Franco Citterio, chairman of Ticino for Finance, has listed his canton’s location among the advantages that it offers financial services providers and customers.
What are the strengths and the opportunities for the Ticino financial services sector?
Ticino owes the success and the development of its financial services sector both to the strengths of the ‘Swiss system’ but also to certain features specific to the Canton of Ticino.
The conditions for doing financial business in Switzerland are favourable: our currency is strong, the banking sector is very stable, and regulations are business-friendly and in line with international standards. The tax burden is not too heavy, on average, especially in view of the high quality of the services offered.
Financial operators can draw on a pool of skilled resources. These come from Swiss universities, which constantly score highly in the international rankings, but also from abroad, since many professionals are willing to relocate to Switzerland.
In common with the two other main Swiss financial centres of Geneva and Zurich, the Lugano authorities offer a flexible approach that encourage solutions tailor-made to the needs of each operator. For example, if operators have questions about their company organisation and the tax implications, they can easily set up a meeting with the cantonal authorities. As we like to say in Ticino, meetings are between people, rather than institutions.
Ticino’s geographical location is also an advantage for financial operators. Located in the southern-most part of Switzerland, on the border with Italy, we are a natural bridge between northern and southern Europe, and can be reached easily from anywhere in the world.
There is one further element that I would not underestimate: the high quality of life. The combination of Swiss quality, a Mediterranean climate and the Italian lifestyle make our canton a good place to live.
Given the new regulatory and market environment, what are the Ticino authorities doing to maximise its opportunities?
The first step is to provide the canton with a regulatory framework that is in line with those of the EU and the US. A lot of work is being done on this at national level, for example with the new CISA (Collective Investment Schemes Act), the tax agreements currently being made with various European countries, and more generally, with the ongoing dialogue between the FINMA (Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority) and its counterparts in other countries.
At canton level, the main objective is to maintain a consistently business-friendly environment, with attractive tax regulations, high-level ancillary services, suitable IT infrastructure and straightforward transport links with the rest of the world.
Here, it is important not to forget that Switzerland is a confederation, meaning that individual cantons have plenty of room for manoeuvre when it comes to implementing measures to increase their competitiveness in an international context.
These measures, which I would define as ‘structural’, are accompanied by a more active promotion of the financial centre. Ticino for Finance was set up as a promotional body with this objective in mind, to help anyone considering Lugano and the Canton of Ticino as a base for their financial business.
I think the fact that Ticino for Finance is an institutional body (Ticino for Finance’s members include the Canton’s Department of Finance and Economy, the Ticino Banking Association, the Municipal Authority of Lugano, the Chamber of Commerce and many more), and therefore well removed from commercial needs, is proof of the authorities’ commitment to support the development of the financial centre.
In practical terms, Ticino for Finance develops IT documentation, holds conferences on a variety of subjects and arranges workshops: in short, it facilitates knowledge of what Lugano and the Canton of Ticino can offer as a financial centre.
A great deal has already been done on this, but there is still much to do. Just consider that despite being the third main Swiss financial centre, and one of the main centres at European level, and active on the international scene for decades, we still meet operators who know little or nothing about how much we’re doing in Ticino.