Swiss National Bank

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Swiss National Bank
‹See Tfd› (in German)Schweizerische Nationalbank
‹See Tfd› (in French)Banque nationale suisse
‹See Tfd› (in Italian)Banca nazionale svizzera
(in Romansh)Banca naziunala svizra
Headquarters Bern and Zurich
Established16 January 1906 – 20 June 1907 [1] [2]
Chairman Thomas Jordan
Central bank of Switzerland
Currency Swiss Franc
CHF (ISO 4217)
Headquarters on the Bundesplatz in Bern. Schweizerische Nationalbank Bern.jpg
Headquarters on the Bundesplatz in Bern.

The Swiss National Bank (SNB) is the central bank of Switzerland, and is therefore responsible for the monetary policy of the nation of Switzerland and also for the issuing of Swiss franc banknotes.

Central bank public institution that manages a states currency, money supply, and interest rates

A central bank, reserve bank, or monetary authority is the institution that manages the currency, money supply, and interest rates of a state or formal monetary union, and oversees their commercial banking system. In contrast to a commercial bank, a central bank possesses a monopoly on increasing the monetary base in the state, and also generally controls the printing/coining of the national currency, which serves as the state's legal tender. A central bank also acts as a lender of last resort to the banking sector during times of financial crisis. Most central banks also have supervisory and regulatory powers to ensure the solvency of member institutions, to prevent bank runs, and to discourage reckless or fraudulent behavior by member banks.

Switzerland federal republic in Central Europe

Switzerland, officially the Swiss Confederation, is a sovereign state situated in the confluence of western, central, and southern Europe. It is a federal republic composed of 26 cantons, with federal authorities seated in Bern. Switzerland is a landlocked country bordered by Italy to the south, France to the west, Germany to the north, and Austria and Liechtenstein to the east. It is geographically divided between the Alps, the Swiss Plateau and the Jura, spanning a total area of 41,285 km2 (15,940 sq mi). While the Alps occupy the greater part of the territory, the Swiss population of approximately 8.5 million is concentrated mostly on the plateau, where the largest cities are located, among them the two global cities and economic centres of Zürich and Geneva.

Monetary policy subclass of the economic policy

Monetary policy is the process by which the monetary authority of a country, typically the central bank or currency board, controls either the cost of very short-term borrowing or the money supply, often targeting inflation or the interest rate to ensure price stability and general trust in the currency.


The bank is otherwise known as: German : Schweizerische Nationalbank; French : Banque nationale suisse; Italian : Banca nazionale svizzera; Romansh : Banca naziunala svizra, which are the four official languages of the country.

German language West Germanic language

German is a West Germanic language that is mainly spoken in Central Europe. It is the most widely spoken and official or co-official language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, South Tyrol in Italy, the German-speaking Community of Belgium, and Liechtenstein. It is also one of the three official languages of Luxembourg and a co-official language in the Opole Voivodeship in Poland. The languages which are most similar to German are the other members of the West Germanic language branch: Afrikaans, Dutch, English, the Frisian languages, Low German/Low Saxon, Luxembourgish, and Yiddish. There are also strong similarities in vocabulary with Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, although those belong to the North Germanic group. German is the second most widely spoken Germanic language, after English.

French language Romance language

French is a Romance language of the Indo-European family. It descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire, as did all Romance languages. French evolved from Gallo-Romance, the spoken Latin in Gaul, and more specifically in Northern Gaul. Its closest relatives are the other langues d'oïl—languages historically spoken in northern France and in southern Belgium, which French (Francien) has largely supplanted. French was also influenced by native Celtic languages of Northern Roman Gaul like Gallia Belgica and by the (Germanic) Frankish language of the post-Roman Frankish invaders. Today, owing to France's past overseas expansion, there are numerous French-based creole languages, most notably Haitian Creole. A French-speaking person or nation may be referred to as Francophone in both English and French.

Italian language Romance language

Italian is a Romance language of the Indo-European language family. Italian descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire, and together with Sardinian, is by most measures the closest language to it of the Romance languages. Italian is an official language in Italy, Switzerland, San Marino and Vatican City. It has an official minority status in western Istria. It formerly had official status in Albania, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro (Kotor) and Greece, and is generally understood in Corsica and Savoie. It also used to be an official language in the former Italian East Africa and Italian North Africa, where it still plays a significant role in various sectors. Italian is also spoken by large expatriate communities in the Americas and Australia. Italian is included under the languages covered by the European Charter for Regional or Minority languages in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Romania, although Italian is neither a co-official nor a regional or a traditional language in these countries, where Italians do not represent a historical minority. In the case of Romania, Italian is listed by the Government along 10 other languages which supposedly receive a "general protection", but not between those which should be granted an "advanced or enhanced" one. Many speakers of Italian are native bilinguals of both Italian and other regional languages.

