UBS has confirmed that the Swiss banking industry is expecting large cash outflows due to the recently agreed bilateral withholding tax treaties with Germany, Austria and the UK. Switzerland's second largest bank Credit Suisse made similar remarks last week.
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UBS expects Swiss banks to see European clients withdraw "hundreds of billions of francs" as a result of steps to stop foreigners using secret accounts to evade taxes.
Juerg Zeltner, head of UBS wealth management, reiterated an estimate he gave in May that Switzerland's biggest bank could see outflows of 12-30 billion Swiss francs ($12.8-31.9 billion) from total European assets under management of over 300 billion.
German financial services consultancy Zeb/Rolfes Schierenbeck Associates estimates Swiss banks could see European clients pull up to 200 billion francs by 2016 of the 789 billion it believes they currently hold in untaxed assets.
Putting the potential outflows in context, Zeltner said UBS had seen about 200 billion francs of withdrawals during the financial crisis, when the bank had to be rescued by a government bailout after huge subprime losses. Client assets fell almost double that amount due to market and currency moves.Swiss bank secrecy - which has helped the country build a $2 trillion offshore financial centre dominated by UBS and Credit Suisse - has come under heavy fire in recent years as cash-strapped governments elsewhere have sought to fight tax evasion.