'Italy for 30 years under the Borgias had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed - but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love and 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.' - Orson Welles
‘Italy for 30 years under the Borgias had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed – but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love and 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.’ – Orson Welles
This speech, from the film The Third Man, probably managed to offend its Swiss viewers, not least because it was factually incorrect.
Switzerland’s centuries of political stability and peaceful coexistence have produced much more than the world-famous clocks. Another notable outcome is an environment very conducive to finance, both familial and corporate.
Wealthy Europeans previously also naturally sought out the banking secrecy Bern guaranteed inside its national borders.
But as that vanishes under the weight of international political pressure, it is Switzerland’s comparative isolation from the turmoil engulfing the Eurozone’s peripheral nations nearby that still makes it a safe, and attractive harbour for wealth.
Sometimes the owners of that wealth are migrating their families along with their assets, says Kevin Clerey (pictured), managing director of fiduciary services provider International Protector Group (IPG) Switzerland, whose parent group has about $1.5bn under supervision.
“Assets are moving quickly around Europe at the moment, and it is a classic moment to stop and review. Greek assets are coming to Switzerland, but not any more for tax evasion, rather they are coming purely for protection, if more conviction exists the euro will fall. And the French with rising tax rates, who may once have thought of running money over the border in their car, are now coming across the border themselves,” he says.