Talking to your bank first and addressing complaints to them can solve a number of problems.
If the response was not what you were hoping for, you have the following options:
Talk to the Swiss Banking Ombudsman
You can also contact FINMA. Outline precisely what the problem is and what has happened so far. If the bank has set out its position, please enclose their response with your complaint to FINMA.
We will check whether your bank has complied with financial market law. If this is not the case, we will take action to ensure that in future the bank observes compliance with legal requirements.
You have no right to information about FINMA’s response, so we cannot tell you what conclusions we reached or what action we took. A complaint filed with the regulator is not formally a legal procedure and it does not grant you the right to be a party to any proceedings. In matters like this, we are bound by the Administrative Procedure Act.
Complaints can draw attention to possible misconduct. We are grateful for information that helps us to ensure banks run their business properly. If we have grounds to suspect that a bank is systematically failing in its duties, we will take action.
Contact the Banking Ombudsman. The Swiss Banking Ombudsman provides independent information and mediation. Client complaints about banks based in Switzerland are taken up there. Problems that cannot be resolved by the Ombudsman can be brought before a civil court.
FINMA cannot decide on claims filed by individual clients the way a civil court can. That is not within its remit. FINMA’s task is to protect client interests in general, but it cannot take up a particular individual cause.
If your bank files for bankruptcy, deposits in your name will be given privileged treatment up to a maximum of CHF 100,000. In other words, up to this amount the bank must immediately pay out any cash you request. If it does not have enough liquid assets to do so, the depositor protection scheme is triggered, as long as the branch is Swiss-based (see fact sheet). Under this scheme, the amount will be made available within 20 working days from the date it is requested by FINMA.
Unlike savings deposits, deposited assets (shares, fund units and other securities) are fully segregated and will be returned to the client. This rule applies to all deposited assets, including precious metals physically stored at the bank.
Many problems can be resolved by talking directly to your insurance company – although we recommend going straight to management.
In that case, please outline the facts clearly and transparently in writing. If possible, use our report form and attach copies of all relevant policies. If the insurance company has already sent you a letter setting out its position, please attach that too.
FINMA has an obligation under the Insurance Supervision Act to protect policyholders from any misconduct on the part of their insurance provider. Civil law disputes between insurance companies and policyholders, on the other hand, are a matter for the courts.
It is not always easy to decide what constitutes a civil law dispute and what looks like a case of abuse. Abuse means that policyholders or beneficiaries are repeatedly disadvantaged or that a lot of clients are potentially affected. A substantial difference in treatment also constitutes abuse if the insurance company does not issue a legal or actuarial justification for it.
If FINMA suspects there has been an abuse, it will seek clarification. If the abuse is confirmed, FINMA will then take action against it.
No. Personal questions or complaints do not entitle you to the disclosure of FINMA’s investigations. A complaint to the regulator is not formally a legal procedure and it does not grant you the right to be a party to any proceedings. In matters like this, we are bound by the Administrative Procedure Act.
FINMA has a duty to act against abuse in the insurance sector. Your information could be helpful.
Policyholders can consult the following ombudsmen over civil law disputes:
For problems with your basic or supplementary health insurer, contact the Ombudsman for Health Insurance (in German, French and Italian)
For disputes related to supplementary health insurance, the Civil Procedure Code provides for simplified court proceedings. While no legal costs are incurred for arbitration and resolution proceedings, they are incurred for frivolous or vexatious litigation, which may also involve costs for the parties concerned.
Private insurers in Switzerland, including Suva, have set up a foundation to provide ombudsman services for this sector. If your insurance company is affiliated, you can contact this Ombudsman for Private Insurance.
FINMA has a statutory obligation, if so requested by a client, to verify the conversion and surrender values quoted by the insurance company. There is no charge for this service. The check shows whether these amounts were correctly determined using a method approved by FINMA.
Before that can happen, the policyholder must have sent a conversion or surrender request to the insurance company. FINMA can only check the figures once the surrender application has been processed. We will not assess whether you have been offered a fair share of the surplus or whether the costs are appropriate. These are matters of civil law and can only be resolved by a court.
If an insurer files for bankruptcy, the proceeds from realising its tied assets will first of all be used to meet claims resulting from insurance contracts. In other words, the entitlements of policyholders take precedence over all other creditors. The tied assets set aside to cover those entitlements have to meet strict legal requirements with regard to risk distribution, risk management and asset category.
Lots of problems can be resolved by talking directly to your insurer – but we recommend going straight to management.