The SNB is an aktiengesellschaft under special regulations, and has two head offices, one is in Bern and the other one in Zurich.

<i>Aktiengesellschaft</i> type of business entity in German-speaking countries

Aktiengesellschaft is a German word for a corporation limited by share ownership whose shares may be traded on a stock market. The term is used in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and South Tyrol for companies incorporated there. It is also used in Luxembourg, although the equivalent French language term société anonyme is more common. In the United Kingdom and the United States, the equivalent terms are "limited" and "incorporated", respectively.


Share of the Swiss National Bank, issued 6. June 1907 Schweizerische Nationalbank 1907.jpg
Share of the Swiss National Bank, issued 6. June 1907

The bank formed as a result of the need for a reduction in the number of banks of issue, which numbered 53 sometime after 1826. In the 1874 revision of the Federal Constitution it was given the task to oversee laws concerning the issuing of banknotes. Then in 1891 the Federal Constitution was revised again to entrust the Confederation with sole rights to issue banknotes. The National Bank Law was enforced on 16 January 1906, and the Nationalbank began business activities on 20 June 1907, and is thought then founded sometime during either 1906 or 1907. [1] [2] SNB itself states that it was founded in 1907. [3]

Sometime during World War I (1914-1917 [4] ), the bank was instructed to release notes of a small denomination, for the first time, by the Federal Council of Switzerland. [1]

World War I 1914–1918 global war originating in Europe

World War I, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously described as "the war to end all wars", it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history. It is also one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with an estimated nine million combatants and seven million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war, while resulting genocides and the 1918 influenza pandemic caused another 50 to 100 million deaths worldwide.

The Bundesrat devalued the Swiss Franc during 1936, and as a result, there was made available to the Nationalbank, an amount of monies, which the bank subsequently stored in a Währungsausgleichsfonds reserve for the future, for usage in situations of emergency. [5]

Federal Council (Switzerland) seven-member executive council which constitutes the federal government of Switzerland and serves as the collective Swiss head of state

The Federal Council is the seven-member executive council that constitutes the federal government of the Swiss Confederation and serves as the collective head of state and of government of Switzerland.

In 1981 the bank participated in research involving Orell Füssli and an optical research group named Landis and Gyr, of matters of banknote design. [6]

During 1994 the Bank was described as a joint-stock company acting under the administration and supervision of the Confederation. It had eight branches and twenty sub-branches within cantons. The governing board had overall executive management of the Nationalbank, with supervision entrusted to its shareholders, the banks' council, the banks' committee, its local committees and auditing committee. There were three members of the governing board, who together decided the monetary policy of the Nationalbank. Towards the end of 1993, there were 566 employees. [1]

With the inception of Article 99 of the Federal Constitution, in May 2004, the Nationalbank achieved formal independence. [7]


As of 2015 the Nationalbank is privately owned, [8] with the majority of shares belonging to the Swiss cantons (45%) and the banks of the cantons (15%), and the smaller remainder in the possession of private individuals (40%). [9] [10] [11] Shares of the SNB existed within SIX Swiss Exchange from 1907 onward. [12]

Exchange rates

The Nationalbank made an announcement on 6 September 2011, of its intention to address changes in the value of the Swiss Franc to the Euro. More specifically, that it wanted the value of the Franc to fall below 1.2 to the Euro. A cap was placed on exchange-rates [13] in order to take measures to stem the development of a possible recession. The bank stated the 1.2 exchange value was defendable as the bank could potentially proceed to mint enough banknotes to control the rate sufficiently. [14] The bank announced on January 15, 2015 the Euro currency arrangement would end as the Euro crisis had passed and the Europeans would be making financial policy changes. [15]


Schweizerische Nationalbank (Swiss National Bank), 5 Franken (1914). The portrait depicts William Tell (based on Richard Kissling's monument in Altdorf), with the Rutli Mountain in the distance.
Signed by K. Bornhauser (Chief Cashier), Johann-Daniel Hirter (President of the Swiss National Bank Council), and August Burckhardt (Board member). SWI-11b-Confederation Schweizerische Nationalbank-5 Franken (1914).jpg
Schweizerische Nationalbank (Swiss National Bank), 5 Franken (1914). The portrait depicts William Tell (based on Richard Kissling’s monument in Altdorf), with the Rütli Mountain in the distance.
Signed by K. Bornhauser (Chief Cashier), Johann-Daniel Hirter (President of the Swiss National Bank Council), and August Burckhardt (Board member).

