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Swiss Bank Account Opening - 2021 Update

Opening a Bank Account in Switzerland

Updated on Wednesday 10th March 2021

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Foreign citizens who relocate to Switzerland can make their lives more comfortable by completing various formalities among which the opening of bank accounts with local financial institutions. The opening of a corporate account is one of the mandatory requirements when starting a business in Switzerland.
 
Below, our lawyers in Switzerland present the main steps related to opening a bank account as natural person and as a company. You can also rely on us for assistance in registering a company in Switzerland.
 

Banks in Switzerland

 

The financial industry is one of the most important contributors to the Swiss economy and one of its most developed branches is banking. There are many banks operating here among which the vast majority is made of local financial institutions. However, there are also many foreign banks, including from Western countries offering their services to local and foreign clients. These usually operate through branch offices in Switzerland.
 
In the case of local banks, there is the National Bank, but also cantonal banks with which natural persons and companies can open accounts with. It is not uncommon for people to prefer to work with banks in the Swiss cantons they live in.
 
Those who want to set up Swiss bank accounts can choose between small and large financial institutions, which is why this country is preferred by many entrepreneurs but also private individuals who want to keep their assets in one of the most famous financial destinations in the world.
 
If you have questions related to how to choose a bank to open an account with, our Swiss lawyers are at your service with information and tips on how to decide.
 

Swiss bank accounts
 

Switzerland has an extensive network of banks ranging from small regional ones to large banks that are spread worldwide and each one of them has its own requirements when someone wants to open a bank account. Swiss banks are famous for their privacy and stability and fall under the regulations of the Federal Banking Commission. Our lawyers can help you open a bank account in Switzerland.

Before opening a Swiss bank account you should know that in Switzerland there are 26 cantons and 24 of them benefit from the presence of cantonal banks. The operations of these banks are regulated by cantonal laws. According to a survey conducted in 2011 by SwissBanking.org in Switzerland there are 312 active banks with over 3000 branches. Switzerland also has 13 private banks, which are among the oldest in the country and that generally manage assets for private clients.
 
You can obtain more information on the Swiss bank account opening procedure from our lawyers. 
 
You can read about the opening of a Swiss bank account in the infographic below:
 
Swiss Bank Account Opening

Who can open a bank account in Switzerland?

 
Switzerland is a very particular country when it comes to banking, as this sector is one its most prolific industry. The Swiss bank account opening procedure is available for natural persons and companies disregarding their nationalities. Also, there is no mandatory requirement for a person or company to have a residential address, respectively legal seat in Switzerland in order to allow it to set up a bank account.
 
Foreign individuals and companies can also open Swiss bank accounts remotely, as this is one of the few European countries to allow for the procedure to be completed online. Even so, the banks allowing for such accounts to be created will require a larger deposit compared to more traditional banks.
 
However, if you need to open a bank account for a company, our lawyers can prepare and file the necessary documents with chosen bank. We will need a power of attorney to act as representatives of the company.
 
Any detail related to the opening of a Swiss bank account can be discussed with one of our lawyers.
 

Types of bank accounts in Switzerland in 2021
 

Banks provide different types of Swiss bank accounts depending on whether the customer is an individual or a legal entity, or if the customer is a resident or non-resident. Residents can opt for current accounts that are used for daily transactions such as shopping or bill payments, salary accounts and savings accounts that usually offer higher interests than the other two types of bank accounts.
 
Clients who want to open a bank account in Switzerland in 2021 can choose from the following types of accounts:
 
  • Personal account: Standard personal accounts are used for salary deposits, payments and security transactions. 
  • Investment account.
  • Savings account: these are used for saving money and gaining interest. 
     
Other types of accounts usually employed by non-residents that want their assets protected are the famous numbered accounts and dormant accounts:
 
  • the numbered account is the type of Swiss bank account that has numbers or a code associated with it instead of the owner’s name. However, part of the bank’s personnel will know who the account owner is;
  • the dormant account is the type of secret account that becomes “dormant” when the account owner passes away and no one else knows about it being unable to claim its content. If after 10 years no one claims the account, the bank will report the account to the banking ombudsman that will investigate who the account might belong to.
 
The account can be opened in almost any currency, the most popular being the Swiss franc, U.S. dollar, Euro or Sterling. Businessmen who want to  open a bank account in Switzerland in 2021 should know that there is no requirement regarding a minimum balance, but once the owner starts depositing cash there is a minimum balance he must maintain, and that varies according to the bank and type of account.
 
If you need information about the uses of the bank accounts presented above, our Swiss lawyers can provide it for you.


