Senior Swiss Banker Calls for Global Perspective

Paul A Adams Geneva 28 September 2007

Senior Swiss Banker Calls for Global Perspective

"Voters must elect strong personalities who are willing and able to lead. Know-how and backbone are needed, not immaculately-styled politicians whose every move is mapped out by their PR minders. We need our parliamentarians to be decision-makers with experience and good sense, people who can quickly get to the root of a complex problem" said Pierre Mirabaud speaking in his capacity as chairman, Swiss Bankers Association. He was speaking to some 400 leading Swiss personalities and foreign ambassadors at the recent 2007 Swiss Bankers Day held in the capital Bern in the run-up to national elections to be held in October. Mr Mirabaud said most politicians displayed a too-narrow European focus and called on them to employ a global perspective. “Switzerland’s trading partners are to be found not just between Tallinn and Lisbon, but as far afield as Seoul and Mumbai, Los Angeles and São Paolo,” and added, “realism and economic sense are what we need, not romanticised Euro-nostalgia.” As in his previous Bankers Day speeches, Mr Mirabaud did not pull his punches in the speech. So, for example, he asked why agriculture and spending on education loomed so large in Swiss politics and noted that the economic sector was poorly represented in Swiss politics when seen against the contribution it makes to Switzerland’s prosperity. In a tour d’horizon, chief executive officer of the Swiss Bankers Association, Urs Roth sent a clear message to politicians about the association’s expectations for the Federal Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) that is likely to begin operating on 1 January, 2009. He said the industry welcomed this initiative but remained critical of certain proposals. In particular the non-inclusion of independent wealth managers or recently the hiring conditions for staff under public law. He expressed the hope that FINMA will look to the UK's Financial Services Authority as a "model for a pragmatic and market-oriented approach". He went on to say "we are not striving for a "super" government agency with a lot of bureaucratic idling, but rather for a powerful, high-quality regulatory body with great international resonance". Mr Roth mentioned that "it is crucial that the new regulator is characterised by a high level of professionalism. With its increasingly complex products and services, the financial sector places very high demands on the regulator's expertise. The employees must have an above-average level of industry knowledge on all levels". He pointed out that "a good regulator should not just blindly issue new laws and regulations; rather, it should also understand the impact its actions have on business. This calls for careful recruiting, and even more importantly, in-house training must be of utmost priority" . He stated that the SBA is "prepared to make a contribution to this end to ensure that FINMA staff gain in-depth, practical insights through various channels". Mr Roth said the "administration required a high standard of professionalism in particular, in departments that issue approvals. One key issue, for example, is the approval of investment funds. In Switzerland the approval process for complex products can take more than three months; in Luxembourg it takes only a few weeks. This time frame is what is referred to as 'time to market'. It is especially significant for Switzerland’s position as a production centre". He conitinued: "in our globalised world and in one of the most globalised sectors, providers – the ones who create jobs and added value – are naturally moving to where conditions are best – in this case where the shortest approval times are. The new Collective Investment Schemes Act, which entered into force at the beginning of 2007, is an important first step in tightening the entire process. Laws and regulations are only as good as the qualifications and numbers of people who implement them". In conclusion, Mr Roth said that uncertainty in the financial markets will in all likelihood remain. Provided that the turbulences do not escalate, in his opinion 2007 could even turn out to be a better year than 2006 for the Swiss banking sector.

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