The basic governing principles of the Nationalbank are contained within Article 99 of the Federal Constitution, which deals with matters of monetary policy. [16] There are three numbered factors concerning principles explicitly mentioning the Nationalbank, of four altogether shown within the Article. The SNB is therefore obliged by constitutional statute law to act in accordance with the economic interests of Switzerland. [17] Accordingly, the prime function of the Nationalbank is: [18]

to pursue a reliable monetary policy for the benefit of the Swiss economy and the Swiss people.

The Nationalbank publishes within its own site a list of research done as work in progress by staff members, which begin at 2004 (2 papers), to 2005 (2), 2006 (11), 2007 (17), 2008 (19), 2009 (16), 2010 (19), 2011 (14), 2012 (16), 2013 (11), 2014 (13), and to 1 August 2015 there is shown nine papers, [19] a list of eight economic studies which relate to the tasks of the bank, listed from 2005, [20] in addition to a bi-annually published update of research, listed from 2012 to the present. [21]

Cash supply and distribution

The National Bank is entrusted with the note-issuing privilege. It supplies the economy with banknotes that meet high standards with respect to quality and security. It is also charged by the Confederation with the task of coin distribution.

Cashless payment transactions

In the field of cashless payment transactions, the National Bank provides services for payments between banks. These are settled in the Swiss Interbank Clearing (SIC) system via sight deposit accounts held with the National Bank.

Investment of currency reserves

The National Bank manages currency reserves. These engender confidence in the Swiss franc, help to prevent and overcome crises and may be utilized for interventions in the foreign exchange market.

Financial system stability

The National Bank contributes to the stability of the financial system by acting as an arbiter over monetary policy. Within the context of this task, it analyses sources of risk to the financial system, oversees systemically important payment and securities settlement systems and helps to promote an operational environment for the financial sector.

International monetary cooperation

Together with the federal authorities, the National Bank participates in international monetary cooperation and provides technical assistance.

Banker to the Confederation

The National Bank acts as banker to the Swiss Confederation. It processes payments on behalf of the Confederation, issues money market debt register claims and bonds, handles the safekeeping of securities and carries out money market and foreign exchange transactions.


The National Bank compiles statistical data on banks and financial markets, the balance of payments, the international investment position and the Swiss financial accounts.



The Swiss National Bank invests its assets, particularly in the stock market. In 2018, its share portfolio stood at 153 billion Swiss francs. [22]

According to its guidelines, it "avoids shares in companies which produce internationally banned weapons, seriously violate fundamental human rights or systematically cause severe environmental damage". [23]

Since 2016, environmental associations and academics criticise the fact that these investments do not take into account the Paris Climate Agreement (article 2) and are responsible for at least 50 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions in 2017. [22] [24] [25]

Monetary policy

The Swiss National Bank pursues a monetary policy serving the interests of the country as a whole. It must ensure price stability, while taking due account of economic developments. Monetary policy affects production and prices with a considerable time lag. Consequently, it is based on inflation forecasts rather than current inflation.

The SNB’s monetary policy strategy consists of three elements: a definition of price stability (the SNB equates price stability with a rise in the national consumer price index of less than 2% per year), a medium-term conditional inflation forecast, and, at operational level, a target range for a reference interest rate, which is the Libor for three-month investments in Swiss francs.


General Meeting of Shareholders

The General Meeting of Shareholders is held once a year, as a rule in April. Owing to the SNB’s public mandate, the powers of the Shareholders’ Meeting are not as extensive as in joint-stock companies under private law.

Bank Council

The Bank Council oversees and controls the conduct of business by the Swiss National Bank and consists of 11 members. Six members, including the President and Vice President, are appointed by the Federal Council, and five by the Shareholders’ Meeting. The Bank Council sets up four committees from its own ranks: an Audit Committee, a Risk Committee, a Remuneration Committee and an Appointment Committee.

