Branches of foreign securities firms

Branches of foreign securities firms must meet a number of licensing requirements to obtain authorisation from FINMA.
A foreign securities firm needs to be authorised by FINMA if it employs staff in Switzerland who, on a professional basis, permanently trade securities or manage client accounts for the foreign securities firm in or from Switzerland that give rise to legal obligations. Branches of foreign securities firms are subject to prudential supervision by FINMA.

Definition of a foreign securities firm

Any company organised under foreign law that either holds a securities firm licence abroad, uses the term "securities firm" or a term with a similar meaning in its name, the description of its purpose or its business documentation or operates securities trading as defined in Article 41 of the Financial Institutions Act is considered as a foreign securities firm.

Licensing requirements

For a foreign securities firm to obtain a licence to open a branch, there must be no doubt that all of the licensing requirements are met or can be met. The most important are:

  • Guarantee of irreproachable business activity by the foreign securities dealer’s qualified participants and the branch’s executive management;
  • Appropriate supervision that includes the branch;
  • Adequate organisation of the foreign securities firm;
  • Sufficient finances and qualified staff to operate a branch in Switzerland;
  • Proof that the branch can be entered into the Commercial Register;
  • No objections by the responsible foreign supervisory authorities to the opening of a branch;
  • Undertaking by the responsible foreign supervisory authorities to inform FINMA without delay if circumstances arise that could be severely detrimental to the interests of the investors or clients;
  • Ability of the responsible foreign supervisory authority to provide administrative assistance;
  • Guarantee of reciprocal rights by the country of domicile of the foreign securities firm and all qualified participants;
  • Business rules precisely describing the branch's business and an organisation that is compatible with its operations;
  • If necessary, financial security from the branch (endowment capital, guarantees, assets in Switzerland, etc.);
  • Appointment of a recognised audit firm for the licensing process;
  • Appointment of a recognised regulatory audit firm for ongoing supervision;
  • If the foreign securities firm forms part of a group active in the financial sector: appropriate consolidated supervision of the group by foreign supervisory authorities.

Duration of the licensing process

The licensing process for a branch of a foreign securities firm takes place in constant dialogue with the applicants. The duration depends on the quality and complexity of the application as well as the current workload. The time it takes to receive a response from the responsible foreign supervisory authorities must also be taken into account.

Contact for questions on the licensing process

The Authorisation section of the Banks division (authorization@finma.ch)

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