Swiss National Bank

Claire Jones

Maintaining that “dollar lifestyle” just got a little trickier for Switzerland’s central bankers.

The Swiss National Bank’s new code of conduct, out today, forbids officials, their wives and all who live with them, from investing in anything where there is the merest whiff of a conflict of interest.

Foreign exchange transactions for anything other than purchases of non-financial assets, such as real estate, will only be allowed if assets are managed passively by an independent manager. Even for non-financial assets, any foreign exchange transaction of more than Sfr20,000 must be reported to, and approved by, the central bank’s compliance officer.

That will avoid any repeat of the embarrassment suffered by the SNB earlier this year, when Philipp Hildebrand resigned over currency trades made by his wife.

But could central banks elsewhere find their reputation damaged by the financial affairs of their most senior employees? Read more

Claire Jones

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FOMC/ BoJ votes

The Federal Open Market Committee and the Bank of Japan’s policy board both vote on Tuesday. Will either panel back a change in course?  Read more

Ralph Atkins

Beatrice Weder di Mauro, member of Germany’s council of economic experts, has emerged as a possible candidate to join the board of the Swiss National Bank, following the resignation of Philipp Hildebrand .

In Davos, Switzerland, today, she refused to comment on rumours about her future, reports BloombergRead more

Claire Jones

Davos is not as important an event on the calendars of central bankers as the IMF/World Bank meetings or the Bank for International Settlements Annual General Meeting. Neither the Bank of England nor the Federal Reserve will be bothering to send anyone, for instance.

But there are still plenty of Davos men (and one woman) among the senior ranks of the profession. Read more

Claire Jones

Controversy over Philipp Hildebrand continues to rage. This from the FT’s Haig Simonian:

The Swiss National Bank will pay its former chairman a full year’s salary of about SFr900,000 ($942,000), in spite of his stepping down voluntarily in only the second week of the year.

The bank said Philipp Hildebrand’s contract entitled him to 12 months’ pay. The first six months covered his notice period, with the remainder compensating him for a clause in his contract that prevents him from working for another bank until next January.

The pay-off will stoke a political storm in Switzerland over Mr Hildebrand’s departure following revelations of currency transactions by his wife, and is likely to fuel the wider debate in Europe over bankers’ remuneration.

At Sfr900,000, Mr Hildebrand’s salary is high for the head of a central bank. The terms of his severance package are also generous.  Read more

Claire Jones

Philipp Hildebrand has quit as chair of the Swiss National Bank less than three weeks after government and central bank investigations cleared him of any wrongdoing.

Knowing what we now know, it does not look as though either investigation was tough enough. And neither, as the central bank and Mr Hildebrand have already acknowledged, were the rules on senior officials’ financial dealings.

Both factors have damaged the credibility of the central bank, which Mr Hildebrand noted in his parting remarks is its greatest asset.

To rectify that, the onus should fall on central bankers in Switzerland and elsewhere to show why, when making investment decisions, they have opted for anything other than handing over the management of all of their assets to an outside party. Read more

Claire Jones

Our week ahead email helps you track the most important events in central banking. To see all of our emails and alerts visit

SNB results

Friday sees the publication of the Swiss National Bank’s preliminary results for 2011. Not usually the most headline-grabbing of events granted. But given the record loss of Sfr20.8bn for 201o and the pressure that its chairman has found himself under, it is bound to make the news on this occasion.

Will the central bank report a profit? Read more

Claire Jones

There were four issues for Swiss National Bank chairman Philipp Hildebrand to address in his appearance before the media today:

1. Whether he will resign.

2. His role in, and opinion of, his wife’s dollar trades.

3. The political dimension of the scandal.

4. His view on secrecy surrounding the SNB’s code of conduct, and whether the code was tough enough.

So how did he respond? Read more

Claire Jones

Philipp Hildebrand. Image by Getty.

Philipp Hildebrand. Image by Getty.

The Swiss National Bank’s beleaguered chairman Philipp Hildebrand will meet the press at 4pm local time (3pm GMT) today for a grilling over his wife’s foreign-exchange trades.

Here are some of the questions that need answering. Read more

Claire Jones

UPDATE: 14.43 The Swiss National Bank has now published its code of conduct on insider trading for members of its governing board. Money Supply 1 SNB secrecy 0.

The Swiss National Bank’s chairman Philipp Hildebrand has found himself caught up in an insider trading scandal involving his wife’s decision to swap dollars for francs weeks before the central bank introduced its euro cap in early September. A small amount of dollars were also bought through his daughter’s account.

A central bank investigation has cleared the Hildebrands of any wrongdoing. And that the purchases have attracted so much attention no doubt owes much to the political heat the central bank has found itself under in recent years.

The purchases, revealed through private information passed to politician and frequent SNB critic Christoph Blocher, have also damaged Switzerland’s prized reputation for banking secrecy. Doing its part to repair the country’s reputation for opacity, the SNB has refused to release its policy to prevent insider trading by its employees.

But regardless of Mr Hildebrand’s innocence, as a public institution, the Swiss central bank’s stance is misguided. Read more