Fotos: Désirée Good

A Commit­ment to Society

Florence Schnydrig Moser, Head of Private Banking at Zürcher Kantonalbank, explains why the bank is stepping up its commitment to society by establishing a philanthropic foundation, logically expanding its product portfolio, and why her seat on the Hasler Foundation’s Board of Trustees is a matter close to her heart.

You have worked for finan­cial compa­nies inter­na­tio­nally. What appeals to you about working for the canto­nal bank with a public service mandate?

There are two things: the excel­lent repu­ta­tion of the bank, and its unique purpose, which proves that a company can be successfully built and deve­lo­ped in the service of society and the envi­ron­ment. I was imme­dia­tely impres­sed by this holi­stic approach, which allows us to consider the needs of our custo­mers in a wider context. My role is also very varied and includes a broad spec­trum of client segments, from high-net-worth indi­vi­du­als to large private banking rela­ti­onships, family offices, exter­nal asset mana­gers and inter­na­tio­nal private banking clients.

And the foun­da­tion sector…

The foun­da­tion sector can have a real, lasting impact on society. This also corre­sponds to the growing needs of our custo­mers. That’s why it’s very important to me to conti­nue deve­lo­ping this area in the future, and I’m deligh­ted to be taking on respon­si­bi­lity for this task.

ZKB has a public service mandate. Is this still rele­vant today?

A look back at our more than 150-year history shows that our public service mandate has chan­ged over the years. Origi­nally defi­ned as a service mandate, it was later supple­men­ted by social and envi­ron­men­tal compon­ents. In this respect, Zürcher Kanto­nal­bank has always focu­sed on the needs of its clients and on social issues. ZKB is ther­e­fore more than just a bank. This holi­stic respon­si­bi­lity is more rele­vant than ever.

Could you explain that further?

We are owned by the canton and ther­e­fore belong to the people of Zurich. Ever­yone bene­fits from ZKB’s success: every year, we distri­bute a signi­fi­cant propor­tion of our net profit to the canton and its muni­ci­pa­li­ties – over the past ten years, it has amoun­ted to more than 4 billion Swiss francs. This prima­rily invol­ves projects for the local popu­la­tion, such as play­grounds and Vita-Parcours trails. In addi­tion, we aim to provide annual bene­fits worth 100 million to 120 million Swiss francs within our public service mandate that are not purely profit-driven. In 2023, we excee­ded this target, with more than 161 million francs.

What are these benefits?

They include more than 400 spon­sor­ships and awards from the fields of culture, sport and the envi­ron­ment. We also play a key role in shaping Zurich’s educa­tion and inno­va­tion land­scape and are one of the largest start-up finan­ciers in Switz­er­land. All of this shows how stron­gly the bank is commit­ted to the social cohe­sion, quality of life and compe­ti­ti­ve­ness of the canton.

How do your employees see it?

We also want to be more than just a bank as an employer. We realise that the public service mandate plays a parti­cu­larly important role for our employees. The youn­ger gene­ra­tion actually very consciously asks about this purpose. In this respect, the public service mandate also helps with recruit­ment. The consis­t­ently high level of employee satis­fac­tion shows that the bank’s values are also put into prac­tice intern­ally and have a posi­tive impact there.

Has the role of banks chan­ged in recent years?

Corpo­rate social respon­si­bi­lity has become more important in gene­ral, and so has the need for trans­pa­rency and impact orien­ta­tion in parti­cu­lar. This is reflec­ted, among other things, in our report­ing, the publi­ca­tion of sustaina­bi­lity reports and the ongo­ing dialo­gue with stake­hol­ders in the realms of busi­ness, society and politics.

«ZKB is ther­e­fore more than just a bank. This holi­stic respon­si­bi­lity is more rele­vant than ever.»

Florence Schny­d­rig Moser, Head of Private Banking at Zürcher Kantonalbank

At this year’s annual results media confe­rence, you announ­ced the estab­lish­ment of the ZKB Phil­an­thropy Foun­da­tion. What’s behind this?