Health insurance is regulated by two separate bodies. The Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) is responsible for compulsory health insurance and for the optional insurance that provides daily benefits under the Federal Act on Health Insurance. FINMA is only responsible for optional health insurance which falls under the Insurance Contract Act, widely known as supplementary health insurance.
No. These are distinct insurance contracts, and so they can be taken out independently.
The downside to having two providers is that policyholders need to think about who will settle which claim. The freedom to switch your basic insurance to a cheaper provider may be a financial advantage.
No. They are part of the provider’s business plan, which means they are treated as a trade secret. FINMA is bound by professional secrecy not to reveal data like this. Companies can decide for themselves how much of this information they want to publish.
Yes, it can. Some providers will only offer a discount on your supplementary insurance if you also hold your basic health insurance with them. They are also allowed to charge an administration fee or a minimum premium if they no longer provide your basic insurance. That is because the administrative costs for managing the rest of your insurance will be proportionally higher. To be on the safe side, ask your supplementary insurer before signing up.
Yes, as long as the general policy conditions provide for this eventuality, which they usually do. Any adjustment to premiums must be reviewed by FINMA before it takes effect. FINMA will approve or reject the change, depending how solvent the product is.
As the tariffs for supplementary health insurance are often based on age categories, your premium might increase when you move up a category. If this happens, you are entitled to cancel your policy.
Policyholders must be told in good time that their tariff is going to change. If you do not agree to it, you can cancel your policy. If you do not make use of this right, the company will assume that you have accepted the change.
No. The law explicitly states that supplementary health insurance may not be terminated on such grounds.
Nearly all insurers state in their terms and conditions that they will not make use of this option, although by law both parties to a contract have the right to terminate it. The general policy conditions are decisive. Policyholders can always cancel after a claim, as long as they do so by the date of settlement.
Basically no, because in the private insurance sector any contractual changes require the explicit consent of both parties. An insurance company can, however, state in its general policy conditions that specific details (such as recognised therapists, recognised treatments, etc.) will be set out in a separate list. This list can be altered unilaterally by the insurer, notably to take on board recent medical research or to update its record of practising therapists. This does not entitle the policyholder to cancel the contract.
The general policy conditions may also state that the insurer is allowed to modify the terms to reflect changes in the health service, in particular if the statutory benefits provided by basic health insurance are redefined. As with premium adjustments, the policyholder has a right to cancel if this happens.
FINMA monitors premiums to ensure they are always justified by the benefits they offer. Adjustments must not be used to alter the tariff structure.
Yes. If a complaint is made about a Swiss collective investment scheme or its agent, FINMA will examine the matter to see whether there has been any violation of the relevant laws or a breach of professional ethics. If the fund is based in another country, FINMA is not the principal supervisory body concerned, so our assessment of whether this foreign fund has violated foreign law will be limited.
If there are grounds to suspect that regulatory requirements have been violated, we will seek clarification. If the suspicion is confirmed, we will take appropriate action. For foreign funds selling their products in Switzerland, FINMA is not the principal supervisory body concerned and so the measures we can apply will be limited.
No. We cannot disclose our assessment of your complaint or the measures FINMA may decide to take. A complaint to the regulator is not formally a legal procedure and it does not grant you the right to be a party to any proceedings. In matters like this, we are bound by the Administrative Procedure Act.
FINMA cannot intervene in individual (usually civil law) disputes between investors and collective investment schemes (funds) or their providers. This is a task for the civil courts. If the collective investment scheme was distributed by a financial service provider, you can contact the relevant ombudsman.
Since the FinIA entered into force at the start of 2020, portfolio managers and trustees have required a licence, which is issued by FINMA. A supervisory organisation (SO) authorised and supervised by FINMA is subsequently responsible for supervising the portfolio managers and trustees.
A portfolio manager is someone who, in compliance with rules, manages financial assets on behalf of a client. Trustees dispose of a separate fund for the benefit of a beneficiary or for a specified purpose based on the instrument creating a trust.
To prevent money laundering, by the end of 2019 portfolio managers and trustees had to be affiliated to and supervised by a recognised self-regulatory organisation (SRO) or licensed and supervised by FINMA as a directly subordinated financial intermediary (DSFI). Portfolio managers and trustees can continue to perform their activity during a transitional period, but must have submitted a licence application to FINMA by the end of 2022 at the latest.
Anyone who manages assets of collective investment schemes or occupational pension schemes requires a licence as a manager of collective assets from FINMA. FINMA supervises these financial institutions.
