Switzerland is known for its impressive banking system, including its legendary privacy policies. While Swiss banks may not be as exciting as they are depicted in spy movies and action thrillers, they are extremely well run and impressively private. While each bank has its own steps for setting up an account, here are some guidelines for setting up a Swiss bank account,including what information and documents you will need to provide.
Open a Swiss Bank Account Step by step
1 Get to know your banking options. According to SwissBanking.org, as of the end of 2011, there were 312 banks and 3,382 branches of those banks in Switzerland. That means you have quite a lot of options to choose from.
The two largest banks in Switzerland are UBS AG (Union Bank of Switzerland) and Credit Suisse Group. There is also the Raiffeisen Group, which has banks in over 1,200 locations throughout the country. These banks all offer standard accounts.
Switzerland’s regional and local banks focus on lending and traditional deposit accounts.
Switzerland is broken up into 26 cantons (or states) and there are 24 cantonal banks. These banks focus on their specific canton. These banks are held under cantonal law
Switzerland also has 13 private banks. These banks are some of the oldest in Switzerland and generally do not publicly offer to handle savings deposits. They mostly focus on managing assets for private clients
2 Get to know the standard types of accounts. Applying for any of these accounts is done in the same manner (listed in the second section of this article.)
Personal account: Standard personal accounts are used for salary deposits, payments (such as bill payments) and security transactions. You can also set up a personal account for private clients, which means that you can control larger personal transactions, and have access to the bank’s full range of services (such as Wealth Management.)
Savings account: Savings accounts are used when you plan on setting aside money and letting it gain interest. In general, there is a high amount of security in savings accounts.
3 Learn about numbered accounts. To be clear, numbered accounts are not anonymous. The bank must know who you are and have proof of your identity. They are, however, the account with the highest amount of privacy (and are generally what is referred to in thriller spy movies.) With numbered accounts, once your account has been set up, the transactions and other business you have with the bank is done under the guise of a number or code, rather than with your name.
Swissbanking.org states that numbered accounts should not be used by those hoping to make international wire transfers. When an international wire transaction occurs, the client’s name, address, and account number must be given for the transaction to occur.
4 Know that anonymous accounts no longer exist. Under Swiss law, you must provide the bank with proof of your identity. This cannot be done over the internet and banks prefer if you open the account up in person. However, if you cannot open the account up in person, the opening of the account will done through correspondence.
Opening an Account
Open a Swiss Bank Account
Know if you are eligible to open an account. Generally any adult 18 years of age or older is eligible to open a Swiss bank account. However, keep in mind that banks reserve the right to reject customers. You may be rejected if:
You are a “politically exposed” person--someone who has been involved in a scandal or has a publically dubious reputation. The bank would be concerned that if that sort of person became a client, he or she might pose too great a risk to the bank’s reputation.
The bank suspects that your money stems from an illegal activity. Swiss banks are forbidden by law to accept money obtained in any illegal way.
Know what basic information will be required of you. Swiss banks are required by law to verify the identity of any potential client by checking an official identification of some kind (a passport is preferred.) They will also ask you to provide name, address, date of birth, profession and contact information.
The identification you provide the bank must be certified. Your identification can be certified by a public office in your home country, a branch of the bank you are applying to, by a correspondent bank, or by someone, such as a company or appointed official, who is appointed by the bank you are applying to. The bank that you are applying to will give you specific instructions as to how to get your identification certified in the manner that they specifically want.
Know about Swiss banks and the IRS (USA only.) If you are an American citizen, you will have to sign a document that states that you will agree to notify the IRS of any monetary transfers made over a certain amount.
Form 1040, Schedule B, Part III must be filled out, declaring that you are opening a foreign bank account.
Form TD F 90-22.1 must be filed by June 30th of each year to inform the IRS of the location of foreign "financial accounts" with an aggregate value of more than $10,000 at any time during the prior calendar year.
Know that you cannot open an account entirely over the internet. Because Swiss banks need to have a confirmed identity of any potential client, part of opening a Swiss bank account as a foreigner (someone not living in Switzerland) is done over correspondence (such as through the postal service.)
Be familiar with the questions Swiss banks might ask you. When you begin the process of setting up your account, each Swiss bank will ask you different questions. However, they will all be along similar lines. Along with asking for a proof of identity the banks will also ask questions like:
Whether or not you are depositing on behalf of someone else. If the answer is yes, they will ask you to give the identity of the beneficial owner of the assets (the person who owns the money/assets you are depositing.)
To disclose the origin of the funds. As stated previously, Swiss banks cannot lawfully accept a client whose funds were, or appear to have been, illegally obtained. The bank may, if it is within your capacity, ask you to produce documentation proving the origins of your money (example: a statement from a foreign bank, a contract from the selling of an estate, etc.)
What is the nature of your professional business?
What is your general financial situation?
What are your monetary transactions like normally?
Know that most Swiss banks have a minimum deposit instated. Each bank differs on what the minimum amount of money is that can be deposited when you open a new account. Check with the bank you have selected.
Contact the bank you have selected. Each bank has their own private set of steps you must go through in order to access an account.