Marcel Rohner, Chairman of the Swiss Bankers Association, describes how the SBA brings the interests of a variety of banks under one roof and how sanctions against Russia are impacting the sector.

Marcel Rohner, Chairman of the Swiss Bankers Association

Marcel Rohner, Chairman of the Swiss Bankers Association

Sanctions against Russia are also impacting the Swiss financial center. How are Swiss banks being affected and which developments do you foresee for Swiss banks in the weeks to come?

While banks are taking systematic steps to implement national and international sanctions, those measures must also be accompanied by careful, extensive investigations. The Swiss Bankers Association supports these efforts by serving as a key information platform for banks and authorities to ensure that unanswered questions can be cleared up both quickly and efficiently. 

Given the interest rate reversal, inflationary trends and the consequences of the war, the global economy faces enormous challenges. As a financial center with an international focus, that has a direct impact on Switzerland. Banks guarantee a high level of stability. In an age when global economic uncertainty is on the rise, they're both solid and resilient.  

Banks in Switzerland are the global leaders when it comes to combating money laundering. Time and time again, however, negative headlines pop up about individual banks and tarnish the country's image as a clean financial center. As a lobbying organization for Swiss banks, how are you trying to counteract this?

Through ongoing public relations work and awareness training. The fact is that, over the past few years, banks have invested billions of Swiss francs in their compliance measures and bank employees have undergone hundreds of thousands of hours of compliance training every year. At the same time, Switzerland has been tightening its anti-money laundering legislation on an ongoing basis in accordance with the recommendations of the FATF. The Swiss Bankers Association supports having a stronger anti-money laundering system in no uncertain terms. The financial center isn't interested in money from suspicious origins. Integrity and reputation are vital success factors for our financial center.

You're responsible for reconciling the interests of a variety of bank business models. How do you do that?

Our Board of Directors reflects the diversity found in the banking industry. I'm finding that our similarities clearly outweigh our differences. Common interests are the norm. Plus, many challenges impact all banks equally, regardless of their business model. Take the topics of cybersecurity or sustainability, for example. 

In an interview with Finanz und Wirtschaft, you recently said that you don't use interviews as a platform for demanding new government regulations and economic interventions. How do you persuade the Swiss federal government to address your members’ concerns?

We're in constant communication with the federal government, Parliament, business organizations and NGOs. It's become clear that when the industry's proposals and initiatives are persuasive, the doors are wide open. The solution to a problem doesn't always lie in brand new regulations. On the contrary. The industry's often capable of offering optimal solutions through its own initiatives or in cooperation with the authorities; their excellent collaboration with the authorities and the other industry players in the area of cybersecurity is what comes to mind here. We pursue a common goal, namely to establish structures that facilitate collaboration between financial institutions and authorities in order to strengthen prevention and ensure efficient crisis management.

You recently presented an action plan designed to strengthen Swiss banks' competitiveness in the area of sustainable finance. What do you propose?

Here, too, we rely on the self-initiative of players in the industry. The Swiss financial center aspires to be the leader in the area of sustainable finance. Here, the Swiss Bankers Association is leading the way: The Swiss Bankers Association's new self-regulatory guidelines define a minimum standard for its members' advisory process when it comes to investment and financing. Plus, since we consider net zero initiatives to be an effective instrument for reaching the 2050 climate goal, the Swiss Bankers Association also recommends that its members join international net zero alliances and sustainability initiatives in the banking sector. In fact, the Bankers Association itself is working to attain supporter status in the Net Zero Banking Alliance. Lastly, the Bankers Association and the banks systematically integrate ESG skills in their training and continuing education programs. The Bankers Association has set itself the goal of ensuring that all client advisors are knowledgeable about the topic of ESG and can incorporate these skills into the advisory process.

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