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Zurich Market Review by Emmanuel Auperin (March 2011)

Thursday 03 March 2011 by

Most populous city of Switzerland, Zurich is firmly focused on the financial industry, being a strong hub for wealth management and asset management. In a country where 70% of the inhabitants speak Swiss German, English remains a must, and the main language at work within the finance industry. As a result, talents from abroad keep coming to join the local workforces remaining competitive. Zurich is indeed extremely international and it is not unusual to find more than 20 nationalities working at the same work place. Alongside major private banks and pension funds, Zurich counts a large numbers of independent trust companies, privately own banks, law firms and independent wealth managers. External assets managers are legion and family offices flourishing. They both offer a wide range of services from technical asset allocation to concierge services, wealth and tax planning structuring, private equity, etc.  At the difference of the ‘sister’ Geneva which is, from a private banking client’s perspective, now turning more and more its attention towards Middle East and LatAm clients, Zurich remains the main center for Europeans, Eastern Europeans and Scandinavian clients. Quality of living is one of the main factor attracting foreigners. Switzerland has indeed a lot to offer:  located in the centre of Europe, commuting is extremely easy and Switzerland has one of the densest public transport networks in the world.  The safety is unique and leisure spots never far from home. Accommodation his however an issue due to the currently short supply of vacant apartments, but with a little patience and persistence, chances of finding something suitable within a reasonable period of time are good. Cost of living is notably higher than in the rest of Europe but salaries tend to be twice higher than elsewhere. In comparison with the surrounding countries Switzerland still registers a very low level of unemployment. Obtaining a residential/ working visa remains easy for EU nationals but can be problematic for others. Switzerland applies indeed quotas for non EU and applicants will see their chances increased towards the beginning of the calendar as counters are reset to zero.  2010 versus 2011 - Having suffered the recession as the rest of the other financial places, employment is now again boosted. 2010 labor market was still pretty slow but first signs of recovery are showing up. Since the beginning of the last quarter we see this tendency confirmed and the outlooks for 2011 seem fairly promising according to our clients. Attention is now turned as an example towards Wealth and Tax Planners. They are highly ‘wanted’ in order to cope with the changes of regulations and cross border issues while it comes to structuring wealth of private clients. We are also more and more contacted by foreign companies who want to establish a local presence. Those are mainly hedge funds, independent trust companies and law firms. Challenges for employment in 2011 will be directly linked to the reaction of Switzerland authorities towards the foreign attacks of its bank secrecy. New regulations on external asset managers will also tend to increase their back office costs and as a result many of the small players will merge in order to survive. The trust industry faces changes of changes in regulations but is still growing and new players are joining the local market. Swiss and foreign Private Banks tend to switch from an offshore perspective to an onshore focus.

This article was written by Emmanuel Auperin, a Former Manager for AP Executive, a specialist global private wealth management consultancy.