Swiss Need Financial Diplomacy in Future, Hildebrand Says

Switzerland needs to consider financial diplomacy to regain political influence around the world, and may want to look to Singapore for inspiration, according to BlackRock Inc.’s Philipp Hildebrand.

One possibility would be through a sovereign wealth fund, Hildebrand, a former Swiss central bank chief, told NZZ am Sonntag in an interview. That would be allow Switzerland to simultaneously multiply its wealth for future generations as well as increase its global political influence with investments abroad, he said.

The Swiss National Bank has repeatedly rejected the idea of channeling its assets into a sovereign wealth fund, saying it would make monetary policy more difficult and impact its independence.

Singapore established its GIC Pte sovereign wealth fund in 1981 to manage the Southeast Asian city-state’s foreign reserves, and has become an important financial center. The World Economic Forum, which usually takes place in Swiss mountain town Davos, will be held in Singapore this year amid its success in curbing Covid-19 infections.

“Singapore is an example for how a small country exerts enormous influence thanks to its financial power,” Hildebrand said.

Switzerland needs a long-term strategic plan that’s similar to Singapore’s as bloc formations and the extraordinary economic development in Asia over the last two decades diminished its global importance, he added.

Hildebrand withdrew from the race to lead the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development last week -- a race he said he only could have won with the backing from EU countries. Hildebrand said his conclusion is that Switzerland lacks instruments for influence in an increasingly complex world.

“The times in which we could rely on generating goodwill with our good services are over,” Hildebrand said.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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