Geneva finance industry sees difficult 2012

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Geneva's financial industry is expecting a difficult 2012, with 40 percent of companies surveyed planning job cuts, Bernard Droux, who heads the sector's association said.

"There is a clear understanding among our members that we are going to see difficult years ahead and we must adapt," said Droux, who is also an associate at the private bank Lombard Odier Darier Hentsch.

The strength of the Swiss franc is hurting Swiss banks, and a morose global economic outlook is further weighing them down.

Many Geneva banks are therefore not planning to replace departing staff, or are looking at relocating or outsourcing certain services, noted Droux.

According to Nicolas Pictet, who heads the eponymous bank, the future of the Swiss financial centre hangs on two pillars -- a savoir-faire of its high quality staff, as well as "solidarity with other countries."

Pictet believes that Switzerland needs to extend a helping hand to neighbours, especially those embroiled in serious public debt problems.

"It is necessary to take a step towards others, we can imagine for example making a contribution to finance Europe's needs. It's an idea that is worth thinking about," he said.

Switzerland "cannot continue to live above the clouds" while its neighbours drown in debt, he said.

Despite the economic difficulties, banks in Geneva that employ more than 200 people recorded a net inflow of capital during the first six months of the year, half of which came from Middle East clients.

Among the 814 independent wealth managers in the city, the majority of new funds (78.8 percent) stemmed from Europe.

There are 140 banks, including 62 foreign institutions, employing 20,625 people in Geneva.

© 2011 AFP

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