«We depend on having a competitive financial center.»
Group CEO Urs Rüegsegger talks about the role played by SIX in the Swiss financial center.
In 2013 the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) placed SIX in its highest monitoring category, alongside systemically important major banks. What does this mean for SIX?
From a supervisory point of view this is a logical step that underlines the central role SIX plays in the Swiss financial center and the Swiss economy. The majority of the securities and payment transactions executed in Switzerland are processed using infrastructure operated by SIX. A disruption lasting any significant length of time would have serious consequences for Switzerland as both a financial and industrial center. Since the impact of the new rating has yet to be seen, we are stepping up the exchange of information with FINMA so that we can discuss concrete requirements and measures with the supervisory authority during the course of 2014.
SIX also participated in political debates in 2013, for example in connection with the two popular initiatives aimed at limiting managers’ salaries. Why?
Switzerland is a very businessfriendly and liberal country. Numerous foreign companies are located here, and some of them are listed here, too. They create employment and pay taxes. We want this situation to continue, so we must avoid harming Switzerland’s chances in the competition to be one of the best international business locations. In the run-up to the referendums on “excessive salaries” and “1:12” (fair pay), SIX therefore pointed out the problematic aspects and possible negative consequences of accepting these initiatives and took a clear stance. SIX is directly affected, not only as an infrastructure service provider for participants in the financial center, but also as an independent company – for example if fewer firms decide to apply for listing in Switzerland.
The financial center is also coming under particular pressure from abroad. Switzerland is about to be hit by a veritable avalanche of regulations in the next few years. How will this affect SIX?
In the EU, regulations are increasingly aimed at harmonizing market access, which is accompanied by a tendency to try to exclude nonmember states. In order to survive, the Swiss financial center needs unrestricted access to foreign markets – especially the EU – because of its pronounced international orientation. This means that Switzerland must ensure its regulation of financial center participants essentially complies with EU rules: in other words, that equivalence is achieved. SIX is directly affected in that the regulation of stock exchanges, derivatives trading and securities settlement, in particular, is being aligned with EU standards. The adjustments are being made within the framework of the forthcoming Financial Market Infrastructure Act. Safeguarding long-term access to
the EU markets is of central importance to SIX, such as in clearing, where over 80% of transactions originate from European stock exchanges and trading platforms. SIX therefore supports the Financial Market Infrastructure Act in principle.
What topics is SIX working on internally?
In the next few years, SIX will concentrate on becoming more closely integrated as a company. We have achieved strong growth abroad in recent years, both organically and through corporate acquisitions. We shall shortly be integrating the employees of Oslo Clearing, PayLife in Austria, Cetrel in Luxembourg and also those of the former joint venture Scoach into SIX. But SIX is also integrating more closely in other ways: during 2014 we are taking IT functions away from the business areas and bringing them all together in a central organization, which will have a number of advantages. We are also introducing top account management, so that we can meet the needs of our biggest clients more effectively thanks to improved internal coordination and develop new, tailored solutions for them.
What priorities is SIX setting for the next few years?
The main emphasis will continue to be placed on our core mandate, in other words operating the Swiss financial market infrastructure. We aim to boost the competitiveness of the Swiss financial center not only through economies of scale, but increasingly through innovation, too. In addition, we intend to go on investing in staff development and trying to recruit more younger employees, increase the number of women in top management and achieve greater international diversity among our staff.