ZURICH (Reuters) – Switzerland’s banks will benefit from the global crackdown on tax avoidance, the president of the country’s association of foreign banks and head of HSBC’s Swiss private banking arm said on Tuesday.
The Alpine nation famed for its banking secrecy is bowing to international pressure by committing to a cross-border data-sharing program, but HSBC’s Franco Morra, speaking as president of the Association of Foreign Banks in Switzerland, said the country’s professional infrastructure will ensure it remains competitive in the fight for foreign cash.
“Not only do you (in Switzerland) have the competencies and the expertise, but also dealing with the past and actually creating a level playing field on tax transparency, I think we will gain a lot in terms of competitiveness as a financial center,” he said in a panel discussion on the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) Automatic Exchange of Information program in Zurich.
“That will give us big opportunities to grow again our private banking business.”
Some countries will begin exchanging data in 2017, with Switzerland having pledged to do so a year later.
This erosion of Switzerland’s long-held secrecy rules will require banks to report residents’ account balances, interest and other earnings to the government, which can share the data with any other government signed up to the program.
Morra did not comment on HSBC at Tuesday’s event.
The bank was dragged into the public spotlight this year with an admission of past failings in compliance and controls at its Swiss private bank.
It also faces investigation by U.S. and French authorities and an inquiry by British lawmakers after reports that it had helped customers to conceal millions of dollars of assets.
(Reporting by Joshua Franklin; Editing by David Goodman)