In 2016-2017, Switzerland topped the World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Index (GCI) for the eighth year running, achieving an even higher score than in previous years. Although its performance remains largely unchanged from last year, a small score improvement means Switzerland achieves the highest GCI score since the introduction of the 2007. The country features in the top 10 of 11 GCI pillars and tops four of them: labor market efficiency, business sophistication, innovation, and technological readiness (for the first time). Switzerland arguably possesses one of the world’s most fertile innovation ecosystems, combining a very conducive policy environment and infrastructure, academic excellence and an unmatched capacity to attract the best talent. Furthermore, intense collaboration between the academic and business worlds yields innovative products with commercial applications.
A stable financial system is an essential prerequisite for an open, export-oriented economy. Switzerland has long been recognized as one of the most stable nations in the world, due to the stability of its legal and political system and the health of its economy and public finances. According to the OECD 2014 Better Life Index, Switzerland offers its citizens a high quality of life.
The financial center benefits from Switzerland’s extensive network of free trade agreements. In addition to the EFTA Convention and the free trade agreement with the European Union (EU), Switzerland has signed 28 free trade agreements with 38 partners outside the EU, including many key economies. It was for instance the first European nation to sign an agreement with Japan. Moreover, In May 2014 the Swiss Federal Council adopted the OECD standard for automatic exchange of tax information. In October of the same year, the Swiss government signed the Multilateral Competent Authority Agreement to Automatically Exchange Financial Account Information.
Investors from all over the world value the transparency and reliability of Geneva's economy and regulatory framework. Its stable political structure, robust parliamentary democracy, reliable legal system and well-governed domestic institutions boost the attractiveness of its economic environment. This is the reason why so many multinationals have decided to move their European headquarters to Geneva.
Geneva plays host 119 banking institutions and is universally recognized as a global financial center with a long tradition of wealth management and commodity trading. Few financial centers offer such a diverse pool of skills and dense network of finance-related activities, including international law firms, insurance and inspection companies, auditors, and shipping companies. This unique chain of expertise acts as a magnet for multinationals and enhances Geneva's reputation as a city of superlatives.
Geneva's traditional know-how and highly skilled workforce have helped build its global reputation as a center of expertise in wealth management and commodity trading. Few financial centers offer such a diverse pool of skills and dense network of finance-related activities, including international law firms, insurance and inspection companies, auditors, and shipping companies. This unique chain of expertise acts as a magnet for multinationals. Business Environment Risk Intelligence (BERI) ranks Switzerland among the top 5 in the world for the quality of its workforce.
According to the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Index 2015-16, Switzerland's productivity can be explained in part by the excellence of its educational system, as well as a financial sector that offers professionals ample opportunities to pursue further education in order to meet the requirements of a constantly changing world.
Maintaining Geneva’s position as a leading financial center is a key priority for the city. One of the missions of the Geneva Financial Center (GFC) is therefore to deliver high-quality training in banking and finance. The Foundation also organises events to support knowledge sharing. Investment in training is essential for the financial sector; banking professionals need to hone their skills and knowledge throughout their careers in order to successfully face the challenges of evolving regulations and new technologies.
The GFC has identified four priority objectives to raise the level of continuing professional development:
- provide a clear picture of the training that is available;
- ensure that supply matches demand;
- promote research and events relating to continuing professional development in the banking sector;
- support talented young professionals.
The Geneva Financial Center strongly encourages public-private partnerships in the academic field. For instance, it has provided support to the Geneva Financial Research Institute (GFRI) at the University of Geneva since its creation in 2009. The GFC is particularly proud to award a yearly prize to the best Master of Science in Finance graduate.
The World Economic Forum’s Global Information Technology Report 2016 places Switzerland among the 10 nations that are best equipped to face technological changes, due amongst other factors to substantial investments in digital technology. Switzerland is also the industrialized nation with the highest percentage of people working in research and development.
Technology plays an increasingly important role in future relationships between banks and their customers. Customers are becoming increasingly demanding, particularly in retail banking, leaving banks no option but to embrace innovation.
Wealth management is no exception to this rule, as clients become increasingly connected to the online world. Some observers have even surmised that wealth management might one day be wholly automated!
Geneva is known as a global center for commodity trading and trade finance. Around 400 companies in the greater Geneva area handle a large proportion of the global trade in oil, sugar, coffee, cereals, rice and oilseeds. Rigorous risk management and outstanding customer service are essential to this industry. The recent wave of regulation has added an extra layer of requirements. Technology has thus become indispensable in commodity trading as well.
These new requirements and new services have led to the convergence of finance and technology, referred to as FinTech.
The Geneva financial center stands out from the competition due to the quality of service and security it offers, both in terms of stability and data protection. With its emphasis on transparency as well as privacy, the financial center benefits from a know-how that is firmly rooted in tradition, but is nevertheless innovative and technologically advanced. Geneva's economic "cluster" is not confined to banks: it also includes financial market infrastructure providers, software developers and other suppliers of products and services.
The Geneva Financial Center aims to help Geneva become a center of excellence in financial technology and is working in particular to create an appropriate legal framework.