First and fore­most, we want to offer our custo­mers a way to imple­ment their phil­an­thro­pic ideas effi­ci­ently, as setting up and running an inde­pen­dent foun­da­tion is very time-consum­ing. It also enables us to make some of our social commit­ments even more effec­tive. The foundation’s capi­tal of 25 million Swiss francs will be used prima­rily for orga­ni­sa­ti­ons and projects with an impact in the Grea­ter Zurich Area. The focus is on health and sport, nature and envi­ron­ment, social affairs, art and culture as well as educa­tion, science and research.

To what extent do custo­mer needs play a role in such an initiative?

Our custo­mers’ needs and values in rela­tion to their assets are very indi­vi­dual. Howe­ver, we have noti­ced that more and more private indi­vi­du­als want to do some­thing good with their money: the moti­va­tions for their phil­an­thro­pic enga­ge­ment are as diverse as our society. If you have 1 million Swiss francs or more, you can effi­ci­ently set up a sub-foun­da­tion with an indi­vi­dual, chari­ta­ble purpose, for which the umbrella foun­da­tion provi­des the manage­ment and trus­tees. Custo­mers who want to set up their own foun­da­tion – which is wort­hwhile at 10 million francs or more – are advi­sed by our specia­list team.

When can the first sub-foun­da­tion be opened?

The ZKB Phil­an­thropy Foun­da­tion is sche­du­led to start opera­ti­ons in early autumn 2024. As a modern, digi­tal foun­da­tion, we work closely with our part­ner StiftungSchweiz to faci­li­tate digi­tal enqui­ries and proces­sing. This allows appli­ca­ti­ons to be proces­sed even more effi­ci­ently and enables the foun­da­tion to make and commu­ni­cate its decis­i­ons even more quickly. We are deligh­ted to have gained a proven expert in Dr Joëlle Pianzola, who will lead the ZKB Phil­an­thropy Foun­da­tion as Mana­ging Direc­tor from the end of August 2024.

When did Zürcher Kanto­nal­bank start offe­ring services to the foun­da­tion sector?

Since 2018, we have had a team specia­li­sing in private banking that provi­des compre­hen­sive advice and support to foun­da­ti­ons and non-profit organisations.

You have been Chair of StiftungSchweiz’s Board of Direc­tors since April. What do you expect from the start-up?

Zürcher Kanto­nal­bank also acqui­red a stake in StiftungSchweiz in 2018. Thanks to StiftungSchweiz, the sector’s visi­bi­lity will be incre­asing in the future, and we want to contri­bute to that. We also want to deve­lop digi­tal solu­ti­ons that enable all stake­hol­ders to engage in phil­an­thro­pic acti­vi­ties effi­ci­ently and effectively.

Is this phil­an­thro­pic enga­ge­ment a conti­nua­tion of a sustainable invest­ment strategy?

As a bank, we rely on two levers as we move towards a more sustainable future: firstly, we promote new sustaina­bi­lity and climate inno­va­tions, for exam­ple through our start-up finan­cing and private equity solu­ti­ons. Secondly, we also support corpo­rate and private clients with our sustainable products in the invest­ment and finan­cing busi­ness. Our phil­an­thro­pic commit­ment is ther­e­fore a logi­cal conti­nua­tion of Zürcher Kantonalbank’s sustainable offe­rings. Above all, it’s an oppor­tu­nity for our custo­mers to effi­ci­ently bring their own phil­an­thro­pic ideas to fruition.

How will the spon­sor­ship acti­vi­ties for culture, educa­tion and sport relate to the foundation’s new commitments?

The bank’s more than 400 commit­ments are made inde­pendently of the foundation’s funding acti­vi­ties. Accor­din­gly, Zürcher Kanto­nal­bank will conti­nue to be an important spon­sor­ship part­ner along­side its foun­da­tion offering.

Is there no shift towards sustainability?

As part of our invest­ment consul­ta­ti­ons, we syste­ma­ti­cally record our custo­mers’ finan­cial targets and sustaina­bi­lity prefe­ren­ces. In our solu­ti­ons, we take various aspects of sustaina­bi­lity into account, but do not aim to have a direct social impact in the sense of impact inves­t­ing. Howe­ver, we are noti­cing a growing inte­rest in sustaina­bi­lity issues among our custo­mers. In prin­ci­ple, asset preser­va­tion or profit maxi­mi­sa­tion does not conflict with a values-based approach to investment.

