Ease of account opening has become a selling point in the Swiss retail banking sector, which is good news for prospective customers. The starting point for a new client is establishing identity. Swiss banks are obliged to verify identity by requesting state-issued identification. Foreign nationals who are resident in Switzerland also need to show their Swiss residence permit and proof of employment where relevant.
Traditionally these documents had to be shown in person in a bank branch but the regulations have recently changed to allow personal identification by video service. Many banks now offer online account opening services where contracts can also be signed digitally using a certificate.
With many different providers competing in the sector, it pays to shop around for a current account. The banks and insurance comparison service, moneyland.chexternal link, is a good place to start.
Some banks are more restrictive than others when it comes to accepting foreign customers without a B or a C permit. F, N and S permit holders will be turned away in some places.
However, PostFinanceexternal link, the bank of the Swiss postal service, has a public service mandate to provide banking services to all residents. PostFinance will even consider, on a case-by-case basis, clients who are unable to provide official state identification.
Switzerland’s big two banks, Credit Suisseexternal link and UBSexternal link, have the most extensive customer service in English, if that is an important consideration. If not, there is a host of cantonal banks with good services, and the popular Raiffeisen Bank, Migros Bank and Bank Cler (formerly Bank Coop) have a national presence.
For non-residents seeking to open an account in Switzerland, identity verification can be done by post with certified copies. Minimum deposit amounts apply.
Opening a Swiss bank account became especially problematic for American citizens living in Switzerland after the US Department of Justice fined numerous Swiss banks over tax evasion issues. Several Swiss banks now have provisions in place to allow American residents of Switzerland to open accounts, though additional paperwork may be required.