Authorisation requirements for banks

Banks must meet a number of licensing requirements to obtain authorisation from FINMA.

Under Article 2a of the Banking Ordinance, companies mainly active in the financial sector that, in particular, accept deposits from the public on a professional basis or recommend themselves publicly for this purpose are considered as banks. Any company offering financing of any kind on its own account to an indeterminate number of individuals or companies that are not part of the same economic unit as itself and refinancing its business to a considerable extent with a number of banks that do not own significant shareholdings in it is also considered as a bank.

Banks require a licence to go into operation and are subject to prudential supervision by FINMA. As a rule, banks are also licensed as securities dealers.

Licensing requirements

For a licence to be granted, there must be no doubt that the applicant meets or can meet all of the licensing requirements. The most important are:

  • fully paid-up minimum capital of CHF 10 million;

  • a business plan showing that compliance with capital adequacy, risk diversification and liquidity rules can be ensured at all times;

  • qualified participants and members of ultimate strategic and executive management guarantee proper business conduct;

  • the articles of association, partnership agreement or regulations provide a precise factual and geographical description of the business that is compatible with the bank’s finances and organisation.

  • management of the bank from Switzerland;

  • separation of ultimate strategic and executive management;

  • effective separation of internal functions – in particular lending, trading, asset management and settlement;

  • effective risk management – in particular appropriate identification, limitation and monitoring of market, credit, default, settlement, liquidity, image, operational and legal risks;

  • effective internal control system, internal audit function independent of executive management;

  • appointment of a recognised audit firm for the licensing process;

  • appointment of a recognised regulatory audit firm for ongoing supervision;

  • applicants under foreign control must guarantee reciprocal rights on the part of the countries where qualified participants are domiciled;

  • if the bank is part of a financial group, it must be subject to adequate consolidated supervision by a recognised supervisory authority.

Duration of the process

The bank licensing process normally takes about six months, but the duration depends on the quality and complexity of the application. In the case of applications with a foreign connection, the time it takes to receive a response from the competent foreign supervisory authorities must also be taken into account.

Contact for questions on the licensing process

The Authorisation section of the Banks division (authorization@finma.ch)