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General facts

Population: 8 million
Capital: Bern
Official Languages: French, German, Italian and Romansh
Currency: Swiss Franc
Religions: Christianity

Key industries

Pharmaceutical

Switzerland has one of the most competitive pharmaceutical industries in the world and is home to two of the largest companies in the industry, Roche and Novartis. There are also 250,000 other pharmaceutical companies in Switzerland, and the industry employs approximately 44,000 people and represents 40% of the total value of all Swiss exports.

Banking

The three large banks in Switzerland are Credit Suisse, UBS and Julius Bär but in total there were 253 banks and 2,683 branches in Switzerland in 2017. The banking industry contributes to the Swiss economy by employing many people and offering above-average salaries. In 2017, Swiss banks employed 93,555 people in Switzerland alone. Swiss banks are also renowned for their privacy due to Swiss law and legislation and Zurich Cantonal Bank is considered one of the most secure banks in the world.

Manufacturing of clocks and watches

The watch industry is Switzerland’s third largest exporter and approximately 30 million watches are produced in Switzerland each year. Some of the most valuable watches in the world are produced in Switzerland as approximately 95% of watches worth over 1,000 USD are manufactured here. Swiss watches are renowned for their excellent quality and the most accurate watch in Switzerland is atomic which works by measuring particles.

Chocolate production

The average annual consumption of chocolate is 11-12 kilograms per person in Switzerland therefore it is certainly a chocolate-loving nation. Switzerland was also one of the first countries to produce chocolate and Swiss Chocolatier, Daniel Peter, was the first to add milk to chocolate in 1876. Around 180,000 tons of chocolate are produced in Switzerland each year creating an annual revenue of approximately 1.5 billion Swiss Francs.

Approach to business (things to keep in mind)

  • Punctuality is absolutely essential, particularly in the German-speaking areas and meetings must be arranged in advance not spontaneously.
  • There are four official languages in Switzerland which you should keep in mind if having your business cards translated. German is the most widely spoken language, particularly in the centre of the country whilst French is generally spoken in the West and Italian in the South. Romansh is spoken by only 60,000 people.
  • In Swiss business, risks are not generally taken therefore you will need to provide as much information as possible before negotiations commence. Swiss people will likely want to have all of the facts before a decision is made.
  • Gifts are generally not exchanged during business meetings. You will not be expected to bring one unless you are visiting someone’s house in which case you could give a small gift such as flowers but nothing too expensive.
  • Business hours are generally Monday to Friday, 8am to 12pm and 2pm to 5pm.

Dos and Don’ts in a business meeting

Do…

  • …dress in smart, elegant but simple clothes as extravagant clothing or anything too expensive or brightly coloured is generally seen as pretentious.
  • …discuss Swiss food, your travels in Switzerland and the Romansh culture (providing you have done your research). Although small talk is generally avoided, these are acceptable conversation topics.
  • …keep your emotions under control as the ability to do this is seen as a good quality in Swiss business.
  • …shake hands when greeting people and make sure that you shake hands with everyone in the meeting. The French bise (kiss) is a custom only in the French-speaking part of Switzerland and is generally reserved for informal settings rather than business.

Don’t…

  • …ask too many personal questions as Swiss people are often very private.
  • …be surprised if small talk is not made before a meeting begins. Particularly in the German-speaking areas, people will likely want to ‘get down to business’ as soon as possible.
  • …expect a relationship to be established after the first meeting. This will often take time as you will need to gain their trust by showing that you are responsible and honest.
  • … try to be funny during meetings as humour is rarely used when doing business and could be seen as mockery.
  • …interrupt anyone whilst they are speaking as this is considered to be very rude. You should wait to be asked to voice your own opinion on a subject.

Key company facts

Roche

Over 137 million patients are treated by Roche medicines and it has been voted as the most sustainable healthcare company for 9 years running.

  • Turnover in 2018: 56.85 billion Swiss Francs
  • Number of employees: 93,734

Novartis

This is one of the world’s top investors in research and development in medicine.

  • Turnover in 2018: $ 51 900 million
  • Number of employees : 13,000 in Switzerland and 130,000 worldwide.

Credit Suisse

Credit Suisse group is a financial services and investment banking company based in Switzerland.

  • Turnover in 2018: $34.275B
  • Number of employees: 45,680

Rolex

One of the most famous watch companies in the world, Rolex produces around 80,000 watches every year.

  • Turnover in 2016: 4.6 billion USD
  • Number of employees: 7,000