerland requires a licence issued by the SFBC. The name of a foreign bank must not give the impression that it is a Swiss bank. Access remains subject to reciprocity, except in cases covered by international obligations, such as the WTO Agreements. In addition, general requirements for the establishment of foreign companies in Switzerland apply to banks. Once established, foreign-owned banks enjoy the same status as Swiss banks. The SFBC is empowered to supervise foreign establishments in Switzerland, but it also permits foreign authorities to conduct inspections at Swiss establishments of foreign banks. Since 2000, the SFBC has also licensed Internet-exclusive banks and securities dealers. Regulation is identical to that of institutions with physical presence, including regarding due diligence and money laundering provisions.
Bank secrecy, defined in Article 47 of the Banking Law, is an important aspect of the Swiss banking system; it covers all business relations between the bank and its customers and is not limited in time. Furthermore, breach of bank-client confidentiality by bank employees is a criminal offence. However, bank secrecy is lifted in criminal cases (such as guns or narcotics trade, corruption, terrorism, money laundering, and tax fraud) and can be lifted in civil cases under certain conditions (such as inheritance, divorce or bankruptcy). With regard to international legal and administrative assistance in tax matters, Swiss legislation distinguishes between tax evasion and tax fraud. With regard to international legal and administrative assistance in tax matters, Swiss legislation distinguishes between tax evasion and tax fraud. Tax evasion is committed when a
39 Administratively, the SFBC is integrated in the Federal Department of Finance; however, it is independent of the directives of the Federal Council. See SFBC online information. Viewed at: http://www.ebk.admin.ch/.
40 Independent asset managers who do not keep accounts for clients under their name, and "introducing brokers" for foreign securities dealers who are not closely linked to one specific foreign securities dealer are not supervised by the SFBC.