How to open a bank account in Switzerland
 

Swiss bank accounts can only be opened by personally going to the chosen bank or by postal services or e-mail because certain documents will be required, thus making an online application impossible. It is important to know that each bank in Switzerland has its own procedures, but these are some of the usual documentation and questions clients will be required:
 
  • notarized copies after the client’s passport;
  • proof of the money to be deposited in the Swiss bank account, such as company documents, contract after selling a property or a business or any other financial document that could prove the provenience of the money according to the anti-money-laundering provisions;
  • a recent utility bill  as proof of the client’s residency;
  • contact information;
  • the client could be also asked what he or she wants to do with the money.
 
Another important aspect is that each Swiss bank will require a minimum amount of money to be deposited in the account.
 

How to open a corporate bank account in Switzerland in 2021

 
Foreign businesspersons setting up companies in Switzerland will need to link local bank accounts to their financial operations here. As a matter of fact, the Swiss bank account opening process in 2021 must be completed prior the incorporation of the company with the Trade Registrar as a bank statement indicating the deposit of the share capital will need to be filed alongside the company’s statutory documents.
 
It is useful to know that one can set up bank accounts for onshore and offshore companies provided that they file the necessary documents with the selected Swiss bank. The documents that need to be filed in order to open a corporate bank account in this country are:
 
  1. the details of all shareholders in the company in the form of copies of valid passports or IDs;
  2. business incorporation information and contact persons are also required;
  3. information about activities of the company can also be requested by the bank;
  4. information about the type of account, services and intentions of using it.
 
It is also possible for the bank to request business plans and other information related to any expansion or growth plans in order to determine the financial soundness of the company.
 
It is important to understand that each bank has its own regulations and documentation requirements based on which company owners can choose.
 
In the case of offshore bank accounts, the notarized copy of the person opening the account and the company’s statutory documents are required for the opening procedure.
 
Our law firm is at your disposal with tailored Swiss bank account opening services, no matter if you are a resident or non-resident citizen or company.
 

Opening a Swiss bank account as a non-resident

 
Foreign citizens prefer Switzerland for opening bank accounts thanks to the privacy the institutions here offer. However, they should know that the country has implemented various regulations and has adhered to important international standards and recommendations which provide for enhanced protection of bank accounts. These also come with the obligation of the banking authorities in Switzerland to report suspicious activities.
 
Those who plan on moving to Switzerland or simply want to have bank accounts here have the possibility of setting up non-resident accounts. There are certain requirements to be met in this case and one of the most important is that only persons with the legal age of 18 are allowed to open Swiss bank accounts.
 
Given the advanced banking system Switzerland has, it is possible for the procedure of opening a bank account as a non-resident to be started online. For those who prefer other ways, they can appoint a third-party, such as a lawyer or accountant, to start the procedure on their behalf. Our Swiss lawyers can do that based on a power of attorney.
 
Some banks will ask the client to come and finalize the bank account opening process in person. This is usually required when having to sign the final documents.
 
Just like in the case of Swiss residents, identification papers (the passport), documents stating the source of income and information about the address will be required by the selected bank. Other documents could also be needed in case of foreign citizens.
 
Once you decide on a type of Swiss bank account, our lawyers can offer more information on how to set it up.
 

Setting up merchant accounts for online companies in Switzerland

 
A type of bank account which often employed nowadays is the merchant account. This is created by online companies, usually e-commerce businesses, with the purpose of enabling clients to complete online payments.
 
Merchant accounts are not created with Swiss banks but with dedicated service providers, however, they can be linked to the corporate bank accounts of companies, which means that an e-commerce business must have both types of accounts.
 
In most cases, the same documents related to the creation of the corporate account will be required when setting up a merchant one.
 
Our Swiss law firm offers complete company formation packages which are also dedicated to investors seeking to open e-commerce businesses, so do not hesitate to ask about the bank account opening services.
 
Our lawyers can offer information on the creation of Swiss bank accounts at the level of 2021.
 

The advantages of opening a Swiss bank account
 

Businessmen who would like to open a bank account in Switzerland should know that this country continues to be one of the world’s favorite banking destinations even with the new regulations on bank secrecySwiss banks are professional and secure.  Switzerland also has enabled the Depositor Protection Agreement which means that all types of money deposits including securities are protected in case a bank goes bankrupt. Swiss banks are also required by law to have sufficient capital.

Moreover, Swiss banking has kept the pace with the new technology and adapted to them. Banks in Switzerland provide nowadays electronic fund-transfer services, encryption security services and electronic signature services for its clients. Switzerland has very strict regulations about banking activities which makes it one of the safest countries for those wanting to keep their assets safe. 
Banking secrecy
 
Switzerland is renowned for its banking secrecy and therefore many investors choose to store their valuables here. Before opening a Swiss bank account, you should know that Swiss banks do not offer unlimited privacy and in cases of illegal activities suspicion the authorities will be given access to all account information. Also, due to the new double taxation treaties signed by Switzerland, the country agreed to exchange certain information with partner states. 
 
