Is an Alliance of Non-European Finance Hubs Taking Shape?

Joerg Gasser, Swiss Diplomat

Joerg Gasser, Swiss Diplomat

Switzerland is redoubling efforts to join up with the City of London following the Brexit. Is an alliance of non-European finance centers including Singapore and Hong Kong taking shape?

The Swiss banking lobby has put most of its emphasis since June on pursuing a so-called F4 alliance: a loose association of Switzerland, London, Singapore and Hong Kong.

The idea is to cooperate: for example, settling on common definitions of what constitutes a professional client under MiFID, or introducing a unified standard for dealing with politically exposed persons (PEPs). The idea to cooperate, launched by outgoing lobby president Patrick Odier shortly after the U.K. vote, could eventually be widened to include the U.S., he said last month.

Alliance Idea Well-Received

Odier has won a key ally: Bern is also throwing its diplomatic weight behind F4 efforts.

«Switzerland, London, Hong Kong and Singapore could potentially pool ideas and resources. We completely do agree on that,» Joerg Gasser, Switzerland's newly-installed highest tax diplomat, said at a business conference. 

While Odier said last month that reception in London, Hong Kong and Singapore had generally been good, Gasser was coy. «I also had the opportunity to discuss this issue when I visited these countries. of course we will explore this lede even further.»

Brexit Business Won't Seek Switzerland

The U.K. financial market is hugely important to Switzerland: Swiss banks have traditionally used London as a hub for selling into the EU, which is now under threat. Gasser, who took office just over three months ago, echoed warnings from prominent bankers like UBS' Axel Weber, who has cautioned that Brexit isn't automatically good for Switzerland.

«If we want to profit from Brexit, we have to improve our legal framework ourselves, and not believe that due to Brexit the business will come to us without changing anything about our legal framework,» Gasser said.

Nevertheless, if Switzerland can benefit from Brexit, Bern will pursue them, he said. «We are in contact with our partners of the financial markets in London and we certainly do explore possible ways to go forward together.»

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