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Swiss Bank Accounts: Not Secret Anymore but Still Sought After

Discover the process of opening a non-resident bank account in Switzerland. Explore key details about Swiss banks, their regulations, interest rates, and minimum balance requirements.

Swiss banks are among the most reliable banks in the world and this is the main reason why many people from other countries want to open Swiss bank accounts. Below we discuss how a non-resident of Switzerland can set up a bank account in the country.

The Swiss banking system is extremely dependable and all banks in the country are regulated by FINMA, a national financial monitoring agency. For a long time, Switzerland refused to exchange account holders’ information with other countries and for that reason, opening a non-resident bank account in the country was highly problematic.

Since 2014, however, Switzerland has joined the ‘automatic exchange of information’ group of countries and now the local legislation requires that all banks supply the information about their foreign account holders to the tax agencies of their home countries. It will be curious to note that Swiss banks do not share the information about their domestic account holders with the tax authorities of Switzerland. The important thing, however, is that a foreign national is entitled to set up an account with a Swiss bank.  

Swiss banks: their number and their service conditions

There are over 240 banks in Switzerland and together they have about 2,500 offices in the country plus nearly 200 offices abroad.

A Swiss bank account is a financial product available to any person regardless of his/ her nationality. This holds for international, national, and cantonal banks in Switzerland (a cantonal bank provides services only within the canton where it is located).

Swiss banks: interests on deposit and minimum balance requirements

Swiss banks do not offer high interest rates on deposits. If you put a foreign currency into a Swiss bank account, you can count on 0.5% to 1.5% interest. If you put Swiss francs into your account, the interest rate is going to be negative in all likelihood.

At the same time, you have to realize that themonetary requirements of Swiss banks are quite stern. If you are prepared to make a one-million-franc deposit, opening a bank account in Switzerland is possible. If you want to make a smaller deposit, it is still possible to open a Swiss bank account but your choice of banks is going to be limited in this case.

Documents required for opening a non-resident bank account in Switzerland

You will have to supply the following documents when applying for banking services in Switzerland:

  • A valid passport;
  • Confirmations of the legality of your capital (any confirmations that you can bring);
  • A completed application form (available at the bank’s website, as a rule);
  • Proof of address in your home country;
  • A police clearance.

Please note that you will have to pay a personal visit to the bank and have an interview with a bank manager. In certain exceptional cases, this can be avoided. A particular bank may have particular due diligence procedures so you should also be prepared for some unexpected requests. For example, ‘Could I see your Facebook profile please?’  

How to open a non-resident investment and capital management account with a Swiss bank

If you would like to set up a Swiss bank account in order to preserve and grow your wealth, you can consider banking with a foreign division of a Swiss bank or banking in Switzerland proper. Large banks such as HSBC or NCA, for instance, will open Swiss franc accounts for their international clients in their home countries. UBS or Credit Suisse will open investment accounts for foreign clients in Switzerland. Besides, there are small private banks in Switzerland that specialize in capital management. You will need the following items to set up a Swiss bank account:

  • A valid passport or an equivalent ID;
  • An initial deposit (it can be 1 million Swiss francs, depending on the bank);
  • Documents confirming the legality of your capital;
  • A clean police record.

Any person above 18 can open an account with a Swiss bank. We have provided only the basic list of documents above. Every bank in Switzerland has its own due diligence procedures.

What Swiss banks welcome foreign clients onboard?

Theoretically, it does not matter if you are a resident of Switzerland or not: you are entitled to apply for banking services in the country. Both large banks and small cantonal banks are supposed to welcome foreign clients. In practice, however, things are not so simple. Opening a non-resident bank account in Switzerland is a demanding task.

Please note that you will have to take a trip to Switzerland in all likelihood if you would like to open a Swiss bank account. Some banks in the country might be satisfied with a video call but they are few and far between. One of the banks that welcome foreign clients is UBS.

Open a non-resident bank account with UBS

It is relatively easy for a non-resident of Switzerland to open a bank account with UBS. Currently, it is the largest Swiss bank with offices in several foreign countries. You can open a Swiss franc account or deposit another national currency.

You have to take the following steps to open a bank account with UBS:

  1. Apply for a visa to Switzerland if you live outside the EU;
  2. Make an appointment with a bank manager using the official website of the bank;
  3. Have a meeting with a bank officer and bring the following documents to the meeting:
  • A valid passport or other ID;
  • Tax declarations that confirm payment of taxes in your home country;
  • Confirmations of the legality of your sources of income.

In addition to that, you have to be prepared to make a large initial deposit. The minimum amount may even exceed 1 million Swiss francs. Besides, the list of documents provided above is far from complete. Depending on the country of your origin, the bank administration may request quite a number of additional papers. Do not be surprised if you have to visit the bank office more than once.

If you have a Swiss residence permit, it will make life much easier for you. With this document, you can file an application for banking services online by logging onto the UBS website.

UBS commissions and fees

The commissions and fees will largely depend on the type of bank account that you open. In addition, your country of origin will also matter. For a citizen of an EU country, the account maintenance fee is about 120 Swiss francs per year while for citizens of non-EU countries the fee is higher.

Some other Swiss banks will also take foreign clients onboard. These include large banks such as PostFinance and Migros Bank and small banks such as Valiant and Aargau Cantonal Bank. Banking in Switzerland is an attractive opportunity but a foreigner has to go through certain hardships if he/ she wishes to open a Swiss bank account.

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