Family office in Switzerland

When considering setting up a family office of your own or starting to use an existing one, you should carefully examine its location. You do not want to establish a single-family office or use a multi-family office located in an unstable country or region, because one of the key reasons for using a family office is to protect your wealth.

Switzerland is, therefore, one of the preferred locations for a family office.

Switzerland as a safe haven for family offices

Switzerland has been a neutral country since 1815 and has not been involved in any war since 1848. As Switzerland’s political regime is a so-called direct democracy, the Swiss population can have direct influence on all (proposed) federal and local legislation. Switzerland is one of very few countries in the world with such a direct democratic political system.

❝ Switzerland is known for its unique stability, both political and economic ❞

Switzerland’s economy is extremely stable. Thanks to broad diversification and strong domestic demand, the Swiss economy is growing steadily and was not weighed down by the worldwide economic and financial crisis. Thanks to the constitutional debt brake, the Swiss government has, since the start of the financial crisis in 2008, been able to produce a budget surplus almost every year and as a result Switzerland nowadays has one of the world’s lowest government debt ratios and is one of the last countries with a AAA credit rating.

The currency in Switzerland, the Swiss Franc, has long been considered a worldwide safe-haven currency and has, over the last decades, gained a lot of value (Switzerland is not a member state of the EU, nor part of the Eurozone).

Swiss (financial) infrastructure

For a family office, close proximity to solid (private) banks is key, as one of the primary tasks of a family office is to manage your wealth. Swiss private banks have been worldwide leaders in the wealth management industry for a very long time and some of the best-capitalised banks in the world are located in Switzerland. You will find a large variety of banks in Basel, Geneva, Lugano and Zurich.

Highly experienced, motivated, accurate and educated staff with financial experience can be recruited directly in Switzerland. But even more importantly, such staff currently located elsewhere in the world can also be persuaded to relocate to Switzerland as it is considered to be one of the best countries in the world to live in, due to its very high living standards. Also, nowadays, it is relatively easy for most foreigners to take up residence in Switzerland. Naturally, all these aspects make Switzerland also very attractive for (members of) wealthy families to relocate to.

Single-family offices in Switzerland are normally established as a corporate entity (Swiss AG). Switzerland has a very attractive corporate income tax system. Corporate income tax rates are, compared to other countries, low and Switzerland has signed double taxation agreements with many countries. The Swiss tax authorities are very professional.

Switzerland also has a reputable, trustworthy and solid legal system and is home to high-class (financial) specialists such as tax advisors, law firms, wealth planning specialists, notaries, audit firms, etc. Moreover, the infrastructure for family offices in Switzerland, both in Geneva and Zurich, is world-class. Both cities have excellent airports with flight connections worldwide, many direct, and both city centres can be reached within twenty minutes from their respective airports.

Swiss family office license

Switzerland does not have a specific licensing regime for single-family offices. That said, this does not automatically mean that no license will be needed for your family office. It depends on the actual activities of a family office whether some type of license or registration as, for example, an independent asset manager or trustee (as of 2020), needs to be obtained or whether other regulatory obligations, for example under the Anti-Money Laundering Act, might apply.

The Hague Convention

After Switzerland’s accession to “The Hague Convention on the Recognition of Trusts”, a family office in Switzerland can also, without any negative tax consequences, act as Trustee on a family’s trust structure.

All these elements make Switzerland one of the best locations for a multi-family office or for establishing your own single-family office. Because the function of a family office is not only to manage your wealth, but also to safeguard and protect it when your home country turns out to be less stable than you had hoped or expected it to be.