Special Exhibition: 30 Years of the SMI – Why Equities Also Belong in Museums

Special Exhibition: 30 Years of the SMI – Why Equities Also Belong in Museums

Profit-oriented corporates may need to raise funds on the capital markets. Issuing stocks is a tried-and-tested way of doing this. This function demonstrates the relevance of equities to the economy. But the securities themselves are also interesting from a historical perspective.

There is a huge variety of museums in Switzerland. The Swiss Federal Office of Culture lists more than 1,100 museums covering a wide range of subjects. Since 2017, the Swiss Finance Museum in Zurich has made an important addition to Switzerland’s museum landscape by providing a history of the Swiss financial center.

Indices show more than just price movements, they also tell real stories to interested observers. They replicate the mood in a particular era, reflecting not only business trends but also human hopes and fears. This is because at the end of the day every stock purchase is a bet on the future.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of Switzerland’s best-known equity benchmark, the Swiss Market Index (SMI). So it’s high time for this most famous curve in Switzerland to receive its own special exhibition. Just as equities belong on the stock market, they also have a firm place in our museum. The share price movements following the issuance of the stocks offer indications of historical and societal events.

SMI as a Trend Radar
As buyers of equities are often backing future trends, the stock price movements of the SMI over time show which sectors were viewed by investors as especially future-proof and likely to deliver growth. Of course, the reverse is true as well, with the SMI’s movements also showing which sectors and companies were on the way down – or were at least perceived to be by investors.

Indicator of Crises over the Long Term
The SMI is a strong indicator of upcoming and ongoing crises. The export-focused Swiss economy is heavily dependent on the prosperity of the foreign markets into which it sells. Accordingly, the SMI for 2000 clearly shows the dotcom bubble bursting as well as investors’ fears surrounding the subsequent economic trend.

Mirror of National Tragedies
The SMI does more than reflect global developments, it also clearly illustrates national turmoil in the economic landscape. One of the most spectacular corporate failures in the Swiss economy’s recent history left visible scars – and not just in the SMI curve. This was the grounding and subsequent bankruptcy of Swissair in late 2001.

In spite of numerous dramatic crashes, the value of Swiss blue chips has grown more than sixfold over the past 30 years. Over the long run, the SMI curve traces a picture of steadily growing prosperity. This is a hopeful sign as we look to the future.


The Swiss Market Index (SMI) covers the 20 biggest and most liquid large and mid-cap stocks in the Swiss Performance Index (SPI). The SMI was standardized to a baseline level of 1,500 index points on 30 June 1988. The SMI is primarily published as a price index without adjustment for dividends, but it is also available as a performance index under the SMIC (SMI Cum Dividend) label.

More about the 30th anniversary of the SMI can be found on our page Happy Birthday – 30 years SMI. Or visit the new special exhibition "30 Years SMI: Equity Indices Explained!" at the Swiss Finance Museum.