Zurich — Laurent Gagnebin does not fit the traditional image of a Swiss private banker. Fifteen years ago, he worked as a manager at a luxury hotel in Gstaad. Now he is putting his hospitality skills to work as head of Rothschild’s Swiss private bank. "We had a Swiss client who needed a lawyer in Tehran urgently. Within an hour, we had enlisted the help of a colleague in Dubai who was able to recommend one he knew well," Gagnebin recalls at Rothschild’s offices in Zurich. "Being a Swiss banker, a lot of it is still about soft factors." Gagnebin’s career shift underlines the pressures that the Swiss banking sector is facing. Even a decade ago, clients from all over the world flocked to Switzerland to find a discreet home for cash that they wanted to hide from the taxman. These customers did not worry about the returns on their portfolios and profits were easy. "Clients told you ‘don’t call me, or anything’," recalls one banker. Thanks to the US-led global clampdown on tax evasion, ho...

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