Swiss banking industry brings in MS&L Group to mount reputation fightback

Switzerland's banks are deploying a new comms strategy as they reel from a series of assaults on their age-old reputation as a safe haven for undeclared wealth.

Under threat: Swiss banks face global crackdown
Under threat: Swiss banks face global crackdown

The Swiss Bankers Association (SBA), the trade body for the country's financial sector, has hired MS&L Group amid a global crackdown on tax havens led by, among others, the UK Government.

It is understood that Switzerland is concerned that offshore money will drain away to other financial centres if banking secrecy laws are compromised too much.

'They offer very good expertise and knowledge, which has been obscured by the issue of banking secrecy,' said one source. 'And the Swiss financial centre has stability. They want to defend its importance.'

The SBA has asked MS&L Group to focus on reputation management in the UK, France and Italy. In the UK, the assignment will be handled by Capital MS&L.

Switzerland's famed banking secrecy laws have come under considerable pressure in recent years, including a US investigation into its citizens' offshore accounts with Swiss banking giant UBS.

A source familiar with the issue said the SBA wanted to present a 'co-operative' face to its attempts to protect a financial sector that accounts for approximately one tenth of the country's GDP.

'It perfectly understands that it needs to be proactive and constructive. It used to be isolated in the past but now it really wants to change its negative perception,' the source added.

The issue has become particularly important as cash-strapped countries clamp down on tax avoidance.

It is believed MS&L secured the brief following an ongoing relationship between the SBA and sister Publicis Groupe agency Kekst and Co in New York.

Swiss bank secrecy

March 2010: Government announces plan to ramp up penalties on tax evaders that use offshore tax havens

April 2009: Gordon Brown hails new G20 agreement to crack down on tax havens

March 2009: Switzerland pledges to relax bank secrecy laws

February 2009: UBS agrees to pay $780m and identify US clients to settle fraud charges

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