There is absolutely no doubt that Switzerland today still stands as the world’s best and largest all-round offshore banking and asset protection paradise. Switzerland certainly has a reputation to protect – and we’re not talking about Rolexes or chocolate!
About a quarter of the global assets managed offshore worldwide are managed in Swiss banks – and that does not include the assets that Swiss banks manage in other financial centers such as New York, London and Singapore. A recent report by Deloitte shows, for example, how Switzerland clearly eclipses competing havens such as Hong Kong, Singapore, Panama or the Caribbean.
Swiss banks beat their competitors not only in terms of pure assets under management (AUM) numbers, but also in areas such as dynamism, competitiveness and adoption of modern technologies such as fintech and blockchain.
In this article, we list KGN’s top 10 Swiss banks that will open accounts for offshore clients – and in most cases these days, you don’t even need to travel to Switzerland, as accounts can be opened remotely.
But hasn’t it become impossible to open a Swiss bank account?
First, let’s dispel a myth: some people think that it is no longer possible to open a Swiss bank account! This idea is actually ridiculous – how could Switzerland continue to manage a quarter of the entire world’s offshore wealth if they didn’t open new accounts?
However, we understand how this misunderstanding arose. Swiss banking compliance has become very strict, so Swiss banks turn away a lot of new customers. The demand for Swiss bank accounts is so great on a global scale that Swiss banks can afford to be picky. It’s highly unlikely that you can just walk into (either literally or virtually) a Swiss bank these days and open an account. Most companies come through word of mouth and trusted referrals, especially external asset managers.
In order to be accepted in a top Swiss bank, it therefore pays to have professional help – to have someone on your side who knows the business inside out, like KGN. We can help you present your documents correctly.
Personal accounts Free choice of personal bank accounts abroad for people depositing €5000+. Expert service based on many years of experience in banking.
Costs of opening a Swiss bank account
Swiss bank is not necessarily the cheapest option. It is a premium quality option. Switzerland’s reputation speaks for itself. But the Swiss are also good negotiators.
The good news is that instead of costing the customer extra, our customers typically save money in their Swiss bank accounts because we know how to recommend the best Swiss bank to negotiate the best fees with the bank based on your background. Although we charge an upfront account opening fee, we welcome almost any comparison. If you are already a customer of a Swiss private bank, you can ask us to help you with a comparison to see
Minimum deposit to open an offshore Swiss bank account
Typically, you need to spend around a million dollars or euros to be accepted for a Swiss bank account, but among the 246 banks operating in Switzerland today , there is something for everyone. If you are either an extremely low risk client, or a client who may be high risk but high reward for the bank, you can open accounts with less. Younger people can open private bank accounts with less money if they can demonstrate the potential to grow assets quickly. And for the smaller investors, there are plenty of online banks such as Swissquote and Dukascopy that still accept cross-border transactions.
Can I open a business or trust account in Switzerland?
It has become much more difficult. These days , an offshore company or trust can certainly open an account in a Swiss bank , but it will primarily be an account for investment purposes. You will be expected to make a significant deposit (at least one million) and you will not be allowed to make many deposits and withdrawals.
What about corporate treasury for an offshore company? If you simply need to use the account for corporate treasury, for example to send money to and from your operating account in another bank or payment system, or perhaps receive one fixed monthly payment from a subsidiary or long-term business partner, this may be possible and can be negotiated with the bank . It is also very important that you have all your substantive and audited accounts in order.
Top Ten Swiss Banks
Here are some of the Swiss banks that your KGN team recommends in 2022. We have presented them in a specific order that we believe will help you understand the topic if you read through them in the same order. It might not make sense at first, but if you read it cover to cover, it does.
UBS is the largest Swiss bank in the world. We must say that in Swiss banking we prefer small boutique banks. Boutique banks tend to have better service than large global banks. There is no doubt that UBS’s global reach and access to highly specialized financial products are attractive to some clients. UBS offers excellent service to the type of client who already owns a private jet, but its private banking offering is really very “mass market” for smaller clients.
It is worth noting that UBS has a subsidiary bank in Switzerland dedicated exclusively to US clients. It operates under the same UBS brand but with different staff operating from different offices. This niche subsidiary bank has generated excellent feedback from US customers (US citizens and green card holders) who want Swiss bank accounts.
Pictet is also a huge bank with interests all over the globe. It differs from UBS in that it is not involved in investment banking, but focuses exclusively on wealth management. Those in the know who feel more comfortable with a very large bank are likely to find it a better alternative to UBS. Pictet is therefore our preference for the average type of client who appreciates a large international brand.
With Dreyfus Bank, we come closer to the traditional idea of a Swiss bank. Dreyfus is one of the oldest Swiss banks and is currently managed by the sixth generation of the founding family. It represents true Swiss tradition, but has been modernized. For those looking for a true Swiss bank rather than a global group with a Swiss base, Dreyfus may be the ideal solution. It operates only in Switzerland (it’s good to focus), but also has a representative office in Israel. We have particularly good reports about Dreyfus from our customers who have opened accounts there.
Reichmuth is the ultimate boutique high-end bank on our list. It is for those who believe in a combination of exclusivity, first-class personal service and tradition. Based in a castle in Lausanne, it was only formed in 1988 – but Reichmuth is one of fewer than a dozen private banks left operating in Switzerland in the most traditional sense.
