UBS Group AG and Credit Suisse Group AG accounted for about three out of four job losses in the Swiss banking industry last year, even though they employ less than half the local workforce.
At the end of 2014, 104,053 people were working full-time in Switzerland for the country’s banks, a decline of 1,682, or 1.6 percent, from a year earlier, the Swiss Banking Association said in its annual report Thursday.
“As in previous years, the employment trend was affected by ongoing consolidation and cost-saving and efficiency measures in 2014,” the association said. “This decrease reflects the more difficult economic framework conditions.”
UBS and Credit Suisse’s combined domestic workforce shrank about twice as fast as that of the sector as a whole. Switzerland’s two big global banks were responsible for 1,237, or 74 percent, of the job cuts, a drop of 3.3 percent in their Swiss workforce from 2013.
Together the two banks employed 38,664 people in Switzerland at the end of last year, according to their annual reports.
Swiss banks are struggling with low interest rates, a strong franc and tougher capital requirements. Market access to the European Union has become more difficult while compliance costs have increased as banks force clients to declare their assets.
Employment in the Swiss banking industry continued to decline in the first six months of the year but will stabilize in the second half, the SBA said, citing its latest survey of banks. UBS said it employed 21,500 people at the end of the second quarter, about the same as at the end of 2014.
“Overall, staff levels at the banks in Switzerland can be viewed as robust
in light of the diverse range of challenges faced by the sector,” the SBA said.
The number of banks doing business in Switzerland declined to 275 from 283 in 2014 through a combination of liquidations, takeovers and loss of bank status, the SBA said. Foreign-controlled and publicly traded banks were most affected.
The country’s banks managed 6.66 trillion francs ($6.87 trillion) at the end of 2014, an increase of 8.4 percent. About half of that comes from outside Switzerland, the world’s largest hub for offshore banking.
The franc surged after the Swiss National Bank in January ended its policy of keeping the currency below a certain threshold. The SNB also introduced negative interest rates for some of the funds the banks deposit with the central bank.
These policies are a “particularly heavy burden on the banks in Switzerland,” the study said.