Geneva Post-Banking Secrecy is...Gathering Dust

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 6/20/2016 12:30:00 AM
Closed for business: a now-common sight in today's Geneva.
One of the major side-effects of the global financial crisis has been a near-universal crackdown by revenue-hungry developed Western states on tax dodgers. Unfortunately for Switzerland, European countries' efforts to bring back taxable monies has resulted in a perhaps permanent diminution in its famed bank secrecy that renders it just like any other country's private banking system. It is certainly true that Swiss bank secrecy was never ironclad--witness the return of billions hidden by the Philippines' infamous dictator Ferdinand Marcos. However, when more powerful and influential countries started storming Switzerland's gates, well, that's another matter entirely:
Three years after Lloyds Banking Group Plc sold its private bank in Geneva, the only signs of life at the now-empty building are piles of cigarette butts and nutshells lying on its dirty window ledges. The riverside offices at Place de Bel-Air are a short walk away from the remaining private banks, hedge-fund managers and luxury-goods stores in the heart of the Swiss city. The locked entrance, where millionaire clients used to come and go, is a reminder that some of the biggest names in global finance have quit Geneva for good.

“The disappearance of international private banks has left an eerie silence in some of the downtown offices that were once the top end of the market,” said Raphael Reginato, who works in the city as a broker at real estate asset manager AMI International. “Geneva’s not the magnet for international finance it used to be.”
To be fair, it's also extraordinarily low prevailing interest rates for Swiss francs that's also denting the appeal of this banking center:
North American and European banks are quitting Geneva as companies battle with the loss of financial secrecy, the strong Swiss franc and pressure on profitability from low interest rates and tougher regulatory demands. Tax probes by the U.S. and France and a new system of bank-data exchange between governments have scuppered the traditional “no-questions-asked” approach to serving rich clients who reside in other countries...

Once a hub for hidden European and American assets, tougher scrutiny on the real ownership of assets and more stringent reporting standards have made offshore private banking in Geneva less profitable.

Bank of America Corp. sold its Merrill Lynch international-wealth businesses to Julius Baer Group Ltd., while Royal Bank of Canada divested its Geneva business to local firm Banque Syz SA. Morgan Stanley sold its Swiss wealth business, also based in the city, to the private bank and asset-management firm owned by billionaire Joseph Safra. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. plans to close a Geneva branch with 18 employees to streamline its operations, a person briefed on the situation said in March.
In many ways, this game is up. Now all that's left is for moviemakers to stop depicting third world dictators transferring their ill-gotten wealth to Swiss bank accounts for the fiction to follow what's already largely gone in real life.

And that, my friends, is all she wrote about Swiss bank secrecy.