Who can open a Swiss bank
In principle, any adult person can open an account at a
bank in Switzerland. However, banks reserve the right to
reject customers. For example, a bank might refuse to offer
banking services to a so-called "politically-exposed person"
who the bank believes would pose too great a reputational
risk if he or she were to become a client. A bank might also
refuse to start a banking relationship if it has doubts
about the origins of the potential client's funds because
Swiss banks are forbidden by law to accept money which they
know or must assume stem from crime.
Can a company open an account?
A company may open a Swiss bank account irrespective of
whether its registered office is in Switzerland or abroad.
If the company's registered office is in Switzerland then
the company is identified with the relevant extract from the
Swiss Commercial Register which the bank may download from
the relevant website. The identity of legal entities not
listed in the Swiss Commercial Register is verified on the
basis of their charters or equivalent documents. The same
principles basically apply to companies with their
registered office abroad. However, if the registered office
is in a country that does not operate an official commercial
register then the company must prove it exists by showing
equivalent relevant credentials. Extracts from commercial
registers or equivalent documents must not be older than 12
months. A document dated older than 12 months may be used in
conjunction with an audit report or a "certificate of good
standing" dated not older than 12 months.
Special rules apply to domiciliary companies. Under Swiss
law "domiciliary companies" are entities that do not conduct
any commercial or manufacturing business or any other form
of commercial operation in the country where their
registered office is located. Besides producing the
identification documents mentioned above they must also
declare the identity of the beneficial owners of their
How can I open an account from my home country?
First of all it must be understood that Swiss banks have
very strict procedures concerning the opening of accounts,
irrespective of the domicile of the customer. In line with
Swiss laws governing "due diligence", the bank must verify
the identity of the customer on the basis of an official
document (e.g. a passport). If the Swiss bank you are
interested in has a subsidiary, branch or representative
office in your country you may consider contacting this
office. If the bank is not represented in your country,
please get in touch directly with the bank in Switzerland
which will then provide you with further information.
Can I open a Swiss bank account entirely via the Internet?
No, because technical and legal reasons prevent the
customer identification procedure from being carried out
entirely online via the Internet. At the present time banks
in Switzerland must follow the identification procedures
laid down for opening an account by correspondence. In
accordance with the Due Diligence Agreement (CDB 03), the
bank verifies the identity of the contracting partner by
obtaining a certified copy of an official identification
document (passport, identity card, etc.). The certified copy
may be provided by a branch, representative office or group
company of the bank; by a correspondent bank; by a financial
intermediary specifically appointed by the bank; or by a
notary public or public office that customarily issues such
authentications. The bank also checks the address of the new
customer through an exchange of correspondence.
What questions will the bank ask me?
First of all, the bank's staff will certainly ask
questions to fulfil the bank's legal obligations with regard
to due diligence. This will include asking for proof of your
identity and also establishing the identity of the
beneficial owner of the assets if you are depositing funds
on behalf of someone else. The bank's staff might also ask
about the origin of the funds, the nature of your
professional business, your general financial situation and
your usual financial transactions.
What documentation will the bank want to see?
As mentioned above, Swiss banks are obliged to verify
the identity of a client. For this reason a bank would very
much prefer to meet you face-to-face for an initial
discussion. The bank will certainly want to see official
identification papers such as a valid passport or an
equivalent official identification document containing a
photograph. The bank may also ask for documentation that can
prove the origin of your funds, such as the contract for a
house sale, a statement from a foreign bank, a receipt from
the sale of securities, etc.
Can I open an "anonymous"account?
No. There is no such thing as an "anonymous" account in
Switzerland. Under Swiss law, the bank must know who you
are. Anonymous accounts at Swiss banks exist only in the
imagination of thriller writers!
What about "numbered" accounts?
The procedure for opening a "numbered" account is
exactly the same as for any other type of account. The bank
must verify your identity and establish the identity of the
beneficial owner. "Numbered" accounts are certainly not
anonymous. With a "numbered" account your business within
the bank is carried out not under your name but under a
number or code. This is simply an internal security measure
to restrict knowledge of the customer's identity to a small
group of employees in the bank and apart from this a
"numbered" account enjoys no additional privileges in terms
of confidentiality. "Numbered" accounts should not be used
for international wire transfers. According to international
regulations the client's name, address and account number
must be given when making international wire transfers.
Is there a minimum opening deposit?
Most Swiss high-street banks do not require a minimum
deposit for an ordinary current or savings account. However,
some of the private bankers and other banks offering private
banking and wealth management services do require a minimum
Does the account have to be in Swiss francs?
No. Many banks offer accounts in US dollars, euros and
other currencies besides the Swiss franc.
How safe are Swiss banks?
All banks operating in Switzerland must be licensed by
the Swiss Federal Banking Commission (SFBC). The SFBC, which
is a member of the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision,
regulates and supervises all banks in Switzerland according
to the Basel Committee's standards. These standards cover
not only equity and capital adequacy but also the entire
scope of prudential and behavioural rules. As an additional
safety measure, Swiss law demands capital adequacy standards
even higher than those required by the Basel Accord. Swiss
banks can therefore certainly be counted amongst the safest
in the world.
How "secret" are Swiss banks?
In Switzerland great importance has traditionally been
attached to the protection of an individual's privacy, and
this has always included financial privacy. Surveys
consistently show that the vast majority of the Swiss people
want to maintain this protection. However, the high level of
confidentiality Swiss banks offer both their domestic and
foreign customers is not absolute and certainly does not
shield criminals. As a matter of principle the rights to
privacy can be suspended when a criminal investigation is
underway. Our aim is to protect the privacy of the honest
bank client while exposing criminals to the full force of
Thanks to the General Question provided by Swiss Bankers