Advancing

Most Swiss bankers believe banking secrecy’s days are numbered

Nearly two-thirds of Swiss bankers believe Switzerland will share data on foreign depositors with its neighbours by 2016, according to a study released on Tuesday.

The country is the world’s biggest offshore financial centre with more than $2 trillion in assets under management, but is under huge pressure from the European Union and United States to end bank secrecy as cash-strapped countries fight tax evasion.

The study, involving 49 private banks or independent asset managers and compiled by consultants KPMG, reflects a growing resignation among bankers in Switzerland to attacks on banking secrecy following a U.S. crackdown which has felled two private banks in the country and cost UBS UBSN.VX $780 million in fines.

Automatically sharing data would represent a shift away from a clean-money strategy the country has been pursuing, which aims to sweep bank accounts clean of undeclared funds with additional compliance standards for bankers.

“In our opinion the “whiter than white” strategy of the Swiss government and parliament may be obsolete, as a majority of respondents believe automatic exchange of information could be in force within three years,” the study’s authors said.

A government panel has recommended the Swiss government prepare to share data even before a global standard is established, but the issue remains deeply divisive amongst lawmakers.

Last month, the Swiss government said it will sign the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) administrative assistance convention, a further sign that bank secrecy is slowly waning.

In October, Frey & Co became the second Swiss private bank to fold following allegations of aiding tax evasion after Wegelin & Co in February.

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