A list of the Bank Council members is published on the SNB website (see:

Governing Board

The Swiss National Bank’s management and executive body is the Governing Board. The Governing Board is responsible in particular for monetary policy, asset management strategy, contributing to the stability of the financial system and international monetary cooperation. The Governing Board consists of 3 members:

Gold reserves

The SNB manages the official gold reserves of Switzerland, which as of 2008 amount to 1145 tonnes and are valued at 30.5 billion CHF. [27] The gold is believed to be stored in huge vaults beneath the Federal Square ( Bundesplatz ) to the north of the federal Parliament building in Bern, but the SNB treats the location of the gold reserves as a secret. [27] Independent confirmation of the gold's location was obtained by the Bernese newspaper Der Bund in 2008. It published a photograph of the bullion that a keystone photographer was allowed to take at the SNB premises in Bern in 2001. Der Bund also quoted a retired official of the city's surveying office as saying that the gold vaults take up an area of roughly half the Federal Square and have a depth of dozens of meters, down to the level of the Aar river. [27] The SNB says that the gold reserves are stored in different safe places in Switzerland (70% -mostly under the Bundesplatz in Berne and at the Bank for International Settlements in Basel) and abroad (i.e. Bank of England and Bank of Canada). [28]

From the latter years of the 1990s until sometime during 2005, the Nationalbank transferred from its possession (incompetently, when the gold price was at its historic low) [29] half of its gold reserves, following the Nazi gold affair. [5]

World War II

The Swiss National Bank provided 1.2 billion CHF to the Reichsbank, of this, a value of approximately 780 million CHF of the gold given to the Nationalbank was gold which had been looted by the forces of Germany. In addition the Nationalbank also exchanged between 1.2–1.6 billion CHF for gold from the Allied forces. [30] During 20 April 1944, gold from the gold reserves of Italy arrived from Como at the railway station within Chiasso. [31]

There is controversy over the role of the Swiss National Bank in the transfer of Nazi gold during World War II. The SNB was the largest gold distribution centre in continental Europe before the war. A study by the U.S. Department of State in 1997 notes that the Bank "must have known that some portion of the gold it was receiving from the Reichsbank was looted from occupied countries". [32] This was confirmed by the Swiss Bergier commission in 1998 which concluded that the SNB received US$440 million in gold from Nazi sources, [33] of which US$316 million is estimated to have been looted.[ citation needed ] The gold from Nazi governship sources was in the form of ingots containing gold looted from Central Banks of Europe and gold from Jews executed within the concentration camps established by the machination of the Nazi regime, which the SNB took without knowing these facts at the time, nor inquiring to any great degree in the process of its transfer into the possession of the SNB, according to a former Archivist of the SNB Robert Vogler. [34]


The Nationalbank had profits of $39.3 billion at the close of 2014. [35]

On 31 July 2015, the bank reported a first-half loss of £33 billion. [36]