FINMA will contact the supervisory organisation (SO) to clarify whether the portfolio manager or trustee has complied with the statutory provisions. If this is not the case, the SO responsible for supervision will take initial measures to restore compliance. Depending on the severity of the case, FINMA can also withdraw the licence. If you have problems with your portfolio manager or trustee, you can also file your complaint directly with the competent SO.
No. You will not be given an insight into investigations carried out by the SO or by FINMA in relation to private enquiries or complaints submitted. The petition for administrative review is not a formal legal remedy and therefore does not give you the rights of a party. We will observe the applicable provisions of the Administrative Procedure Act in this regard.
Complaints provide the SO or FINMA with important indications of possible misconduct by portfolio managers and trustees. Thanks to such indications, the SO or FINMA with the SO’s involvement can investigate whether the portfolio manager or trustee has complied with the statutory provisions and, where necessary, can take measures to ensure that they behave correctly in the future.
We cannot help you enforce claims under civil law. You do, however, have the possibility of contacting the ombudsman to which your portfolio manager must be affiliated. If the ombudsman does not mediate or if this has no prospect of success, the only possibility that remains for enforcing claims under civil law is recourse to the competent civil courts.
Tell us. FINMA analyses any unusual movements in traded securities as part of its routine market supervision. We always scrutinise big losses or gains, major product volatility and high trading volumes. Following our initial enquiries, we will decide what action to take next, such as whether FINMA needs to pursue more detailed supervisory investigations or even initiate a procedure.
FINMA is also in close touch with the stock exchange, a self-regulatory body which itself monitors activities on the trading floor, investigates unusual trading patterns and – if it is a matter of interest to the regulator – informs FINMA about such cases.
If you have suffered a financial loss after unaccountable movements in prices, we will not be able to help you. This is strictly a task for the courts.
In most cases, financial service providers have to be authorised. Beware of sharks. Money attracts all kinds of dubious characters.
If you have your doubts about a financial service provider, tell us. Providers who have not been authorised by FINMA are not systematically monitored, so feedback from investors is a useful source of information. It helps us to protect clients like you.
Every year FINMA investigates dozens of situations – if, for example, it looks as though cash deposits have been received without authorisation.
FINMA maintains a warning list of unauthorised providers. In certain circumstances in which unauthorised business activity is suspected, FINMA can include such providers in the list. Most of these providers have no physical presence in Switzerland. They merely claim to have a Swiss office. When an provider does have a physical presence in Switzerland, FINMA takes direct action, for instance by appointing an investigating agent.
The providers on FINMA’s warning list usually also feature on the international Investor Alerts Portal maintained by IOSCO (International Organization of Securities Commissions), which lists illegal operators around the globe. Even so, lists like this are never complete. It makes sense to be cautious about any financial products you are offered and to find out exactly who you are dealing with.
Take particular care if someone promises you exceptionally high returns.
The responsibility rests primarily with you. Prudence is the best defence against illegal providers of financial services. We have listed a few common scams on our website. We have also produced a Client Protection Report with a summary of recent activity.
FINMA cannot ensure systematic, nationwide, regular surveillance of unauthorised financial operators. Often FINMA can only intervene after some investors have suffered a loss.
We recommend ten precautionary measures that you can take before entering into a business transaction with a financial service provider.
FINMA keeps the following lists:
a list of authorised institutions (licence holders and authorised products)
warning list (providers suspected of unauthorised operations)
Other federal agencies engaged in combating investment fraud:
Federal Office of Police (FedPol)
crime prevention warnings from the Cantonal Directors of Justice and Police
tips for consumers from the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO)
There are various ways you can contact us:
Please send questions or reporting irregularities in writing to:
Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority FINMA
CH – 3003 Bern
FINMA hotline for enquiries:
Phone: +41 (0)31 327 98 88
Open Monday to Friday: 8:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon
To contact FINMA by e-mail or fax:
Fax: +41 31 327 91 01
Since 21 January 2021 client advisers of domestic financial service providers which are not subject to financial market supervision in Switzerland must be entered in a register of advisers. Financial service providers can also be individuals who offer financial services to clients in Switzerland on a professional basis. Client advisers of foreign financial service providers must also be entered in a Swiss register of advisers if the financial service provider is not subject to comprehensive supervision in its home country or if the services are also to be provided to private clients in Switzerland.
A register of advisers is kept by a registration body, which must be authorised by FINMA. FINMA may license several registration bodies. The registration body decides on the entry and deletion of client advisers in the register. Client advisers entered in the register must notify the registration body of all changes to the facts on which the registration is based. The registration bodies check whether a client adviser meets the requirements for registration. This task is not within FINMA’s area of competence.
