ZURICH Cantonal Bank of St. Gallen (SGKN.S) said it may sell parts of Hyposwiss, a private banking unit, in the light of an international crackdown on undeclared Swiss funds.
"The strategic review is being conducted on the backdrop of the current fundamental changes in the cross-border asset management business," the St. Gallen-based bank said.
The move reflects the shake-out among Switzerland's private banks, under heavy fire since the financial crisis as cash-strapped governments have sought to clamp down on tax evasion.
While Swiss giants like UBS UBSN.VX, Credit Suisse CSGN.VX and Julius Baer BAER.VX have the resources to tap newer, budding markets, smaller players like Hyposwiss are caught between falling revenue and rising costs.
Hyposwiss manages assets of 2.66 billion Swiss francs, below what some industry experts say private banks need to hold in order to thrive.
Smaller Swiss private banks have long been favoured by wealthy German customers but German authorities have cracked down on tax dodgers with accounts in Switzerland.
In December, German lawmakers blocked a proposed treaty between the two countries meant to tax assets stashed by Germans in offshore Swiss bank accounts.
Since then, scores of wealthy Germans have come clean on their Swiss accounts.
Overall, Switzerland's $2 trillion finance industry is braced for what consultancy Zeb/Rolfes Schierenbeck Associates says could be 200 billion francs in withdrawals by 2016, out of 789 billion francs of untaxed assets which it believes is lodged with Swiss banks.
(Reporting By Katharina Bart; Editing by David Cowell)