Representative offices of financial institutions based outside Switzerland under FinIA

Representative offices of financial institutions based outside Switzerland must meet certain conditions to obtain a licence from FINMA.

According to the Financial Institutions Act (FinIA), a foreign financial institution must have authorisation from FINMA to employ people in Switzerland who, on a professional and permanent basis and either in or from Switzerland, represent the institution, notably by concluding client mandates on its behalf, promoting the company or for other purposes. As a result, the representative office may not operate as a foreign financial institution within the strict sense of the term (Art. 52 para. 1 FinIA) but will instead be eligible solely for representative duties.

Any company organised under foreign law with authorisation granted outside Switzerland to operate as a financial institution and that includes the terms below in its legal form, the description of its social purpose or professional documents, is considered as a foreign financial institution:

  • “portfolio manager”
  • "trustee"
  • "manager of collective assets"
  • “securities firm” 

or that operates as a financial institution as defined by FinIA.

Authorisation conditions

The applicant and representative office must meet the following conditions for the foreign financial institution to receive authorisation to set up a representative office:

  • the foreign financial institution is subject to adequate supervision;
  • the competent foreign supervisory authorities have no objection to the establishment of a representative office;
  • the persons responsible for managing the representative office can provide the requisite confirmation that they meet the requirements for proper business conduct;
  • proof of compliance with the relevant provisions if they provide financial services as outlined in the Financial Services Act (FinSA);
  • proof of affiliation to a supervisory organisation (SO) if they operate as a portfolio manager or trustee.

FINMA may make authorisation contingent on the granting of reciprocity by the state in which the foreign financial institution is domiciled.

Duration of the procedure

The authorisation procedure for the representative office of a foreign financial institution comprises communication with the applicants. The duration of the procedure depends on the quality and complexity of the application as well as the workload. The response times of the relevant foreign supervisory authorities must also be accounted for. 

Contact for all questions relating to the authorisation procedure

Authorisation for securities firms (authorization@finma.ch)
Authorisation for other institutions (assetmanagement@finma.ch

Submitting notifications

Financial institutions that have their registered office abroad and by reason of a branch or representation in Switzerland have become subject to an authorisation requirement must notify FINMA within six months of the FinIA coming into force. This notification takes place exclusively via a registration form available on the EHP survey and application platform.

These Financial institutions must self-register to gain access to the EHP. They can do this via the FINMA homepage. Following self-registration and the review by FINMA, they will be able to access the EHP through the FINMA portal via two-factor identification.

Information and forms

The following documents are available for new authorisation requests for a representative office of a foreign financial institution:

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