Swiss banking secrecy

A long tradition

Swiss banking secrecy

In 1934, Switzerland established the Swiss Banking Law, which made the disclosure of client information a criminal offence. In times of political uncertainty, the country has always been a popular option for storing financial assets. For instance, during WWII, people from all sides, from the persecuted to those hiding away looted property, protected their funds by moving them to Swiss banks. Gold, art and other valuable physical goods were and still are stored in underground bunkers in the mountains. Over the years, secrecy and safety has also attracted people looking to hide their wealth; from tax evading businesspeople, drug dealers to African dictators. 

International pressure meant Switzerland has signed up to the OECD's Automatic Exchange of Information, so the tax authorities in an individual's home countries can now request information. However, Swiss banks are still considered very secure and discreet, with the country consistently ranking number one of the Financial Secrecy Index .

Numbered accounts

Switzerland is famous for the numbered bank account which replaces the identity of the holder with a multi-digit number. Such an account is legally and fiscally equivalent to a normal one since the identification process has to be completed in the same way. The only difference is that the client’s name doesn’t appear on statements and receipts and is only known to select employees.

Further reading

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