Number of staff at banks in Switzerland

At the end of 2020, the banks in Switzerland employed 89,942 people (full-time equivalents), 414 more than in 2019. The unemployment rate in the financial sector was slightly lower than that of the overall economy at 3.3%. The COVID-19 pandemic led to a slight increase in unemployment compared with the previous year, but banking was less affected by this than other sectors.

Trends in 2021

Positive outlook for headcount

Trends in 2020

The number of people employed in the banking sector showed a small rise of 0.5% in 2020 following a gradual decline since 2010. The unemployment rate in the financial sector was slightly lower than that of the overall economy at 3.3%.

The banks employed 89,942 full-time equivalents in Switzerland last year, up 414 or 0.5% year-on-year. Staff numbers in the sector thus rose for the first time since a gradual downtrend took hold in 2010. It remains to be seen whether this downtrend is truly over or set to continue going forward. Persistently low interest rates, stricter lending rules and new capital adequacy requirements are maintaining the pressure on margins and creating a challenging environment for banks.

According to the SECO, the Swiss financial sector’s average unemployment rate in December 2020 was 3.3%. This is slightly lower than the figure of 3.5% for the overall economy. In total, 4,337 financial sector workers were registered unemployed at the end of the year, up 1,141 year-on-year. This was probably caused mainly by the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The regional banks and foreign banks shed around 1,000 jobs in 2020, while banks in the remaining categories added 1,414. The main reason for the fall among the regional banks and the increase among the big banks was the merger of Neue Aargauer Bank with Credit Suisse (Switzerland) Ltd. Personnel costs fell slightly year-on-year (by CHF 94 mn).

The proportion of female staff rose further to 38.5% (34,602 full-time equivalents). As in prior years, the highest proportions of female staff were recorded at the Raiffeisen banks with 45.1% and the regional and savings banks with 44.6%.

Fig. 21

Fig. 22

Positive outlook for headcount

Both the current employment situation and the outlook for the remainder of the year are positive. The total number of staff rose by around 1% in the first half of the year, but foreign headcount showed a much higher increase (1.8%) than domestic headcount (0.2%). A quarter of the banks surveyed expect this trend to continue in the second half of the year.

According to the SBA survey, headcount at the banks in Switzerland showed a small rise of 146 full-time equivalents or 0.2% between the end of 2020 and June 2021. Foreign headcount grew strongly over the same period, rising by 1,655 full-time equivalents or 1.8%. The detailed results show almost 4,000 full-time equivalents joining banks in Switzerland in the first six months of 2021 and 3,848 leaving. The level of fluctuation (staff joining and leaving) outside Switzerland is much more pronounced.

Fig. 23

Much more optimistic outlook for rest of 2021

The banks surveyed are more optimistic as regards the trend in their own headcount for the second half of the year than they were 12 months ago. A quarter of them expect their headcount to increase further up to the end of 2021, whereas only just under 10% expect it to decline. The proportion of banks expecting an increase has thus doubled year-on-year. With over 90% of the banks surveyed expecting stable or higher employment, it can be assumed that the total number of staff will at least remain unchanged in the final six months of 2021.

Fig. 24

Minority of banks expecting employment to fall

In past SBA employment surveys, the banks predicting that their own headcount would stay more or less the same had been in the majority. Since 2013, however, the proportion of banks expecting employ­ment to fall has steadily declined (with the exception of 2019). This trend has continued in 2021. Only 9.5% of the banks surveyed now expect a reduction in their headcount in the second half of the year.

Fig. 25

Employment expected to increase in almost all areas of business

Weighting the banks’ responses concerning employment trends in individual areas of business by headcount shows that the outlook is generally positive in almost all areas. It is most upbeat for logistics and operations (back office), with almost 30% expecting headcount to rise here. A fifth also anticipate an increase in wealth management staff, and the average across all areas of business is 18%. Institutional asset management and securities trading are the only areas in which the vast majority of respondents (over 90% in both cases) expect employment to remain stable.

Fig. 26

Increase in banking sector unemployment rate

The pandemic caused the unemployment rates for Switzerland as a whole (3.5%) and the financial sector (3.3%) to be far above the levels seen in recent years at the end of 2020. Thankfully, the situation has calmed down over the course of 2021. At the end of June, the financial sector unemployment rate was down half a percentage point at 2.8%, the same as the figure for Switzerland as a whole.