Swiss National Bank

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Swiss National Bank
Schweizerische Nationalbank (de)
Banque Nationale Suisse (fr)
Banca Nazionale Svizzera (it)
Banca Naziunala Svizra (rm)
Headquarters Bern and Zurich
Established 1907
Chairman Thomas Jordan
Central bank of Switzerland
Currency Swiss Franc
CHF (ISO 4217)

The Swiss National Bank (SNB) is the central bank of Switzerland. It is responsible for Swiss monetary policy and for issuing Swiss franc banknotes.

The names of the institution in the four official languages of the country are: German: Schweizerische Nationalbank; French: Banque Nationale Suisse; Italian: Banca Nazionale Svizzera; Romansh: Banca Naziunala Svizra.

The SNB is an aktiengesellschaft under special regulations. About 55% of its shares are owned by public institutions like cantons and cantonal banks. The remaining shares are traded on the stock market. They are mostly owned by private individuals. The Swiss National Bank has two head offices, one is in Bern and the other one in Zurich.


Schweizerische Nationalbank (Swiss National Bank), 5 Franken (1914). The portrait depicts William Tell (based on Richard Kissling’s monument in Altdorf), with the Rütli Mountain in the distance.
Signed by K. Bornhauser (Chief Cashier), Johann-Daniel Hirter (President of the Swiss National Bank Council), and August Burckhardt (Board member).

Monetary policy[edit]

The Swiss National Bank conducts the country’s monetary policy as an independent central bank. It is obliged by Constitution and statute to act in accordance with the interests of the country as a whole. Its primary goal is to ensure price stability, while taking due account of economic developments. In so doing, it creates an appropriate environment for economic growth.

Cash supply and distribution[edit]

The National Bank is entrusted with the note-issuing privilege. It supplies the economy with banknotes that meet high standards with respect to quality and security. It is also charged by the Confederation with the task of coin distribution.

Cashless payment transactions[edit]

In the field of cashless payment transactions, the National Bank provides services for payments between banks. These are settled in the Swiss Interbank Clearing (SIC) system via sight deposit accounts held with the National Bank.

Investment of currency reserves[edit]

The National Bank manages currency reserves. These engender confidence in the Swiss franc, help to prevent and overcome crises and may be utilized for interventions in the foreign exchange market.

Financial system stability[edit]

The National Bank contributes to the stability of the financial system by acting as an arbiter over monetary policy. Within the context of this task, it analyses sources of risk to the financial system, oversees systemically important payment and securities settlement systems and helps to promote an operational environment for the financial sector.

International monetary cooperation[edit]

Together with the federal authorities, the National Bank participates in international monetary cooperation and provides technical assistance.

Banker to the Confederation[edit]

The National Bank acts as banker to the Swiss Confederation. It processes payments on behalf of the Confederation, issues money market debt register claims and bonds, handles the safekeeping of securities and carries out money market and foreign exchange transactions.


The National Bank compiles statistical data on banks and financial markets, the balance of payments, the international investment position and the Swiss financial accounts.

Monetary policy[edit]

The SNB pursues a monetary policy serving the interests of the country as a whole. It must ensure price stability, while taking due account of economic developments. Monetary policy affects production and prices with a considerable time lag. Consequently, it is based on inflation forecasts rather than current inflation. The SNB’s monetary policy strategy consists of three elements: a definition of price stability (the SNB equates price stability with a rise in the national consumer price index of less than 2% per year), a medium-term conditional inflation forecast, and, at operational level, a target range for a reference interest rate, which is the Libor for three-month investments in Swiss francs.

General Meeting of Shareholders[edit]

The General Meeting of Shareholders is held once a year, as a rule in April. Owing to the SNB’s public mandate, the powers of the Shareholders’ Meeting are not as extensive as in joint-stock companies under private law.

Bank Council[edit]

The Bank Council oversees and controls the conduct of business by the Swiss National Bank and consists of 11 members. Six members, including the President and Vice President, are appointed by the Federal Council, and five by the Shareholders’ Meeting. The Bank Council sets up four committees from its own ranks: an Audit Committee, a Risk Committee, a Remuneration Committee and an Appointment Committee.

A list of the Bank Council members is published on the SNB website (see: )

Governing Board[edit]

The Swiss National Bank’s management and executive body is the Governing Board. The Governing Board is responsible in particular for monetary policy, asset management strategy, contributing to the stability of the financial system and international monetary cooperation. The Governing Board consists of 3 members:

Gold reserves[edit]

Switzerland's gold reserves

The SNB manages the official gold reserves of Switzerland, which as of 2008 amount to 1145 tonnes and are valued at 30.5 billion CHF.[2] The gold is believed to be stored in huge vaults beneath the Federal Square (Bundesplatz) to the north of the federal Parliament building in Bern, but the SNB treats the location of the gold reserves as a secret.[2] Independent confirmation of the gold's location was obtained by the Bernese newspaper Der Bund in 2008. It published a photograph of the bullion that a keystone photographer was allowed to take at the SNB premises in Bern in 2001. Der Bund also quoted a retired official of the city's surveying office as saying that the gold vaults take up an area of roughly half the Federal Square and have a depth of dozens of meters, down to the level of the Aar river.[2] The SNB says that the gold reserves are stored in different safe places in Switzerland (70%) and abroad (i.e. Bank of England and Bank of Canada).[3]

World War II controversy[edit]

There is controversy over the role of the Swiss National Bank in the transfer of Nazi gold during World War II. The SNB was the largest gold distribution centre in continental Europe before the war. A study by the U.S. Department of State in 1997 notes that the Bank, "must have known that some portion of the gold it was receiving from the Reichsbank was looted from occupied countries."[4] This was confirmed by the Swiss Bergier commission in 1998 which concluded that the SNB received US$440 million in gold from Nazi sources,[5] of which US$316 million is estimated to have been looted.[citation needed]

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ a b
  2. ^ a b c Schwendener, Pascal (25 July 2008). "Schatz unterm Bundesplatz: Das Gold der Nationalbank" (in German). Der Bund. p. 18. Retrieved 2008-07-27. [dead link]
  3. ^ "Politique monétaire: L'or de la BNS occupera le Conseil des Etats - Suisse -". 
  4. ^ Eizenstat Special Briefing on Nazi Gold. Stuart Eizenstat, US State Department, 2 June 1998. Retrieved on 5 July 2006.
  5. ^ "Switzerland and Gold Transactions in the Second World War" PDF (1.18 MiB). Bergier Commission, May 1998. Retrieved on 5 July 2006. Quote: " All in all, the Reichsbank shipped gold valued at 1,922 million francs, or 444 million dollars to Switzerland during the war." (p. 64)

External links[edit]