Central Search

Persons suspecting assets without contact to which they are entitled with an unknown bank in Switzerland can ask the Central Claims Office of the Swiss Banking Ombudsman to consult the databank of all contactless customer relationships (savings books, accounts including numbered and pseudonym accounts, custody accounts, safe-deposit boxes) of banks in Switzerland in the course of the relevant guidelines issued by the Swiss Banker’s Association.

When are customer relationships considered to be without contact?

As soon as a bank ascertains that contact with the customer and his or her proxy has been lost:

  • If the bank’s mail can no longer be forwarded.
  • In the case of hold mail, savings books and safe-deposit boxes, if the bank has concrete information that the customer has passed away – however at the latest 10 years after the last contact with him or her or his or her Proxy or heirs.
  • In the case of e-banking, at the latest when there has been no contact (i.e. log-in) for three years.
  • If the bank’s possible attempts to restore contact have failed.

If an independent asset manager or investment advisor informs the bank that his business relationship with the customer is without contact, it will also be considered to be without contact for the bank.

How must a bank manage customer relationships in case of absence of contact?

Provided that the value is superior to CHF 500.- and for all safe-deposit boxes, the bank must report the customer’s data including eventual proxies to a centralised databank to which only the Swiss Banking Ombudsman’s Central Claims Office has access.

What is the Central Claims Office’s task?

Centralised searches are subject to privacy protection, and the Ombudsman’s office will examine whether the applicant is authorized to receive information on the client relationship in question based on a questionnaire and the documents submitted. If yes, the query is entered into the centralised databank and the claimant is informed about the result.

Central Claims Office’s limitations

The Central Claims Office’s possibilities are restricted to customer relationships reported as being contactless. If a really existing relationship is not (yet) considered as being contactless, it is not (yet) reported by the bank concerned and consequently can not (yet) be located by the Central Claims Office. Thus, for example, involving the Central Claims Office Office possibly can not lead to locate a customer relationship if proxies, heirs etc. maintain contact with a bank although contact to the real customer has already been lost.

Closed relationships are not considered as contactless neither and are therefore not reported into the centralised databank by the banks.

There is no centralized search possibility for customer relationships not (yet) without contact. Therefore, in such cases, entitled persons must inquire directly the individual banks.

In cases where the last contact between an authorized person and the bank took place more than 60 years ago, the assets must be published and turned over to the Swiss Confederation. If assets have already been handed to the state, the entitlements of clients and their heirs are considered to have lapsed, and the balances will no longer be available. In this case, a centralised search has no chance of success.

If assets are held in structures (companies, trusts, foundations), it is important to note that the database contains the names of the structure (as account holder) and of the representatives. A search for the name of the Beneficial Owner is usually unsuccessful.

Submission and Contact

If, after taking note of the above information, you have decided in favour of polling the centralised databank of customer relationships without contact of Banks in Switzerland, please print the questionnaire (link below) and carefully read the additional information. Complete the form, sign it and send the original questionnaire, adding all necessary enclosures, by post-mail at following address:

Swiss Banking Ombudsman
Central Claims Office
P.O. Box
CH-8021 Zurich
Tel. +41 43 266 14 16

Information by telephone
09.15 – 12 and 13.30 – 16.30 h

Please note:

A visit to the Ombudsman’s office is only possible after making an appointment.

The processing shouldn’t last more than 3-4 weeks. We kindly ask you to abstain from contacting us by phone. In any case, we will contact you again as soon as possible and ask you to be patient.

The processing fee amounts to CHF 100 per questionnaire. For payment instructions, please refer to the questionnaire and the additional information (see link above).

I am interested in the publication of long-term dormant assets: proceed to the publication.

File storage

Once a search has been made and the data put in the central database, they will be kept for 20 years. The Central Claims Office will keep the file records for the search for 20 years from the moment the search data has been put in the database. This ensures that once a search has been carried out, it does not have to be repeated periodically. Assets being only reported by the bank as dormant or without contact after the initial search, will be detected automatically by the Central Claims Office and brought to the attention of the claimant without further action on his part.

Please note that the Central Claims Office destroys all documents after 20 years. The Central Claims Office expressly requests that no originals be sent, only copies. If original documents are part of a file, it is the responsibility of the claimant to request them back early enough.