The shock-like franc appreciations by the removal of the exchange rate floor of CHF 1.20 per Euro in January 2015 as well as the introduction of negative interest rates by the Swiss National Bank (SNB) have affected the asset management business.
As independent financial intermediaries, asset managers are generally subject to the Swiss Money Laundering Act. An asset manager may act on a professional basis in Switzerland after he has applied for a license as financial intermediary in order to comply with the obligations under the Money Laundering Act. The law offers him the choice between:
- Direct supervision by FINMA
- Affiliation to a self-regulatory organization (SRO) recognized by FINMA
The Swiss financial markets statutes provide for a comprehensive regulation and prudential supervision by FINMA only if the asset management is carried out by the following institutions:
- Securities trader
- Fund management
- Manager of Swiss collective investment schemes
- Manager of foreign, alternative investments
These financial services providers are subject to comprehensive licensing requirements. However, if such providers act as consultants re portfolio management only, they are not subject to the Money Laundering Act as financial intermediaries (see Circular Letter FINMA 2011/1, note 90 et seq.). If such providers offer deposit accounts to customers, they need a banking license under the Banking Act. This is also necessary in general if such providers act as full-fledged brokers.
Total assets managed by banks in Switzerland totaled around CHF 6'656 billion at the end of 2014. 51.1 percent of these came from foreign customers.
Thereby, assets under management are taken into account as follows:
- securities held in customer deposits;
- fiduciary assets;
- commitments to customers in the form of savings and
- investments as well as obligations towards temporary customers.
Jürg E. Hartmann