At Christ­mas time, you carry out a large fund­rai­sing campaign for your custo­mers. How does that work?

The idea for the Christ­mas fund­rai­sing campaign came about in spring 2020. Instead of tradi­tio­nal Christ­mas gifts, we wanted our custo­mers to receive a present that was useful and embo­died our bank’s values. We then worked with StiftungSchweiz to deve­lop the ‘Spen­den und Schen­ken’ [‘Donate and Gift’] campaign: At Christ­mas, selec­ted custo­mers receive a voucher that they can use to support a chari­ta­ble foun­da­tion or chari­ta­ble asso­cia­tion – finan­ced by Zürcher Kanto­nal­bank. The campaign was a great success, which is why we have main­tai­ned and further deve­lo­ped it. Last year, our employees were able to suggest and vote on orga­ni­sa­ti­ons that should be conside­red for inclusion.

A parti­ci­pa­tory campaign …

Exactly. We were inun­da­ted with sugges­ti­ons from employees and were spoilt for choice. Last Christ­mas, our custo­mers were able to choose between 21 foun­da­ti­ons. Of course, we will be deligh­ted to run the campaign again this year.

The canton of Zurich has also deci­ded to streng­then its status as a loca­tion for foun­da­ti­ons and improve the gene­ral condi­ti­ons for them. Do you see a need for further action? 

In early Febru­ary 2024, the canton of Zurich took an important and appro­priate step towards incre­asing the canton’s attrac­ti­ve­ness as a loca­tion for foun­da­ti­ons by clari­fy­ing issues rela­ting to chari­ta­ble status. We can assume that the profes­sio­na­li­sa­tion of the sector will progress with the appro­priate remu­ne­ra­tion of boards of trus­tees. I was parti­cu­larly plea­sed that the newly adapted tax prac­ti­ces make entre­pre­neu­rial funding methods such as loans or shares easier. What’s more, foun­da­ti­ons’ acti­vi­ties abroad are now measu­red using the same yard­stick as dome­stic acti­vi­ties. I do not see any compel­ling need for further action at the moment. It remains to be seen how the new requi­re­ments will be imple­men­ted in practice.

How compe­ti­tive is Zurich as a loca­tion for foun­da­ti­ons internationally?

With its outstan­ding univer­si­ties and colleges, the canton is an important rese­arch loca­tion. This is key for many foun­da­ti­ons. But poli­ti­cal stabi­lity and a high quality of life are also important factors. The entre­pre­neu­rial funding methods that are now also available to chari­ta­ble foun­da­ti­ons are making Zurich even more attrac­tive inter­na­tio­nally. I would expect an incre­asing number of large foun­da­ti­ons to be conside­ring a base in the canton.

You are perso­nally invol­ved as a trus­tee at the Hasler Foun­da­tion. Is that some­thing close to your heart? 

Abso­lut­ely. It is a matter of great perso­nal concern to me that Switz­er­land conti­nues to hold a leading posi­tion in science and tech­no­logy in the future and that more women become invol­ved in this area. The Hasler Foun­da­tion makes an important contri­bu­tion to this by promo­ting infor­ma­tion and commu­ni­ca­tion tech­no­lo­gies. Among other things, we offer scho­lar­ships and support start-ups and profes­sor­ships. The foun­da­tion has a funding commit­tee and a finance commit­tee. The funding commit­tee selects the topics; the finance commit­tee, of which I am a member, takes care of the finan­ces and the foundation’s assets. It’s very rewar­ding to work with the inspi­ring people on these commit­tees to drive commit­ment and to deepen my invol­vement in the chari­ta­ble sector. The Hasler Foun­da­tion has been around for a long time. It can build on a broad wealth of expe­ri­ence and, with a forward-looking, rele­vant purpose – as well as suffi­ci­ent capi­tal – will be able to make a big diffe­rence for a long time to come.

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