See also

Notes and references

  1. 1 2 3 4 Manfred Pohl; Sabine Freitag. Handbook on the History of European Banks (p.1032, 1034 - 1035. published by Edward Elgar Publishing 1 January 1994, 1303 pages, ISBN   1781954216, Elgar Original Reference Series. Retrieved 31 July 2015.templatestyles stripmarker in |publisher= at position 66 (help)
  2. 1 2 Ivan Tibor Berend. An Economic History of Nineteenth-Century Europe: Diversity and Industrialization (p.162). Cambridge University Press 2013, 521 pages, ISBN   1107030706 . Retrieved 31 July 2015.templatestyles stripmarker in |publisher= at position 45 (help)(this source is showing the specific info verbatim : founded in 1906)
  3. SNB - Questions and Answers on the SNB as a company (9.) [Retrieved 2015-08-01]
  4. A.J.P Taylor - The Origins of the Second World War, published 1961 (1st ed.) [Retrieved about 1994 (Waterstones) & 2015]
  5. 1 2 Peter Bernholz (Ulrich Bindseil, Rudolf Richter, Justus Haucap, Christian Wey). Institutions in Perspective: Festschrift in Honor of Rudolf Richter on the Occasion of His 80th Birthday. Mohr Siebeck 1 Jan 2006, 407 pages, ISBN   3161490614 . Retrieved 31 July 2015.templatestyles stripmarker in |publisher= at position 37 (help)CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  6. K.J. Schell - The History of Information Security: A Comprehensive Handbook (p.232) published by Elsevier 28 Aug 2007, 900 pages, (edited by Karl Maria Michael de Leeuw, Jan Bergstra), ISBN   0080550584 [Retrieved 2015-08-01]
  7. International Currency Review. International Currency Review, Volume 30. Currency Journals Limited 2004. Retrieved 31 July 2015.(ed. original source: National Bank Law, used to locate Article 99 info)
  8. Stephen Mitford Goodson. A History of Central Banking and the Enslavement of Mankind. Black House Publishing Ltd 17 Apr 2015, 216 pages. Retrieved 31 July 2015.
  9. Bloomberg. Share Price of Schweizerische Nationalbank. published by Bloomberg Business & SIX Swiss Exchange . Retrieved 1 August 2015.
  10. SNB - Questions and Answers on the SNB as a company (5) [Retrieved 2015-08-01]
  11. (7 October 2016). "Who is speculating in Swiss central bank shares?" . Retrieved 12 October 2016.
  12. SNB - Questions and Answers on the SNB as a company (9) [Retrieved 2015-08-01]
  13. R.A. - Foreign exchange published by The Economist 6 September 2011 [Retrieved 2016-08-01]
  14. EMMA THOMASSON & CATHERINE BOSLEY. Markets: Zurich. published by Reuters 6 September 2011. Retrieved 1 August 2015.(The report uses the word unlimited, to refer to banknote production numbers though the world being as it is limited and finite, this wouldn't have been strictly literally possible)
  15. C.W. (18 January 2015). "The Economist explains Why the Swiss unpegged the franc" The Economist. Retrieved 18 November 2015. The Economist website
  16. Constitution and laws (as at April 2015). published by the Swiss National Bank, Zurich (Switzerland) 2015. Retrieved 31 July 2015.
  17. Swiss national Bank - Article 99 - Geld und Waehrung [Retrieved 2015-07-31]
  18. SNB - Educational pdf published 2006 (2nd edition) [Retrieved 2015-08-01]
  19. SNB - Research: Working Papers [Retrieved 2015-08-01]
  20. SNB - Research: Economic Studies [Retrieved 2015-08-01]
  21. SNB - Research: Research Update Archived 4 December 2016 at the Wayback Machine [Retrieved 2015-08-01]
  22. 1 2 ‹See Tfd› (in French) Susana Jourdan and Jacques Mirenowicz, "La BNS peut lutter contre le réchauffement climatique", Le temps , 24 April 2018 (page visited on 25 April 2018).
  23. Investment Policy Guidelines of the Swiss National Bank (SNB), of 27 May 2004, as of 1 April 2015 (page visited on 25 April 2018).
  24. The Swiss National Bank’s investments in the fossil fuel industry inflicts heavy losses to Switzerland, report of the association "Artisans de la transition", 24 April 2018 (page visited on 25 April 2018).
  25. ‹See Tfd› (in German) Heidi Gmür, "Finanzmärkte im Klimawandel", Neue Zürcher Zeitung , 23 April 2018 (page visited on 25 April 2018).
  26. 1 2 Communications:New SNB Governing Board published by Schweizerische NationalBank
  27. 1 2 3 Schwendener, Pascal (25 July 2008). "Schatz unterm Bundesplatz: Das Gold der Nationalbank". Der Bund (in German). p. 18. Retrieved 27 July 2008.[ dead link ]
  28. "Politique monétaire: L'or de la BNS occupera le Conseil des Etats - Suisse -".
  30. P. Marguerat (ed. Georg Kreis) (11 January 2013). Switzerland and the Second World War. Routledge. ISBN   1136756701 . Retrieved 31 July 2015.
  31. Gianni Toniolo, Piet Clement (16 May 2005). Central Bank Cooperation at the Bank for International Settlements, 1930–1973. Studies in Macroeconomic History, Cambridge University Press. p. 252. ISBN   0521845513.CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link)
  32. Stuart Eizenstat (2 June 1998). "Eizenstat Special Briefing on Nazi Gold". United States Department of State . Retrieved 5 July 2006.
  33. ""Switzerland and Gold Transactions in the Second World War"" (PDF). (1.18  MiB). Bergier Commission, May 1998. Retrieved on 5 July 2006. Quote: " All in all, the Reichsbank shipped gold valued at 1,922 million francs, or 444 million dollars to Switzerland during the war." (p. 64)
  34. Gregg J. Rickman (31 December 2011). Conquest and Redemption: A History of Jewish Assets from the Holocaust. Transaction Publishers. p. 37. ISBN   1412808995 . Retrieved 1 August 2015.
  35. Michael Lingenheld - INVESTING published by Forbes Magazine 12 March 2015 [Retrieved 5 August 2015]
  36. Business published by British Broadcasting Corporation 31 July 2015 [Retrieved 31 July 2015]

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