You can check with one of the three registration bodies authorised by FINMA whether your client adviser is registered:
You will find answers to frequently asked questions concerning the registration requirement in the FAQs on the registration bodies’ websites. Further information about the registration bodies can be found here.
Client advisers of domestic financial service providers which are subject to financial market supervision in Switzerland such as banks and portfolio managers, for example, do not need to be registered. Neither do client advisers of foreign financial service providers have to be entered in a Swiss register of advisers, provided that this financial service provider is subject to comprehensive supervision in its home country and the services are to be provided solely to professional or institutional clients in Switzerland (i.e. not to private clients).
Client advisers under the FinSA are individuals who provide financial services on behalf of a financial service provider or themselves as a financial service provider.
General rules of conduct apply to client advisers. They are subject to a duty to inform clients (cf. Arts. 8 and 9 FinSA). Among other things, they must disclose their name, address and field of activity as well as their supervision status. They must also inform their clients about the possibility of opening a mediation procedure before the ombudsman to which they or the financial service provider they work for are affiliated. Client advisers must also enquire about the client’s financial situation and investment goals as well as about the client’s knowledge and experience. Furthermore, before recommending financial instruments, they must check whether these are appropriate for the client. The financial services agreed on with the clients and the information collected about them must be adequately documented. Finally, financial service providers and their client advisers must prevent conflicts of interests or, if this is not possible, they must disclose the conflict of interests to the client (cf. Financial Services Act FinSA).
Under the FinSA, clients of financial service providers can avail themselves of an ombudsman procedure. For this purpose, the financial service providers must be affiliated to an ombudsman recognised by the Federal Finance Department (FDF). The ombudsman responsible for the financial service provider and its client advisers is listed in the register of advisers.
The term FinTech is an abbreviation for ‘financial technology’. FinTech, or FinTech offers, includes all financial services that are provided with the aid of new and innovative technologies. Examples include financial services that are available only on a smartphone, automated investment advice, blockchain technologies or, in very general terms, the efforts to digitalise the financial services sector. FinTech offers are often launched by start-up companies seeking to use financial technology as a way of competing with established financial service providers. However, FinTech offers are also available from established financial service providers.
In many cases, FinTech companies offer their clients services that are already on offer from established financial service providers. However, FinTech companies use technical innovations to try and offer these services for cheaper rates and/or to make them more easily accessible. In doing so, however, they sometimes also introduce completely new offerings.
FinTech companies frequently offer their clients services that are already on offer from established financial service providers. Swiss financial market law does not address individual technologies but rather business models and their risks for investors and clients. Hence, FinTech companies frequently require authorisation from FINMA. However, the question of whether or not an activity requires authorisation depends frequently on the specific form that the services take. Information on the potential authorisation requirements for various business models can be found here. You can check here if you wish to find out whether or not a company has been authorised by FINMA.
FinTech providers are often start-up companies established specifically for this purpose. They first want to build up a business and require funds from investors in order to do so. In this respect, their success or failure cannot usually be predicted. Hence, just as with other start-ups or innovative business models, the market success of FinTech providers and FinTech products is uncertain. In view of this, you should always ask yourself a few questions prior to investing, such as: What am I investing in? Can I absorb a total loss? Am I dealing with a reputable provider? You can find further information and tips on investor protection here (see also Question 12.9 on identifying unscrupulous FinTech offers)
Cryptocurrencies are a means of payment that are privately issued and exist in purely digital form on a blockchain. In addition, they can only be transferred on this blockchain. Bitcoin and Ether are well-known cryptocurrencies. A wide range of other blockchain tokens with various designated purposes are also offered for investment.
Cryptocurrencies, or rather blockchain tokens, are a relatively new phenomenon in financial markets. However, they are enjoying growing levels of popularity among investors. But nobody can predict whether they will be able to assert themselves in the market over the long-term.
Furthermore, cryptocurrencies and blockchain tokens are subject to significant price fluctuations, sometimes amounting to more than 20% in a day. Compared with traditional offerings on the financial market, this is considerable and presents major loss potential, particularly for inexperienced investors.
The high levels of interest shown by investors for individual projects in this investment class has repeatedly led to rapid price rises, which are often unsustainable and, in some cases, are even instigated fraudulently (known as “pump and dump”). Investors should be aware that it is particularly in cases of rapid price rises that total losses are also potentially possible.
