ZURICH, Aug 31 (Reuters) - Swiss banks’ overall operating income fell last year for the fist time since 2012, Switzerland’s banking lobby said on Thursday, as the Alpine nation’s lenders grapple with negative interest rates and rising regulatory costs.
Switzerland’s banks, already hit by a clamp-down on tax evasion which has dampened the country’s position as a tax haven, saw aggregate operating net income fall 3.2 percent in 2016 to 62.5 billion Swiss francs ($65.1 billion).
“2016 was once again a difficult year for the banks in Switzerland,” the Swiss Bankers Association (SBA) said while publishing its annual banking study.
Swiss banks face the dual burden of sub-zero interest rates — which make lending less profitable and mean banks pay a fee to keep money with the Swiss central bank — as well as increased costs from implementing rules designed to make Swiss finance more stable.
The number of banking jobs in Switzerland also declined by 1.6 percent to 101,382 full-time positions, the SBA said, but added that “a slight rise in the employment trend is emerging for the remainder of 2017”.
The number of banks also dipped in 2016 to 261 from 266.
Despite the clamp-down on tax evasion, Switzerland — home to banks such as UBS and Credit Suisse — remains the world’s biggest centre for overseas wealth with $2.4 trillion, according to Boston Consulting Group.
To ensure that Switzerland remains a leading financial centre, the SBA said “expedient regulation and optimal framework conditions are essential”.
$1 = 0.9598 Swiss francs Reporting by Joshua Franklin; Editing by Michael Shields