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.
- A credible claim that there is a client relationship with a bank in Switzerland;
- The name of the person under whose name the account, passbook, custody account or safe-deposit box was held;
- Documentary evidence of the entitlement of the claimant to any account, passbook, custody account or safe-deposit box that may still exist, specifically their identity and inheritance status.
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 to the customer.
- In the case of hold mail, savings books and safe-deposit boxes, if the bank has concrete information that the customer has died – 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.
The bank must report the asset holder’s data (including eventual proxies) to a centralised databank to which only the Swiss Banking Ombudsman’s Central Claims Office has access.
No. There is no office in Switzerland that has access to all client data of the individual banks. A central database exists only for assets reported as contactless. Assets not yet reported as contactless can therefore only be identified by making a direct enquiry to the banks.
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 the representatives. A search for the name of the Beneficial Owner is usually unsuccessful.
On the basis of the information provided in the questionnaire and the documents submitted, the Central Claims Office examines whether the claimant is entitled to the search. If yes, the query is entered into the centralised databank and the claimant is informed about the (pre- liminary) result.
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.
Because of the different criteria set for different assets for reporting to the centralised databank (see above: Question 3), a banking relationship might not yet have been reported to the system when the Central Claims Office does the query. Depending on the type of assets and mailing instructions, the report from the bank to the centralised databank might only take place 10 years after the search by the claimant.
10. What happens if assets are recognised by the bank as being without contact only after the query has been entered into the centralised databank by the Central Claims Office?
This case is covered by the system. The centralised databank reports to the Central Claims Office if a name previously searched for is later reported by a bank.
- The names of the presumed asset holder have to be listed as completely as possible.
- Any change of address of the claimants should be reported to the Central Claims Office in order to ascertain that they can be contacted if necessary.
The processing fee amounts to CHF 100 per questionnaire. You will find the corresponding payment instructions later.
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.
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.
After reading the above information, you can submit the necessary documents to us online or in writing.
For a written request, please print out this Questionnaire and information and send the completed and signed original, together with the required enclosures, by post to the address below:
Swiss Banking Ombudsman
Central Claims Office
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.