Zurich has long been known for its prestigious banking community. It still is, but a new tenant has arrived: Tech companies are increasingly flocking into Switzerland’s financial capital.
Zurich has changed over the past years. World-renowned for its vibrant banking scene, the city itself has followed standard investment advice and begun to diversify. Fifteen years ago, “I think 80 percent of the men would’ve been wearing a suit and tie. Now it looks different,” says Thomas Meister, General Manager of Trust Square. The hub for blockchain development that has just moved to Paradeplatz, the city’s central banking square.
Zurich’s techies are usually dressed more casually, following the examples of CEOs like Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg, who would rarely ever wear suit and tie. No doubt, the city has lost some of its uptightness, which might be considered a positive change.
Tech hub Trust Square brings jeans and hoddies to Zurich’s banking district
Trust Square demonstrates how the city has started to attract tech startups from all around the world. The fintech birthplace is home to 20 start-ups centered around blockchain, cybersecurity, and artificial intelligence. The new offices will house 200 workspaces, an event room with capacity for 170 guests, and a lounge.
For the past 19 months since Trust Square’s launch, the technology hub was housed opposite the Swiss central bank. The rental contract runs out this month and the hub will make the move in January. In its current space, Trust Square had organized 185 events, which brought together nearly 13,000 guests, and hosted 65 delegations of government and corporate representatives.
Its new home will be across the street from the five-star Savoy Baur en Ville Hotel and will launch in January. The new location, right in the center of Zurich’s banking district, demonstrates the increasingly important role blockchain, fintech, and crypto play in Switzerland’s banking scene. Swiss banking giant UBS, for example, has recently announced to tokenize several asset classes. The headquarters of the bank is not far from Trust Square’s new base. If the bankers have questions, they might drop by for a coffee.
Zurich is part of the Crypto Valley
In the meantime, Zurich has become part of the “Crypto Valley,” a development that has started several years ago in the nearby city of Zug – a 30 minutes train ride from Zurich. Zug has attracted a concentration of Bitcoin and blockchain firms, and some of that activity has spilled over into Zurich. At the end of 2018, there were 114 fintech companies in Zurich, 88 more than in the previous year.
Tech firms are drawn here by a combination of favorable taxes, an attractive location, and the presence of a world-class university – the ETH Zurich. Besides various Fintech startups, Zurich is also home to Google’s European headquarters and Facebook’s 80-person team working on augmented- and virtual-reality applications.
Tech is also contributing significantly to the city’s economic output. In 2007, Zurich’s financial sector was 4.5 times bigger compared to the tech sector. In 2017, it was only 2.5 times bigger.
As the gnomes of Zurich – a slang term for Swiss bankers – are losing the hegemony over the city, techies are increasingly calling it their home. Due to high costs of living and doing business, it might not be the ideal place for every company, but those who can afford it will find it to be an excellent place for a new venture.