Verdict: How Swiss banks could be better for foreign residents

Money - represented by colourful cash notes - from all across the world lying in a pile.
Plenty of international money finds its way to Switzerland, but what could Swiss banks do better for foreigners? Photo by John McArthur on Unsplash
We reached out to our readers to ask them about banking in Switzerland - and how banks could get better. Here’s what they said.

Swiss banks are world famous for their shady regulations, vaults full of gold and questionable member list, but in reality banking in Switzerland is a different story. 

The dominance of a handful of powerful banks has seen Switzerland’s banking sector get a little stuck in its ways, although a new generation of smaller, more dynamic financial institutions is forcing everyone into a bit of a rethink. 

In October, 2021, we asked our readers about their experiences with banking in Switzerland. 

We also asked them which banks were best – and worst – for foreign residents in Switzerland. 

EXPLAINED: Which banks are best for foreigners in Switzerland?

One final question we asked our readers was how Swiss banks could get better. 

Here’s what they said. 

What do Swiss banks do well? 

Most of our readers said they were relatively happy with their bank, indicating that stability and reliability were two important characteristics of Swiss banks. 

Swiss banks are also making improvements in relation to e-banking, i.e. with improved internet platforms and app-based banking. 

Our readers also said that while it was hard to get by with English in some smaller banks, this was also improving. 

READ MORE: How to open a bank account in Switzerland

What can Swiss banks do better? 

Steve, from Zurich, told us that Swiss banks were conservative and slow to introduce improvements. 

“The pace of change is very slow. Contactless took ages to introduce as did moving away from Maestro.”

Speed seemed to be a frequent complaint, with Mikołaj saying he wanted “faster bank transfers, less documents on paper”.

Simon, who uses a cantonal bank, said internet functionality could be improved, with the app not working on non-Swiss mobiles. 

Eric, in Lausanne, highlighted the credit card system. 

“Credit Card system here is rubbish. Extremely high fees with no rewards.”

Nicholas said changes needed to be made to provide for easier access for Americans, although he acknowledged that this is largely to do with US rather than Swiss rules. 

“Local banks won’t touch Americans due to (American) regulations” he told us. 

READ MORE: Why are Americans being turned away from Swiss banks?

One major area highlighted by several readers was the high fees in Switzerland – most of which are only waived if you deposit seven figures or more into your account. 

Mikołaj said to avoid UBS as it was “absurdly expensive”. 

One American reader, Jeremy*, told us UBS told him he needed to deposit a minimum of CHF2 million in order for the bank to waive its high fees – an amount that he did not have. 

READ MORE: Which bank is best for Americans in Switzerland?

“All the banks charge annual fees and provide no interest to konto (account) holders. Yet, these very same banks report astonishing profits year-after-year.  There are no credit unions.”

“The people that appear to profit are the people that are already rich. Us average blokes cannot get ahead.”

Bob, from the Ticino region of Cademario, said the current mortgage rules were forcing the Swiss to rent rather than buy their own place. 

“Ease the mortgage rules. Young people are forced into renting rather than homeowning by the harsh requirements.”

Switzerland has the highest percentage of renters of any European country and is the only country in Europe where more than half of the population rent rather than own their place of residence. 

READ MORE: Why do so many Swiss prefer to rent rather than buy their own home?

Do you agree? Or do you have some other suggestions?

Please let us know at [email protected].

*Persons appearing with an asterisk had their names changed at their own request.

This report has been put together as a guide only and The Local has not received any juicy kickbacks from these banks, nor do we endorse one organisation over the other. 

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