Swiss Welcomes World-Class Academy

GWA Etoy set to open in September 2013

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As an international business student there is a small chance that I someday could be positioned overseas with a company for my career. If a scenario ever arose where I was to be displaced from my location in the United States and had to move my future family overseas to Switzerland where would I want my children to be educated? Would I want them to go to school with the children of the country I am stationed in, or would I prefer them to be educated in an accredited world-class international school which instructs students in English of the importance of a local and global perspective.

Personally, I would like my child to attend an accredited world-class school. This is not because the school will teach in English, but more so because I would feel that my child would benefit more from partaking in a curriculum that stresses a local and global perspective, while also adding a comfort zone for my child to learn with other international students.

Say this scenario were ever to actually arise then my choice to send my child to an accredited international school would be quite feasible. World-class Gems Academy is less than a year away from opening their 162-million Swiss franc school (172 million USD) in Etoy, Switzerland. This will be the first Gems Academy in continental Europe.

The Dubai-based Academy is the largest operator of private schools in the world. They currently have over 100 academies built in the United Arab Emirates, the UK, Africa, China, India, and the US.

The expensive Gems World Academy that will open in Etoy will boast a radio station, television studio, music technology lab, a world language learning center, a high-tech library, and a multi-use sports center. Also, in maintaining Gems’ world focus students will be required to be fluent in two languages by age 12, and towards the end of their schooling with the Academy the students will be introduced to learning mandarin.

Gems will initially welcome 400 students ages 3 to 14 into their program, and soon after grow that number to 1,000 as they welcome students ages 15-18 into their International Baccalaureate program. The Academy’s primary public will be the international population, but this also includes Swiss families seeking an international education. However, this GWA in Etoy comes at a steep price. Tuition for the Academy aims to be upwards of 26,000 Swiss francs (27,531 USD). Luckily, there are a few scholarship opportunities to aid some financially.

International schools have boomed in the Geneva-Lausanne area over the past 5 years due to strong growth in international companies in the area, and according to “The population in the region has exploded, as shown by the number of train passengers, which has doubled in 10 years and is expected to double again by 2030, reflecting overall population growth.” Many international schools in the area have had to increase their enrollment from 100 students to 250 students. The new GWA in Etoy plans to crush those numbers and eventually reach an enrollment of 1,500 students.

With population growth booming from a group of international employees from several multi-national corporations the need for this type of English-based, globally focused academy is quite clear. These private schools within the area have been quick to close any gap left from the local public school system in offering before and after-school care, as well as during lunchtime to help the high number of working parents in the region.

The emergence of these private-international schools in the Geneva-Lausanne area has made it an easier transition for employees of international firms to switch over to a new country. Coming from a private-school in St. Louis I find that the class and curriculum in with the children learn and develop is amazing, and all of the amenities based to cater to families that come from other countries to work will only broaden the already strong growth of businesses in the area. If ever you were in doubt of which path to choose just hear some of the parent testimonials.

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It’s About Time; Apple Steals Iconic Design of Swiss Railway Clock

Apple is well known for suing anyone who even slightly infringes on any of their designs. However this time around it seems that the tables have been turned with the introduction of the new Apple iPhone 5. SBB, or the Swiss Federal Railway service, is rightly standing their ground after the theft of their clock design that has been a stalwart in Swiss railway stations since Hans Hilfiker, a SBB employee, first created the clock 1944.

Iconic SBB clock that was created by an SBB employee in 1944.

Apple, which sells an average of 645,000 devices a day, has been facing legal issues from the Swiss Federal Railway Service for copyright infringement. Upon the release of the new operating system for Apple, the Apple iOS6, the Swiss Federal Railway service has decided to stand up to the most recognizable brand in the world by threatening to file a lawsuit against Apple for stealing a clock design that has been around for nearly 70 years.

Apple’s iOS6 clock and an official SBB watch from Mondaine

Apple is no stranger to lawsuits as they have been in a battle with Samsung for a period now over their design of the Samsung Galaxy S III. This legal battle is no secret has it has been all over the news, even spilling over to Samsung commercials. Apple has also been in numerous other copyright debates since the introduction of their iPhone and iPad devices first surfaced in order to keep any other competitors from making any similar products. Popular opinion has taken to both sides of the debate:

A company at war with others over patents doesn’t care about design rights. Apple pays out over iOS 6’s Swiss clock-up …

Hey Apple, Did You Steal Too?: Score one for the little guy…if the little guy is a national railway service.

