Thunderbolt in the Swiss banking sector: On 22 January 2021, the Federal Council announced its intention to privatise PostFinance. In addition, the government would like the financial institution of the yellow giant to be allowed to grant loans and mortgages in future. This decision will have far-reaching consequences: PostFinance is one of the largest banks in Switzerland with customer de-posits of around 120 billion francs. At the same time, Swiss Post (and thus indirectly the Confedera-tion) would lose control of the financial institution. The draft amendment to the law was submitted by the Federal Council for consultation at the beginning of last year. One of the aims of this privati-sation is to give PostFinance, whose profits are declining due to lower yields and widespread nega-tive interest rates, greater financial independence.
Change of status
In order to align itself with this new status as a private commercial bank, PostFinance should also be regarded as a systemically important or "too big to fail" bank. Among the changes that this new categorisation should bring about are increased capital requirements and a capitalisation guarantee required by FINMA from the Confederation to cover the remaining capital shortfall in the event of bankruptcy.
The arrival of a new player on the debt market inevitably raises a number of questions, both eco-nomic and political, particularly with regard to "constitutionality, competitive neutrality, federalism and the stability of the financial markets", says the Federal Council's press release. The govern-ment is convinced that this financial transaction will stimulate competition in the credit and mort-gage lending sector, especially as the latter is still a growing sector. According to the Federal Coun-cil's projections, PostFinance could acquire up to 5% of the mortgage market in the next decade, or almost 5 billion francs per year.
It was on the left side of the political spectrum that the privatisation of the postal bank provoked strong protests. For some elected representatives and trade unions, it is unacceptable to jeopardise part of the public service. The Party of Swiss Socialists opposes this decision and believes that a solution for the future would be to make PostFinance "a climate bank serving the common good and a socially just energy transition". Meanwhile, Syndicom, the media and communications syndi-cate which protects la Poste employees, has announced that it will oppose the Federal Council's decision "by all means", particularly by calling a re-ferendum.