Confident and optimistic

Saturday, 01 October 2011
A report on the findings of a STEP membership survey about the future of the trust industry in Switzerland

More than 10 per cent of STEP’s Swiss membership contributed to a survey conducted by STEP Switzerland and the Swiss Association of Trust Companies (SATC) in April 2011. This produced a good sample of trust specialists from across the country, who gave their opinions on the future of the Swiss trust industry.

In general, the results indicated a willingness by Swiss practitioners to consider changes to the regulatory regime for trusts on the basis of a more trustee-specific regulator. However, they also suggested that, to be accepted, any such plans would need to be carefully explained to practitioners to demonstrate how the changes would benefit their businesses.

Despite predictions in earlier STEP reports that the ‘end of secrecy’ would have a negative impact on the industry, the majority of members surveyed thought the Swiss trust industry would grow or maintain its position (76 per cent), although the high ‘stay the same’ figure (29 per cent) suggested some misgivings remain among practitioners. The positivity about the future of the industry was mirrored in STEP’s latest global quarterly confidence survey, which looks at members’ views across a wide range of jurisdictions and trust and estate businesses. The results show that members remain optimistic about the future of trust and estate business, with both the short-term and long-term outlook staying positive.

The results of the step survey indicated a willingness by swiss practitioners to consider changes to the regulatory regime for trusts

Members were divided as to whether the Swiss trust industry needs further regulation. However, given this is such a stark question, and without any supporting details of the nature of the proposed regulation, the amount of support is higher than may have been predicted. Many respondents understandably suggested that their support was conditional on the shape of any regulatory regime.

More than a quarter of Swiss members surveyed were not completely happy with their existing self-regulatory organisation (SRO). Respondents who were unhappy commonly cited a lack of knowledge by SROs as contributing to their dissatisfaction.

Just over half of members surveyed did not think their SRO was fully capable of dealing with trustees when conducting regulatory audits. Many commented that in their experience SRO auditors often have insufficient knowledge of trusts.

The survey found that eight out of ten members would look sympathetically on plans for an SRO specifically for the trust industry, while more than half of those surveyed would welcome such plans. Regulation driven by the industry was seen as positive and members suggested that STEP and SATC need to be at the forefront, driving a sensible approach, rather than having a regulator create an over-regulated environment that would drive away business.


The results predict an encouraging future for the Swiss trust industry

There was strong support for industry-driven regulation, with a number of respondents suggesting that STEP and SATC need to lead the way in the creation of any prospective regulatory regime to ensure that practitioner concerns are taken into account from the outset.

Overall, the results predict an encouraging future for the Swiss trust industry. They also conclude that, although the majority of Swiss members are happy with their current SRO, efforts by STEP and SATC to review the most effective and proportionate regulation will be viewed favourably, so long as that regulation is better tailored to the needs of trustees.

Author block
Scott Devine

Scott Devine is Policy and Communications Executive for STEP.

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