Switzerland/National Bank

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Group.png Switzerland/National Bank  
(Central bankWebsiteRdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
SNB-Logo-positiv-blau.svg
HeadquartersBern, Zurich
LeaderSwiss National Bank/Chair
SubpageSwitzerland/National Bank/Chair

The Swiss National Bank is the central bank of Switzerland, responsible for the nation's monetary policy and the sole issuer of Swiss franc banknotes.

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

With the inception of Article 99 of the Federal Constitution, in May 2004, the National Bank achieved formal independence from politics (but instead beholden to neoliberal financial interests).

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

Responsibilities

The basic governing principles of the Nationalbank are contained within Article 99 of the Federal Constitution, which deals with matters of monetary policy.[1] 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.[2] Accordingly, the prime function of the Nationalbank is:


to pursue a reliable monetary policy for the benefit of the Swiss economy and the Swiss people.[3]

Cash supply and distribution

The National Bank is entrusted with the note-issuing privilege. It supplies the economy with banknotes. 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 Swiss 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.

Statistics

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

Gold reserves

The SNB manages the official gold reserves of Switzerland, which as of 2008 amount to 1,145 tonnes and are valued at 30.5 billion CHF.[4] 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. 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.

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).[5]

From the latter years of the 1990s until sometime during 2005, the National Bank transferred from its possession (incompetently, when the gold price was at its historic low)[6] half of its gold reserves, following the Nazi gold affair.

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 National Bank was gold which had been looted by the forces of Germany. In addition the National Bank also exchanged between 1.2 and 1.6 billion CHF for gold from the Allied forces.[7] During 20 April 1944, gold from the gold reserves of Italy arrived from Como at the railway station within Chiasso.[8]

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, with the intent to get the Swiss banking system under its control, notes that the bank "must have known that some portion of the gold it was receiving from the Reichsbank was looted from occupied countries".[9] This was confirmed by the Swiss Bergier commission in 1998 which concluded that the SNB received US$440 million in gold from Nazi sources,[10] of which US$316 million is estimated to have been looted.[citation needed]



References