Focus on TrustQore Jurisdictions – Geneva

May 14, 2024

This is the third in a series of introductory pieces featuring TrustQore’s jurisdictions.  Flora Machado sheds light on Geneva’s remarkable status as a single city jurisdiction that consistently exceeds expectations. With a rich history and a meticulously cultivated business hub that has evolved over decades, Geneva stands out as a pinnacle of global finance. The city epitomises the convergence of heritage and modernity, making it one of the world’s most prestigious global centres today.

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For the first time visitor, Geneva emerges as quintessentially Swiss. It is supremely located in a glorious lakeside setting surrounded by majestic mountains. Arguably the most famous city in Switzerland, it is not its nation’s capital (Bern) – nor even its largest city (Zurich). Yet similar to other finance giants such as New York or Dubai, Geneva commands global recognition as a premier financial hub and bastion of private banking. While French reigns as the official language, English is very widely spoken and the city boasts its own distinctive cuisine and wines. In a nod to a famous 1980s commercial, Geneva remains “reassuringly expensive” offering a treasure trove awaiting discovery.

Geneva boasts a rich history entwined throughout with the narrative of Europe. Over the centuries, it has become rich on the back of diplomacy, ingenuity and cultural dynamism.  From its ancient Celtic and Roman origins, Geneva flourished in the Middle Ages as a nexus for commerce and religious reform.  It became a centre for the Protestant Reformation under John Calvin’s leadership in the 16th century, shaping its identity as a city of religious tolerance and intellectual freedom.

Today, Geneva boasts a municipal population of approximately 200,000 residents. Surrounded by the Alps and Jura mountains, it lies at the southern tip of Lake Geneva (officially Lac Léman). The city’s lakeside setting heightens its allure punctuated as it is by the iconic Jet d’Eau, its majestic fountain surging some 140m (400ft) above the lake.

Seamlessly integrated into the Swiss national railway network, since Switzerland joined Schengen in 2008 there are no permanent passport checks when crossing the land border although customs formalities remain. The country’s second largest airport, Geneva Cointrin, is located adjacent to the French border and allows access from both countries. In 2023, some 16.5m passengers travelled through it to nearly 150 destinations worldwide.

Geneva maintains an unparalleled reputation for its superlative banking and financial system, renowned globally for its utmost quality and efficiency. Jealously guarding its centuries old tradition of neutrality, combined with its enviable strategic location, it has become a diplomatic powerhouse in addition to its pre-eminence in the banking world. Geneva hosts both the Red Cross as well as the United Nations headquarters in Europe. It remains a beacon of international cooperation and is home to numerous global organisations.

Bolstered by a liberal economic framework and envied political stability, Geneva contributes significantly to Switzerland’s status as the world’s most innovative country. According to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)’s Global Innovation Index for 2023, Switzerland maintained its top position for a further year.

Geneva boasts a host of esteemed scientific research institutions, employing a diverse, highly educated and multilingual workforce. Switzerland is considered the world’s foremost commodities trading hub boasting impressive market shares across various sectors including oil, metals, cereals and sugar. Alongside Zug and Lugano, Geneva stands as one of the paramount commodity trading hubs globally and together, the three cities host over five hundred trading companies including major national institutions.

Geneva’s privileged reputation as one of the most respected jurisdictions globally enhances its status as an international finance centre. Known for low capital costs, a strong, stable currency and appealing taxation system, it attracts high and ultra net worth individuals and families seeking residency offering advantageous lump sum payment options. The city’s exceptional education system includes top rated international schools, reinforcing its attraction to discerning inward investors.

Geneva plays host to a vibrant community of some 40,000 finance and banking professionals. Cultivated over centuries, Swiss companies’ adherence to effective regulation and integrity is well known. Corporate taxation in Switzerland remains competitive by European standards and varies based on the nature of the business or cantonal jurisdiction. Professional advice is required and TrustQore can assist in this process, working with its clients and their advisers to ensure that an optimal taxation base is set at all times.

Trusts play an increasingly important role in international financial planning, and Geneva practitioners are subject to stringent regulation. The Financial Markets regulator (FINMA) has required the licensing of Swiss trust companies since 2020. Moreover, as a signatory to The Hague Convention on the Law Applicable to Trusts and their Recognition, Switzerland ensures legal clarity and recognition in trust matters.

The availability of foundations (including specific charitable vehicles) and Swiss Private Trust Companies further underscore Geneva’s comprehensive range of financial services, solidifying its position as a premier global jurisdiction. In 2024, Geneva secured the seventh spot in the 35th edition of the Global Financial Centres Index, out of 120 centres worldwide.

This overview merely scratches the surface of Geneva’s vast opportunities. Future articles will delve into detail on how international businesses and individuals may leverage these advantages. In the meantime, for further information or to explore ways in which TrustQore can assist, please get in touch with Flora Machado flora@trustqore.com or Matthieu Daguerre matthieu@trustqore.com

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