How to open a Swiss bank account as foreigner

Choice of a Swiss bank for foreigners if no credit rating is available

Understanding the Modern Banking Landscape


In the contemporary financial world, the stability and reliability of banks are paramount. Many readers of our blog often study information about the reliability of European banks. But in modern conditions, when choosing a bank, it is not the bank’s rating that comes first, but the type of activity of the bank and some other indicators, which we will delve into in this guide. The experience of recent years has shown that the reason for the closure of many banks is not the financial problems of the banking institution, but the actions of the regulator to combat money laundering.

The Evolving Banking Landscape

The banking industry has undergone substantial changes in recent years. Regulatory actions against money laundering have led to the closure of many banks, not necessarily due to their financial instability, but due to their involvement in illicit activities. This shift emphasizes the importance of understanding a bank’s operation, client geography, and historical presence in certain regions, which significantly impact its reliability and security.

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Key Indicators for Bank Selection

When selecting a bank in Switzerland, consider these crucial indicators:

  • Not Specializing Only in Foreign Clients: Choose a bank that does not specialize in operating for foreign clients. Banks primarily serving local clients tend to be more stable and reliable.
  • Local Market Operation: To open an account in Switzerland, it is better to choose a bank that operates more on the local market than on the international market.
  • Absence in CIS Countries: The historical absence of representation in the CIS countries is only a plus. Alas, we are all well aware of the scandals associated with some Swiss banks with offices in Russia.
  • Equity Capital Adequacy (CET 1 and Tier 1): The most important indicator for the bank is the value of equity capital adequacy – CET 1 and Tier 1. The higher this indicator, the higher the possibility to absorb losses associated with the write-off of “non-performing loans”, as well as the payment of a significant fine to the regulator and the Ministry of Justice of a foreign country, for example, the United States or France.

Delving Deeper into Swiss Banks Categories and Making an Informed Decision

Understanding Swiss Banks Categories

The Swiss regulator FINMA categorizes banks into six supervisory categories based on total assets, assets under management, preferred deposits, and required capital. Categories range from extremely large and high-risk banks (Category 1) to small and low-risk banks (Category 5). Category 1 includes UBS and Credit Suisse. These major Swiss banks have specific capital adequacy requirements, which are constantly monitored by the regulator.

Capital Adequacy Requirements by Category

Each category has specific capital adequacy requirements, with direct bank supervision imposed if the ratios fall below certain levels. For instance:

  • Category 2: The required level of equity capital adequacy is 13.6-14.4%. If the ratio drops below 11.5%, direct bank supervision is introduced.
  • Category 3: The required ratio is 12%. If the ratio falls below 11%, direct banking supervision is imposed.
  • Category 4: Required rate-11.2%. If the ratio falls below 10.5%, direct banking supervision is imposed.
  • Category 5: Required rate-10.5%. If the ratio falls below 11.5%, direct banking supervision is imposed.

Identifying the Most Reliable Banks in Switzerland

The most trustworthy banks in Switzerland have a Tier 1 ratio of 20-31%! These banks offer a high level of reliability and security for your investments, ensuring peace of mind and financial stability.


In conclusion, the fight against money laundering makes its own adjustments when choosing a bank, rating agencies are not always able to adequately assess the risks of a financial institution. The credit rating of banks cannot be an indicator of reliability for many banks because most Swiss banks simply do not have one, as they do not invest or borrow on the capital market by issuing bonds. So in this article, we give you four reliable indicators for choosing a bank that will be your reliable partner. Don’t forget to share the publication on social networks!

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