Representative offices of financial institutions based outside Switzerland under FinIA

Representative offices of financial institutions based outside Switzerland must meet certain conditions to obtain a licence from FINMA.

According to the Financial Institutions Act (FinIA), a foreign financial institution must have authorisation from FINMA to employ people in Switzerland who, on a professional and permanent basis and either in or from Switzerland, represent the institution, notably by concluding client mandates on its behalf, promoting the company or for other purposes. As a result, the representative office may not operate as a foreign financial institution within the strict sense of the term (Art. 52 para. 1 FinIA) but will instead be eligible solely for representative duties.

Any company organised under foreign law with authorisation granted outside Switzerland to operate as a financial institution and that includes the terms below in its legal form, the description of its social purpose or professional documents, is considered as a foreign financial institution:

  • “portfolio manager”
  • "trustee"
  • "manager of collective assets"
  • “securities firm” 

or that operates as a financial institution as defined by FinIA.

Authorisation conditions

The applicant and representative office must meet the following conditions for the foreign financial institution to receive authorisation to set up a representative office:

  • the foreign financial institution is subject to adequate supervision;
  • the competent foreign supervisory authorities have no objection to the establishment of a representative office;
  • the persons responsible for managing the representative office can provide the requisite confirmation that they meet the requirements for proper business conduct;
  • proof of compliance with the relevant provisions if they provide financial services as outlined in the Financial Services Act (FinSA);
  • proof of affiliation to a supervisory organisation (SO) if they operate as a portfolio manager or trustee.

FINMA may make authorisation contingent on the granting of reciprocity by the state in which the foreign financial institution is domiciled.

Submitting notifications and applications

Representative offices of foreign financial institutions who have become subject to an authorisation requirement must notify FINMA within six months of the FinIA coming into force. The notification and the application process for licensing is managed electronically via the EHP survey and application platform. All templates and information for submitting a notification or a licensing application are available on the EHP platform. Representative offices of foreign financial institutions must self-register to gain access to the EHP platform via the FINMA homepage. Following self-registration and the review by FINMA, they will be able to access the EHP platform through the FINMA portal by means of a two-factor identification system.

Duration of the procedure

The authorisation procedure for the representative office of a foreign financial institution comprises communication with the applicants. The duration of the procedure depends on the quality and complexity of the application as well as the workload. The response times of the relevant foreign supervisory authorities must also be accounted for. 

Contact for all questions relating to the authorisation procedure

Authorisation for securities firms (authorization@finma.ch)
Authorisation for other institutions (assetmanagement@finma.ch

Information and forms

Application templates for representative offices of foreign financial institutions are available on the EHP survey and application platform. The following unfolded application template serves as a guide and cannot be used as an application.

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