To explain what this actually means – none of the other banks listed in this article are allowed to call themselves private banks under Swiss law. In Switzerland, the term “private banker” refers to banks whose legal status is sole proprietorship, registered partnership, limited partnership or limited partnership with shares. Unlike other Swiss banks that offer private banking services organized as limited liability companies, the partners bear unlimited liability for the bank’s liabilities and assets. That must say something about their commitment to their business. This is not your typical bank with high staff turnover!
As you probably know, BNP Paribas is a French bank – the largest French commercial bank. But it has a long history in Switzerland – among other things, BNP Paribas’ predecessor bank financed the excavations for the Gotthard and Simplon tunnels, financed various railway projects and the Swiss National Exhibition in 1896.
BNP Paribas has a respectable and fairly standard wealth management offering in Switzerland, but the reason it made our top ten list is the ability for its clients to use the platform for global investments. BNP Paribas owns Europe’s largest real estate company, and private banking clients in the Swiss offices could just as easily use their Swiss accounts to finance real estate in places like London or Madrid, Paris or the French Riviera, which would not be possible in some of the smaller Swiss banks. They currently offer some interesting investment opportunities in commercial real estate in Europe.
The bank is also one of the largest commercial banks in Europe (for example, it has a dedicated fintech division) and also has a good footprint in Africa and Asia. As a group policy, they do not accept offshore companies, but they certainly allow customers to mix private and commercial banks.
J. SAFRA SARASIN
This is a Swiss bank we like a lot, mainly because of its multi-jurisdictional booking capabilities and unique global coverage.
It is a Swiss bank with an interesting non-Swiss heritage. In the 19th century, there was a Jewish family in Aleppo, Syria, known for a long tradition of dedication to financing in physical gold. This gave the family the Arabic name for the color of the precious metal: Safra. Branches followed in Beirut, followed by Istanbul and Alexandria. At the beginning of the 20th century, Beirut was chosen as the headquarters of the newly founded Bank Jacob Safra. After the Second World War, Jacob Safra expanded his new banking activities towards Europe and later to Latin America and the USA.
Today, the Swiss arm of J. Safra Sarasin is the sixth largest Swiss bank, represented worldwide in 26 locations in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America. A separate US entity, Safra National Bank of New York, has branches in and around New York and in Florida, as well as representative offices in Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Uruguay. Finally, the group includes a third bank, Banco Safra SA: Brazil’s sixth largest commercial bank.
Today, the owner of the bank, a member of the founding family, is said to literally live above the bank’s headquarters in Geneva.
Hyposwiss is a medium-sized Swiss bank specializing in independent wealth management and support for professionals. They made our list because they are friendly, easy to deal with, and reasonably flexible when it comes to onboarding international customers. In addition to traditional private banking, we have been impressed by their good knowledge and experience in international trade operations, for clients dealing in shipments of goods within their areas of expertise, which include both CIS and Latin America. Overall, a good and stable medium-sized bank for more commercially oriented private banking. They also have a stake in an asset management company based in Monaco.
Gonet is another traditional, family office-oriented Swiss bank, firmly rooted in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, only after expanding to Zurich in 2020. They boast “openness and especially our pragmatism to challenge preconceptions and trends” – and this pragmatism also translates into a willingness to engage in certain commercial operations for their larger clients. They also have a booking center in the Bahamas, having settled there after many foreign banks left the Bahamas financial center.
CIM Bank is a small Swiss bank, with only 3 branches, specializing in private banking for smaller customers. They are the only Swiss bank that has really tried to combine traditional private banking with elements of the fintech or challenger banking model – with great success over the years. Although they allow opening accounts starting with as little as CHF 5,000, their fees are quite high, so it will probably be worthwhile for those who want a VIP private banking experience and have 6 or low 7 figures to invest. They offer a full range of credit and debit cards and complete banking services such as safe deposit boxes and have many employees focused on the Russian and Latin American markets. They do not accept US citizens.
If you’re high net worth without the ‘ultra’ prefix, you want what is essentially an online, technology-driven bank, but you still appreciate being able to fly into meetings in a fancy boardroom, make the occasional cash transaction and get access to your bank safe, then CIM Bank is a good solution.
Dukascopy is a 100% online fintech style bank specializing in commerce. You can open an account with just $100 and they are crypto friendly too. You can send and receive third-party transfers, albeit with some restrictions. They offer plastic and virtual credit cards in 4 currencies, and in your account you can manage up to 23 different currencies.
They probably have better and cheaper access to most world markets than the other banks listed on this page, but there is no advisory role and with Dukascopy you are ultimately dealing with a call center, not a private banker. There is also no option to open international business accounts. Still, this option is hard to beat for those who want Swiss-quality online banking.
Conclusion: Swiss Banking is booming this year!
Don’t let anyone tell you that Switzerland has lost its grip on the offshore private banking world. Swiss banks are booming this year and continue to innovate and come up with new products for the international, offshore or cross-border market.
Whether you already have a Swiss bank account or you just want to open your first Swiss bank account, our Swiss experts are ready to understand your requirements and offer solutions during a video conference, then continue to help you with the bank account onboarding. Email or text us and ask to arrange a free consultation with a Swiss banking expert!