Crowdfunding is a generic term for an alternative form of financing (in the form of both equity capital and debt capital) of projects or companies. The basic idea of crowdfunding involves a borrower being financed (funded) by a large number (crowd) of persons acting as lenders. This also means that the individual lenders only need to contribute a small portion of the total amount. Crowdfunding is most commonly subdivided into the categories of crowddonating (donations), crowdsupporting (support), crowdlending (loans) and crowdinvesting (equity capital). Further information can be found here.
When investing in crowdfunding offers you should inform yourself about the integrity of both the borrower and the platform brokering the financing transaction prior to proceeding with the investment (in this respect, see also: case example under Question 12.10 and the general information on protection against investment fraud). You should then check exactly which rights are associated with your investment (for example, are you making a donation or purchasing a stake?). Lastly, you should consider whether, how quickly, and at what price, you would be able to resell any rights that you have acquired with your investment.
Specific information from the notarial profession on crowdinvesting in real estate can be found here.
An initial coin offering (commonly abbreviated to “ICO”) is when investors transfer funds (usually in cryptocurrency form) to the ICO organiser. In return, they receive blockchain-based coins or tokens that are created and issued either on a newly developed blockchain or on an already existing blockchain. The ICO organiser will usually use the received funds to develop a business that was not yet in existence at the time of the ICO. The tokens typically represent rights against the ICO organiser, or are intended for use as a future means of payment. In this respect, the rights against the ICO organisers can be very varied (e.g. rights to a share in future profits or to use a future service). The business model adopted by the ICO organiser and the rights associated with the token are usually described in a white paper.
If you wish to purchase tokens as part of an ICO, you should first inform yourself about the integrity of the offeror (in this respect, see also: case example under Question 12.10 and the general information on protection against investment fraud). Investors should be aware that ICOs generally involve companies and business models that are still in a very early phase and are therefore particularly high-risk investments. Lastly, you should establish which rights you will be acquiring with the token and how these compare to the investment made.
Internet platforms for trading in financial products typically offer their clients investments in all types of financial products, or they operate trading venues for such products. In order to use such platforms, clients are required, in most cases, to pay their funds into an account operated by the platform provider. Depending on the offer, the client receives a promise that the deposited funds will be invested in financial products (e.g. cryptocurrencies), which will then be managed for the client and, where applicable, used for further trading. The offer may thus comprise exchanges of money, foreign exchange trading, securities trading, asset management and traditional account management.
Users of internet platforms for trading in financial products should first inform themselves about the integrity of the provider (in this respect, see also: case example under Question 12.10 and the general information on protection against investment fraud). They should then consider whether the financial product that they wish to invest in is appropriate and sensible for them. Investors who lack the necessary knowledge to make such an assessment should consult a specialist (e.g. a bank, investment advisor or asset manager) or refrain from making the investment.
It should be noted, however, that gains are never guaranteed, even in the case of reputable providers. General information on protection against investment fraud and tips for investors on how to protect themselves against unscrupulous providers can be found on our website.
An investor is seeking an investment opportunity, for example, in the Bitcoin cryptocurrency. In addition, the investor would also like to acquire some foreign shares. After learning of a provider through spam emails or advertising, the investor registers on its website. The provider then contacts the investor by telephone or email and the investor is persuaded to make a small investment. However, the investor does not investigate the provider before making the investment.
Subsequently, the investor’s account on the internet platform indicates that they have made a return on their investment. But in actual fact, the money was never invested. The displayed gains are fictitious. The investor, who is now dazzled by the supposed gains being displayed, is then persuaded by the provider to make further investments of larger amounts. The identity of existing companies is also often misused (e.g. Cloned websites: a trap for the unwary).
After a period of time, the investor then tries to get the provider to pay out a portion of the credit balance but the provider keeps on stalling. For example, the investor is told that additional funds must first be paid in to cover the taxes or fees before a payout can be made. After some toing and froing, or as soon as the investor refuses to pay in any more money, all contact ceases. The investor, who is by now suspicious, conducts some research on the internet and thus realises that it was probably an unscrupulous offering. The investor then contacts the police, the public prosecutor’s office or FINMA. However, many investors can feel embarrassed and keep quiet about their bad investment.
In many cases, since the fraudsters frequently spend the investors’ money immediately, or siphon it abroad via various accounts, the authorities are no longer able to retrieve the money. However, it is still worthwhile to report problems to the competent authorities as quickly as possible.
If investors have fallen prey once to unscrupulous providers, their contact details are often passed on to third parties. The investors are then contacted by seemingly new service providers, promising that they will be able to help recover the lost money, or win it back through new transactions. In order to receive this “help” the investor is once again required to pay in money up front. The investor becomes even more tightly entangled in the web.
Further information, including on other business models, can be found here.