Switzerland ticks the boxes for bankers with a taste for nature

EARLIER this year, the local governments of Geneva and Zug hosted an event called Make the Move at a Mayfair club, where they explained to hedge fund managers why they should move to Switzerland. The main reason they were willing to listen, of course, is the looming 50 per cent top rate of tax. Compare that with Switzerland’s friendly attitude to business, and it starts looking attractive. So what’s the story in Switzerland?

Geneva is the main hotspot for bankers and their ilk, with 8 per cent of the world’s hedge funds – comparing well with over 20 per cent in London. Zurich and Lausanne also popular spots for the big business and finance – Nestle’s headquarters are near the idyllic town of Montreux between Zurich and Geneva. McDonalds also recently moved its European headquarters to Geneva.

Those who fear that they will miss London’s cosmopolitanism might be interested to learn that Geneva’s population is 40 per cent non-Swiss. Jeremy Rollason, MD of Savills’ Alpine Homes division, describes Switzerland as “the ultimate European hub”. The pull of the mountains (Verbier is just an hour and a half from Geneva) is also a big one for skiers.

For those tempted to relocate, the tricky part is finding a house – property is scarce in the jam-packed city centres and most people rent, as in much of Europe. Some of the most sought-after properties are outside the cities – Lake Geneva’s shores are full of premium property, of which the best is in the lake-view town of Cologny with its large detached houses. “It’s the equivalent of Belgravia,” says Rollason.

In Geneva, the most expensive of the Swiss cities, Rollason reckons “a nice house – not top – but nice, will cost per square foot what you’d pay in Wandsworth or a nice part of Clapham. There are very few places in Geneva that command the same values as, say, Knightsbridge – Geneva is nowhere as expensive as London in terms of property.”

Property in Switzerland is also a good investment. Dean Foley, international sales manager at Hamptons, says that Swiss property has yielded a 5-8 per cent yearly return over the past ten years.

Add that to the purring economy, easy business regulations, low tax and idyllic nature and its no wonder Switzerland has become top of the list for businesspeople. But isn’t it just a tiny bit (whisper it) boring? Seems not. “Swiss cities are not just for retired people swanning around in fur coats,” says Rollason. “They’re full of people who have moved their companies there. They’re vibrant.”

4-23m CHF
The redevelopment of the grand Hotel du Parc high above Lake Geneva is set to be complete in early 2011 and will include 24 spacious apartments including three penthouses. Expect a spa, concierge and stunning Alpine views at the completed Du Parc Kempinski Private Residences – plus a lot of demand.
Contact: Knight Frank on 020 7629 8171, www.knightfrank.co.uk

On application
Built in 1874 and refurbed in 2001 with no expense spared, this immaculate 4,435 sq m home has marble fireplaces, detailed ceiling moldings, wood panelling and a Poggenpohl kitchen. The views of the lakes and Alps are breathtaking.
Contact: Savills Alpine Homes 020 7016 3740, www.alpinehomesintl.com

7.5m CHF
This three-bedroom property on Lake Geneva sits on a 2,000 sq m plot and is secluded and elegant with a pool and pool house, plus two garages, a shady terrace and a large cellar.
Contact: Savills Alpine Homes on 020 7016 3740, www.alpinehomesintl.com