Anyone who acts as a trustee on a commercial basis must be licensed by FINMA. This requires trustees to meet various financial, personnel-related and organisational requirements.

Trustees are defined by law as entities which - on a commercial basis -manage or hold a separate fund for the benefit of beneficiaries or for a specified purpose based on the trust instrument. They must be licensed by FINMA. The activity of trustees does not fall under the scope of the Financial Services Act (FinSA).

Licensing requirements

Trustees must comply with various requirements to receive a FINMA licence, including the following in particular. They must:

  • be legally classified either as a sole proprietorship, a commercial enterprise or a cooperative and be registered as such in the commercial register;

  • be suitably organised with adequate risk management and internal controls;

  • have sufficient equity capital or securities;

  • describe their business activity including precise details of their operations and geographic business area in the relevant documents;

  • provide proof of affiliation to a supervisory organization (SO) confirming they are supervised by a supervisory organisation.

Date of licensing

Trustees require a licence from FINMA before commencing commercial activities.

Trustees who were professionally active when the Financial Institutions Act (FinIA; SR 954.1) came into force on 1 January 2020 can continue to operate on the basis of relevant transitional provisions until authorisation is granted, if they have submitted their application to FINMA by the beginning of 2023 and if they continue to be affiliated to an self-regulatory organisation (SRO).

Commercial nature of activity

Only trustees who carry out their activity on a commercial basis require a licence. According to the law, trustees are deemed to pursue their activities on a commercial basis if they:

  • generate gross earnings of more than CHF 50,000 per calendar year; or

  • establish business relationships with more than 20 contractual partners per calendar year, which are not restricted to a once-only activity, or they maintain at least 20 such relationships per calendar year; or

  • manage trust funds exceeding CHF 5 million at any given time.

Certain activities linked to legal exemptions (e.g. the exclusive management of assets of family-related persons) are not to be taken into account when assessing the commercial nature of an activity.


Trustees manage the separate funds, ensure the preservation of their value and apply those funds for their respective purposes. Trustees may also assume other duties, for example dispensing investment advice, performing portfolio analysis or providing financial instruments. If trustees offer financial services under the Financial Services Act (FinSA), they are subject to the requirements of the Act.

If trustees also work as portfolio managers, they require an additional FINMA licence for this activity.

Cessation of the activity requiring a licence

If trustees wish to cease operations, they require prior approval from FINMA. Beforehand, the supervisory organisation will be asked to give its opinion.

Submitting applications

The licensing process for trustees takes place via FINMA’s survey and application platform (EHP). Further details can be found on the ‘Licensing process’ page.