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Swiss 'Super Regulator' Ready For Launch

by Ulrika Lomas, for, Brussels

11 December 2008

It was confirmed by the Swiss authorities on Tuesday that the country's new 'super regulator,' the Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) will commence operations on January 1, 2009.

On that date, the Federal Act on the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority, which the Swiss Parliament approved on June 22, 2007, will go into full legal force. The effect of the Act is to merge three bodies – the Federal Office of Private Insurance (FOPI), the Swiss Federal Banking Commission (SFBC) and the Anti-Money Laundering Control Authority – into a single supervisory authority. Until their merger and incorporation into FINMA, these three authorities will retain responsibility for their own areas of activity.

Several years in the making, FINMA will act as an independent supervisory authority overseeing the protection of participants in the Swiss financial markets, namely creditors, investors and insured persons.

The Swiss government designed the new regulator in response to criticism from international bodies of the shortcomings in the country's money laundering laws, and particularly the low number of money laundering reports being received by the MLCA compared with other major financial centres.

Under its director, Dr Patrick Raaflaub, FINMA will employ some 320 staff members, spread over seven areas of activity, including: large banking groups; banks and financial intermediaries; integrated insurance supervision; insurance markets; legal, enforcement and international relations; and services. The strategic management of FINMA will be in the hands of its Board of Directors, chaired by Dr Eugen Haltiner. FINMA's costs are to be financed in full via the fees and supervisory duties levied on the institutions it supervises.

Haltiner commented: “Preparations have involved many months of hard work, but integrated financial market supervision is about to become a reality in Switzerland. I am convinced that FINMA will be a supervisory authority capable of taking on the challenging functions at national and international level that a financial centre like Switzerland entails.”

Raaflaub added: “FINMA will be starting its work in a difficult market environment. Recent months have shown just what supervision is all about, but also highlighted what it can and cannot do. FINMA is not going to make everything ‘different’, nor is it going to make everything ‘better’, but I believe it will give us a sound foundation on which to face new challenges and further develop our approach to supervision. We will be doing everything we can to make our supervision both effective and credible.”

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