The accounts cannot be anonymous; the banks must know the identity of the account owner and beneficiary. Swiss banks provide their customers with the opportunity to create numbered accounts which give customers an extra amount of privacy for their personal information. Instead of using the owner’s personal data all transactions are conducted with a code. However, there are several downsides: these types of accounts typically require an initial deposit of at least $100,000, a cost around $300 for maintenance and the owner’s physical presence when registering it. In case you want to open a bank account in Switzerland, be it a numdered account or a regular account, our Swiss lawyers can help you.
 
You can obtain detailed information on the renowned Swiss banking secrecy from our lawyers.
 

Costs related to opening a Swiss bank account

 
The costs associated with the creation of a bank account in Switzerland for natural persons or companies are not higher compared to other countries, however, each bank has its own policies. While some will have lower or no setup costs, they can impose higher maintenance or initial deposit ones, however, the services offered by each bank are unique and it is impossible not to find one that suits the needs of every client.
 
The main costs associated with a Swiss bank account will usually depend on the type of account chosen, the size of the financial institution and the services attached to the account. As mentioned above, another important aspect to consider is the initial deposit, especially in the case of personal bank accounts. In the case of non-residents, the amount to be deposited could be slightly higher than in the case of Swiss residents.
 
Opening a bank account in Switzerland in 2021 is subject to various fees which are established by each bank.

Banking Law in Switzerland

 
Banking activities in Switzerland are regulated by the Federal Act on Banks and Saving Banks, shortly known as the Banking Law of 1934. Swiss banks were known for their regime of not divulging information about their clients, but in 2009 the Banking Law was amended and Switzerland started concluding tax treaties with other countries that allowed banks to reveal information about the account owners.
 
In order to engage in bank activities, there are some requirements to be fulfilled according to the Swiss Banking Law. These requirements are:
 
  • the Articles of Association of the bank must clearly state the business scopes;
  • the management of the bank must be separate from the direction, control and supervisory authorities of the bank;
  • the minimum share capital injected in the bank must be totally disclosed;
  • the manager or administrative authority of the Swiss bank must have an impeccable reputation;
  • shareholders that have at least 10% of their capital or have voting rights in the bank are qualified to participate in decision making situation, provided their authority does not have negative consequences on the business’ activities;
  • the manager of the bank must hold residence in a place that does not affect his or her activity;
 
You can rely on our law firm in Switzerland for assistance in setting up a corporate bank account.
 

Bank Account succession in Switzerland

 
Before opening a Swiss bank account you should know some basic details about bank account succession in this country. The simplest way of making bank account succession easy for one’s heirs is to use estate planning solutions. Both foreign and Swiss citizens have the possibility to use several types of structures in case of bank account succession. These are:
 
  • trusts;
  • foundations.
 
Setting up trusts in Switzerland is not a common practice, however the courts acknowledge the existence of foreign trusts. Foundations, on the other hand, are among the most common estate planning tools in Switzerland.
 

Inheritance of bank accounts in Switzerland
 

The Swiss legislation on inheritance acknowledges two types of joint ownership:
 
  • co-ownership;
  • joint tenancy.
 
While co-ownership is related to the assets achieved during marriage, joint tenancy usually refers to the assets held by several heirs.
 
Wills usually include provisions about the succession of all assets, including bank accounts. Swiss banks will always respect the instructions given by the account holder in relation to the heirs of the said account. In case a person dies intestate (without leaving a will), the succession of the bank account will be done in accordance with the applicable inheritance regime.
 

Safety measures for Swiss bank account holders

 
Switzerland is famous not only for its banking secrecy, but also safety measures some banks take in order to guarantee certain accounts. These are cantonal banks which have a state guarantee for all bank accounts with deposits of maximum 100,000 CHF. This means that the Swiss State guarantees for these amounts in case anything happens to the bank.
 
With respect to the banking industry, the European Banking Federation (EBF) reports that:
 
  • the Swiss banking sector represents 10% of the country’s economy;
  • at the end of 2018, there were 248 banks with more than 2,600 branches in the country;
  • the largest banks in Switzerland also have more than 200 branches abroad;
  • Switzerland is also the largest wealth management center in the world with a market share of 27%.
 
Another important trend developing in Switzerland is the appearance of an impressive number of fintech companies which at the end of 2018 reached 330.
 
If you want to open a company in Switzerland and need a bank account you can contact our Swiss lawyers for information. They will give you all the information related to opening a Swiss bank account and they will handle the entire procedure.