Q & A
As an American living in the United States, can I open an account with a Swiss bank?
There are several Swiss banks which welcome American clients (private clients, companies, trusts) in collaboration with a Swiss SEC-registered investment adviser (Swiss SEC RIA). Your Swiss SEC RIA will assist you with the choice of bank and the ensuing account opening formalities. Opening an account in Switzerland is almost as easy as opening one at home. Alternatively, some Swiss SEC RIAs also provide US custodians.
Do I have to come to Switzerland to open an account?
It is highly recommended that you do make the trip to Switzerland in order to meet with your account manger and wealth manager personally. However, an account can be opened and a wealth strategy determined without you leaving home. The account opening process is as simple as possible, but naturally there is some paperwork involved and information and documents required to fulfill the due diligence process. Your Swiss SEC RIA will walk you through the steps of establishing your account either in person or over the phone.
Can I open an account from the United States?
Yes, it is possible to open account from the United States in collaboration with a Swiss SEC RIA who will walk you through the process.
Can I use a US custodian?
Yes, some Swiss SEC RIAs work together with US custodians as an alternative to opening an account with a Swiss bank.
Can I manage the investments in my account myself?
The Swiss bank will open an account with you in collaboration with a Swiss SEC RIA who offers a discretionary mandate (the wealth manager makes the investment decisions according to the strategy determined by your risk appetite, needs and goals), an advisory mandate (you make your own decisions but receive advice) or a special mandate for special needs.
Is working with a Swiss wealth manager compliant with U.S. laws?
If the wealth manager is registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission in the United States they are able to provide compliant wealth management services to Americans residing in the United States and abroad. They can communicate freely with you, visit you in the United States and promote their services on US soil.
Can my present financial advisor, wealth manager or lawyer be involved in the process, right from the beginning?
An account in Switzerland with an internationally-diversified portfolio should complement the investment strategy and portfolio you have at home and your present financial advisor, wealth manager or lawyer is more than welcome to be involved in the process right from the beginning, if desired.
I am an American adviser and I would like to provide my clients with information on international and jurisdictional diversification. Where can I get information and advice to pass on to my clients?
You can co-counsel with a Swiss professional. Swiss SEC RIAs, estate planning lawyers, tax advisers and trust advisers are happy to work together with you to develop solutions for your clients' specific needs. The easiest way to get in touch is to review the various service providers and give them a call or send an email to begin a working relationship.
What time of day can I call a Swiss company and speak with someone?
In general, you can reach a Swiss company during office hours: Swiss Time: 09:00 a.m. - 18:00 p.m.
AST Atlantic Standard Time: 04:00 a.m. - 01:00 p.m.
EST Eastern Standard Time: 03:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
CST Central Standard Time: 02:00 a.m. - 11:00 p.m.
MST Mountain Standard Time: 01:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m.
PST Pacific Standard Time: 12:00 a.m. - 09:00 a.m.
However, working with Americans in the US, Swiss SEC RIAs and other service providers are used to making phone calls into the evening Swiss time and are happy to speak with you at a time that suits your schedule. If you get voicemail, leave a message and your call will be returned Swiss-style, meaning as soon as possible. Switzerland is really only a phone call away!
Can I be visited in the United States to discuss my strategy and portfolio and make arrangements? When I have an account, will I be visited regularly to discuss developments and changes?
Yes, many Swiss SEC RIAs travel to the US regularly and are happy to meet with you personally to discuss your needs, goals and plans on an ongoing basis.
Is there a minimum amount of investment?
Swiss SEC RIAs have varying minimum amounts of investment anywhere between none and USD 50,000 and USD 20,000,000. The amounts are mentioned in their ADV Part 2 which is part of their SEC registration. Read more about the ADV Part 2 and the information it includes here.
What are the fees and costs?
Fees and costs depend on various factors such as amount of investment, type of investment, the chosen custodian bank and other factors. A percentage of assets under management, performance fees or flat fees (or combination thereof) can vary. The Swiss SEC RIA's ADV Part 2 Item 5 – Fees and Compensation, a part of their SEC registration, provides detailed information.
Correct reporting to the IRS is a critical issue, how do I make sure I get it right?
Your bank account in Switzerland needs to be reported to the IRS in a timely manner and using the correct forms. Your Swiss bank will deliver all the necessary documents to ensure compliant reporting. There are Swiss-based US tax advisers well-experienced in US tax requirements which are able to help you and work together with your local tax adviser, if required.
What do I have to do about FATCA?
It is the Swiss bank's obligation to adhere to FATCA reporting requirements and you only have to make sure that your personal reporting requirements are fulfilled.
I have an IRA in the United States, can I invest these funds in Switzerland?
If you have a self-directed IRA, then you can invest these funds in Switzerland. The account opening process and the appointed Swiss SEC RIA involves your IRA custodian.
Besides international portfolio diversification, what other reasons are there for holding some of my assets in Switzerland?
Switzerland continues to hold it's leading position as the world's leading center for private wealth management. Long-term political- and economic stability, century-old neutrality, a historically strong currency, strictly regulated and strongly capitalized financial institutions and a high level of wealth management expertise are a few of the reasons why Switzerland is considered a safe jurisdiction in an increasingly unsafe world .