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SEB AB Makes Strategic Move to Expand into Zurich

SEB becomes first Swedish bank in Switzerland, targeting wealthy Nordic expats with non-financial and financial services.

By Athena Xu

5/16, 02:23 EDT

Key Takeaway

  • SEB AB, Sweden's largest bank, announces its expansion into Zurich to cater to wealthy Nordic expatriates, marking its first venture into the Swiss market.
  • Plans include setting up a non-financial services company and seeking regulatory approval for a representative office to offer financial services from SEB's units in Germany and Luxembourg.
  • This move is part of a broader trend of Nordic banks expanding in Switzerland, following their affluent clientele amid changes in wealth tax policies at home.

SEB Expands to Zurich

Sweden's SEB AB, the country's largest bank by market value, has announced its plans to establish a presence in Zurich, Switzerland. This move marks SEB as the first Swedish bank to venture into the Swiss market, aiming to serve the wealthy Nordic expatriates residing there. The decision comes in the wake of a trend where numerous Norwegian banks have also expanded into Switzerland, following their affluent clientele who have moved due to changes in their home countries' wealth tax policies.

SEB's initial step involves setting up a company dedicated to providing non-financial services to family offices and business families based in Switzerland. This includes assistance in finding local professional services such as bookkeepers and lawyers, as well as offering physical resources like meeting rooms and office spaces. The bank disclosed this strategic move on Thursday, highlighting its commitment to being proximate to its clients and catering to their diverse needs.

Regulatory Approval and Future Plans

Following the establishment of the non-financial services company, SEB aims to secure approval from Swiss regulators to open a representative office. This office will focus on promoting the financial services offered by SEB's units in Germany and Luxembourg, targeting corporate, institutional, and private wealth management clients, including family offices. The bank's strategy emphasizes the importance of direct engagement with its clientele, particularly the growing number of Nordic business families choosing Switzerland as their residence.

SEB plans to inaugurate the service company in the autumn with an initial staff of two or three employees. William Paus, head of SEB’s Private Wealth Management & Family Office division, mentioned the possibility of replicating this model in other markets, indicating SEB's broader ambitions for international expansion.

Nordic Banks' Swiss Foray

SEB's move to Zurich is part of a larger trend of Nordic banks establishing a foothold in Switzerland. Norway's largest lender, DNB Bank ASA, recently announced its intention to open a new representative office in Zurich, focusing on private banking services and hiring Norwegian-speaking staff. Similarly, Arctic Securities AS is expanding its operations in Zurich to enhance its high-yield debt business, while ABG Sundal Collier has set up a subsidiary in Lucerne, mainly serving corporate finance clients. These developments underscore the growing attraction of Switzerland as a hub for Nordic banks seeking to serve their region's affluent expatriates.

Management Quotes

  • William Paus, head of SEB’s Private Wealth Management & Family Office division:

    "There are many Nordic business families residing in Switzerland and the number has increased in recent years. This is in line with our strategy, which is to be close to clients."