Anthony Hilton: Switzerland is not the haven it is thought to be
Saturday 06 October 2012
Last Sunday at a speaking engagement down in Bath I sat next to a Swiss guy who wrote trading algorithms and software for Geneva based hedge funds. It was that sort of dinner – a place where the mathematically gifted fund managers exchange ideas and theories with academics on how to predict market movements.
All that is way over my head, but my Geneva man was fascinating on two fronts. Forget all that nonsense about British hedge funds decamping to Switzerland to avoid tighter regulation, he said. Very few have made the move, and some who did are looking to come back.
But where Geneva had scored was in commodity trading. He claimed it now accounts for more than half of all the oil traded in the world. London seems to have lost the plot on that one.
Forget too the idea that being outside the EU helps a country escape the regulatory clutch of Brussels. Leaving the EU and its regulatory burden behind may be the central plank of UKIP's policy for the UK, and that party is fond of saying that Norway and Switzerland flourish mightily on the outside.
But that is not how it looks from Geneva. The EU has made it quite plain it expects the financial sector in Switzerland to apply its rules if it wants to continue to do business with the other countries in Europe.
The Swiss have no choice but to comply, any more than we would.
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