Monday, 25 January 2010

The Second Coming of Swiss Banking?

President Obama has launched one of the biggest reforms of the bank system for many years as he bids to try and grab the money back that bankers have lost.

The plan is to claw back over $100bn which seems a great deal of money but in the great scheme of things it represents but a fraction of what the US has had to spend to save the banks and actually is not a massive amount compared to the profits banks are earning again. Just over the weekend, the bank that claims it does 'God's work', Goldman Sachs, has capped its partners' pay at £1m a head - a move seen as akin to wearing sackcloth for a year in the City. In the UK, we have the bank roll tax which may raise around £500m if we are lucky. Yet despite the fact that bankers seem to be getting off lightly, they are actually squealing like stuck pigs at such perceived 'unfairness'. The mantra seems to be, 'You can't live with us, but you can't live without us.'

It's the classic gun to the head situation in the UK - allow us to earn or we will move elsewhere.

The elsewhere is increasingly looking like Switzerland. The traditional old stuffy, discrete and positively criminal image of Swiss bankers of the past as they provided an anonymous and impenetrable home to illicit money, far from the hands of taxmen, the Swiss banking industry is not what it used to be. But for a land-locked country with no real other source of income other than banking, pharmaceuticals and chocolate, it always punches above its weight and has even won the Americas Cup.

City rumours are that the Swiss are in town murmuring in the ears of disgruntled bankers telling them that there is a welcome in the green valleys of Switzerland, where the individual tax regime is very accommodating. The cost of living may be high, but why worry when you are earning the kinds of money people of your calibre deserve?

A collective sigh of relief may be exhaling around the City - it's a bit of a trek for the Americans but they will find somewhere closer and maybe join the real casino boys in Cayman Islands or Bermuda, but the message is that there are willing homes for these poor wretches to rise again - and be richer than they are now.

'Be careful what you wish for,' say the bankers. Good riddance, I say.

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