The new Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) will commence operations on 1 January 2009. On that date, the Federal Act on the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMASA), which the Swiss Parliament approved on 22 June 2007, will go into full legal force. The effect of the Act is to merge three bodies - the Federal Office of Private Insurance (FOPI), the Swiss Federal Banking Commission (SFBC) and the Anti-Money Laundering Control Authority - into the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority FINMA. Until their merger and incorporation into FINMA, these three authorities will retain responsibility for their own areas of activity.
The Federal Office of Private Insurance (FOPI) has reviewed the premium adjustments for supplementary health insurance. Semi-private and private supplementary hospital insurance will rise by an average of 2% in 2009. In other mass insurance business, the increase will be 2.3%. These adjustments are greater than in the preceding years. Given that some supplementary insurers have refrained from compensating claims inflation in the past, this will now be reflected in the premium increases.
The cooperation efforts made between the financial centre, the authorities and the government over the last six months to improve conditions and increase the competitiveness of Switzerland's financial centre are showing initial positive results. The Swiss Financial Centre Dialogue Steering Committee set up for this purpose in January approved the first package of measures on 2 September 2008. These measures provide clarity in the taxation of the hedge fund business and the private equity business and contribute to liberalising authorisation practices for investment funds. This should strengthen Switzerland's medium-term position in terms of the international competition among financial centres.
At its meeting today, the Federal Council approved the personnel ordinance requested by the Board of Directors of the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) and the Federal Department of Finance (FDF). The personnel ordinance emphasizes a strong performance approach while maintaining a high degree of flexibility. It lays down principles applicable to the employment relationships of all FINMA's staff.
The instruments of insurance supervision are working, as the Market Overview 2007 of the Federal Office of Private Insurance (FOPI) shows: In the reporting year, the insurance undertakings clearly more than fulfilled the legal requirements for Solvency I, even though the solvency ratio of the life and non-life insurers declined. In contrast, the situation of the supervised undertakings significantly improved with respect to risk-based solvency, as the Swiss Solvency Test (SST) shows.
With the appointment of Monica Mächler, currently Director of the Federal Office of Private Insurance (FOPI), and Daniel Zuberbühler, Director of the Swiss Federal Banking Commission (SFBC), the Federal Council has today raised the number of members on the board of the Federal Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) by two, thereby bringing it to its full strength of nine members in readiness for 1 January 2009. Seven board members had already been appointed by the Federal Council on 16 January 2008 and have been in office since 1 February. The term of office for all nine board members ends on 31 December 2011.
The Swiss Federal Council today approved the appointment of Patrick Raaflaub as Director of FINMA at the request of the Board of Directors. This completes the appointments to FINMA's Executive Board, which will begin operating on 1 January 2009. Until FINMA's launch date, all operational supervisory functions will remain with the three authorities that are being merged.
Despite the subprime turbulence and decline in stock market prices, the Swiss insurance business remains robust. Insurance companies are far better capital-ised today than they were in the crisis years 2001 and 2002 and have a much lower proportion of stocks in their total investment portfolios. In the midst of market uncertainty, the investment guidelines issued by the Federal Office of Private Insurance (FOPI) as well as the introduction of the Swiss Solvency Test (SST) have proven their merit. Despite the current robustness, challenges still remain for both insurance companies and related supervisory activities. For this reason, FOPI intends to pursue the integrated supervision concept that it launched in 2007.
The authorities and the financial sector have established a framework for the dialogue on the future direction of Switzerland's financial centre. The "Financial Centre Dialogue Steering Committee", set up for this purpose, yesterday held its first meeting. The focus of the meeting was the adoption of a joint work schedule and the prioritisation of topics raised by the private sector and the Confederation. Working groups were set up to deal with various topics. These will examine existing and new proposals for measures to improve the conditions of the financial centre, and implement them where appropriate. A working group will also examine the fiscal and regulatory framework regarding hedge funds and private equity.