Defiant Swiss bank boss: I will not quit

Elizabeth Fournier
UNDER-FIRE Swiss bank governor Philipp Hildebrand yesterday insisted he had no plans to step down, and vowed to fight accusations of insider trading that have been made against him “with all means”.

Speaking at a press conference in Zurich yesterday afternoon, Hildebrand gave more details of the currency transactions made by his wife that have whipped up a media storm in Switzerland and led opposition politicians to call for his head.

The country’s top banker said he had not breached any of the Swiss National Bank’s rules governing personal trades, and was adamant his wife – an ex-hedge fund trader – had no knowledge of the SNB’s plan to cap the Swiss franc when she bought US dollars last August.

But Hildebrand admitted the furore over the trades had thrown a spotlight onto notoriously secretive Swiss banking rules, and pledged to look into introducing tighter controls and more transparency at the bank.

He said he had waited before answering questions because it had only recently become clear how the allegations against him had arisen, and that the reason for his silence was a “lack of information”.

Hildebrand denied that any short-term currency speculation had taken place, and said that the family portfolio the money had been traded from was for long-term purposes – including a property purchase that he says was the reason the second dollar trade was made.

He also took the opportunity to attack the Bank Sarasin employee that had leaked his personal files to a lawyer representing an opposing Swiss political party, saying: “I regret that some circles, who for years have regarded themselves as vehement champions of Switzerland’s bank secrecy, now have no qualms about serious violations of that secrecy.”

"So long as I have the confidence of the government and the bank council, stepping down is not an issue for me."

“The most important lesson... is improvement of transparency in every financial transaction of the board of the SNB.”

“Neither I, nor my family have made unauthorised transactions. There was no abuse of privileged information.”