Book review – Those Swiss money men by Ray Vicker

A really old book written in 1973 and not sure whether one can get any copies.But then these are the kind of books which have to be read.

It is not just about history of finance/money books written today but those written in the past as well. In money/finance, one should read as deeply a possible on history.

Ray Vicker was a European Editor of Wall Street Journal. He has done a great job explaining the mystery/secrecy of Swiss banking. How and why money became so important in Switzerland and the country became such an important financial centre. The book is centered around several Swiss banks and individuals who ran these banks.

The book is also written at an opportune time – 1973. The world monetary order was under a huge stress as US exited from the gold-dollar standard. The standard had operated since 1945 but was no more sustainable as US did not have enough gold reserves to pay the number of dollars. In a typical journalist way, the author goes onto the various important political characters which were behind the decision. In most books, the discussion is from a US perspective but this one is mainly European and Swiss which are usually ignored.

Then the book has discussion oon three financial centres in Swiss- Basel, Zurich and Geneva with each one having a different characteristic. Basel and Geneva are more traditional but Zurich is all modern. Zurchers were traders, Geneva a city of refugees.

There were 7 kinds of different banks – big banks, local banks, cantonal banks, savings banks, loan associations, private banks and other banks. There are two special kinds of banks for mortgage financing as well. Even in 1970s, Swiss had one banking outlet for every 1400 people, or more banks than dentists.

Why are Swiss so secretive about banking? The book does not get a lot into history of this. Just that it is their culture to be really private and no nonsense people. Keeping things private comes naturally to them. Swiss also believe  that it is not their problem if people bring money to their country. It is the problem of the other country whose lax rules allow funds to flow to Swissland.

Of course, one can question all this now. The book was written in 1973 and lot has changed since then.

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