Commerzbank expansion targets Swiss businesses
German giant Commerzbank said Tuesday that it was launching an expansion of its operations in Switzerland with the aim of tapping business sector clients.
The move came just months after the bank said 5,000 jobs would be axed as it tots up the toll from the financial and sovereign debt crises.
It also comes amid intense international pressure on Swiss banks over the country's banking secrecy rule that critics claim is helping to shield tax evaders.
In a statement, Germany's number two bank said that next year it would open six regional offices in the Swiss cities of Basel, Bern, Lausanne, Lucerne, Saint Gallen and Zurich.
Commerzbank also expected to double its current staff number in Switzerland to 200, it added.
The bank's target group is small- and medium-sized businesses with an annual turnover of at least 15 million Swiss francs (12 million euros, $16.4 million), as well as multinationals.
Many such businesses traditionally work with less well-known local banks than Swiss giants UBS and Credit Suisse.
Commerzbank, which has been in the Swiss market since 1985, also numbers among its clients German businesses with operations in Switzerland.
Globally, Commerzbank has some 56,000 employees and posted gross profits of ten billion euros in 2012.
It decision to expand operations with a small-business focus contrasts with that of UBS, for example.
The Swiss behemoth announced a massive restructuring a year ago, including 10,000 job cuts and a shift of focus to wealth management and a scaling down of its scandal-plagued investment bank.
Commerzbank's move also comes even though its home base Germany and Switzerland have repeatedly locked horns over tax evasion.
Last month, Switzerland announced that it would cooperate more closely in fighting money laundering after it signed an accord to fight tax evasion.
But Switzerland will still refuse its cooperation in cases if stolen bank data are presented to be used in an investigation.
There has been a string of scandals in recent years over CDs of data stolen by employees of Swiss banks who have then sold them to foreign tax authorities, notably in Germany, where they are used to track down suspected tax cheats.