EDITORIAL: It’s time for Swiss banks to move on

After several years of publicly sporting a hair shirt in penance for wartime avarice, the Swiss banking community is finally moving the management of its generic reputation on to a more proactive footing.

After several years of publicly sporting a hair shirt in penance

for wartime avarice, the Swiss banking community is finally moving the

management of its generic reputation on to a more proactive footing.



The Association of Swiss Bankers has hired GCI to boost its image as an

international centre of banking excellence. High on the PR agenda will

be a series of UK roadshows which represent the first attempt to address

the wider international financial community. This coincides with the

recent appointment of a UK-based head of PR and marketing by the Swiss

Exchange (PR Week 29 January) to help encourage remote members to sign

up to what it claims is the most technically advanced securities market

in Europe.



In the 1960s, a Swiss bank account number was the badge of ultimate

liquidity.



But all this changed with the revelation that Swiss banks looted gold

and artworks taken by the Nazis. Suddenly discretion was interpreted as

secrecy and arrogance. A survey undertaken at the time of the

revelations claimed that the Swiss government’s mishandling of the

affair had badly dented the country’s reputation for impartiality and

neutrality.



If the Swiss financial institutions are to retain their standing in the

international community, particularly in the face of the challenge

represented by EMU, they need to, while ensuring that all reparations

are made, cast off the sackcloth and ashes. The successful managemnet of

a crisis of reputation does not rest entirely on public shows of

humility, it also requires an organisation to convince its customers

that it is business as usual. We must never forget the horrors of the

Holocaust, but if the Swiss financial community is to safeguard its

reputation as a pre-eminent financial centre it must recognise it is

time to move on.



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