You can’t build something that looks like something else? Will someone stop the madness? …

@counternotions: Samsung to Swiss Federal Railways: “We don’t need to license your clock design when we clone Apple’s.”” Hahaha!

It seems that most people feel that this debate is over an obscure item on the new Apple operating system, however many feel that Apple’s karma of suing other who infringe upon designs is coming back to bite them here. There has even been much talk in technology blogs about the feeling that many of Apple’s designs were not truly original to Apple.

The most important people in the debate are the people in the Swiss railway system, and they are happy that their clock has been chosen to be a part of one of the most selling devices in the world. “SBB isn’t hurt, but proud that his icon of watch design is being used by a globally active and successful business,” an SBB spokesperson told Reuters.

Swiss watch-company, Mondaine, which has licensed the design since 1986 has had mixed opinions about the theft since news came to light. Originally they were upset with the fact that their company had lost exclusivity of the design, but in recent days they have seemed to take pride in the fact that their watch has been taken by a company which will showcase the design on millions of devices for the foreseeable future.  Mondaine co-owner Andre Bernhei said: “Apple shows great taste by choosing this design for their clock on their devices, and now, the owners of Mondaine watches and clocks as well as iPad owners can even enjoy the same distinct design.”

Less than a week ago, Apple announced that they had come to an agreement with SBB over the use of their clock design. Apple will continue to use the SBB design for years to come as they have signed a licensing agreement and paid SBB a sum for the original theft of the design.

While Apple’s theft of the clock design is apparent many Swiss are proud that this cultural symbol is now to be shown on every iPhone and iPad sold worldwide.  Many people worldwide may feel differently about the Swiss jubilation for the fact that Apple has accused so many others of stealing.

As a person who does not own a single Apple product I find that this news does not affect me very much right now. However, with the extreme growth that Apple has shown over recent years, I assume that someday in the future I will own an iPhone or an iPad that will still showcase this timeless design. The theft by Apple is clear, and very ironic for the number of times that they have stirred the legal waters over copyright infringement for someone stealing designs, but those people who bash on Apple for their theft need to let this one go. Apple is happy, the Swiss companies are happy that they have their payout, and me, a non-apple user, is happy that this design will continue to be a part of the fastest growing technology in the world. Each Swiss person should be happy a little piece of Swiss culture will now become an enduring part of the devices that will eventually be in the hands of billions of people throughout the world.


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Secret’s, Secret’s Are No Fun; US and others crack down on Swiss Bank Secrecy

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Surely everyone has heard about, or knows a little bit about the infamous Swiss bank accounts. If you don’t know much about them, let me set you up with a little bit of background.

For decades Swiss banks have been a haven for wealthy foreign investors who are seeking to evade their country’s taxes. This all came about in 1934 when the Swiss Banking Act of 1934 made it illegal for a bank to divulge any information about a client who has created an account. This act was first created to protect Jewish German accounts from Nazi confiscation. Since then Swiss banks have grown to be some of the largest and strongest in the world due to their strict secrecy practices. The link at can give you more information about Swiss banks.

Recently, the United States and Germany have begun cracking down on Swiss banks to prevent any further loss of their tax dollars. According to Tax Justice Network, tax evasion costs governments about 3.1 trillion dollars annually. And according to a report from the Boston Consulting Group, Swiss banks house around 2.1 trillion dollars, or 27%, of off-shore wealth.

The United States has taken the hardest stand on off-shore tax evasion. They have recently breached UBS (Switzerland’s largest bank), forcing them to pay a 780 million dollar fine, and present information on more than 4,400 accounts. Other countries such as Germany and Britain have also taken a stance against Swiss banking secrecy. Last year both countries negotiated with Swiss banks, forcing off-shore account holders to pay a lump sum of their unpaid taxes. However, with the German and British victory they have allowed the names of the account holders to remain anonymous.

After all of these recent defeats for Swiss banks, many believe that secrecy for the banks is dead. International wealth consultant Osmond Plummer told a gathering of bankers in Geneva that “Banking secrecy is no longer there. That’s gone. It is over.”

Several other prominent members of the Swiss banking community have also spoken about recent trends, stating their need to change their whole approach. Head of Swiss banking group Reyl & Co., Francois Reyl, told members at the seminar that “It is time to change. The storm has swept everything away. We need to open ourselves to new cultures.”

Swiss bank accounts have been under pressure for quite some time for aiding wealthy foreigners evade their taxes. Recently, Swiss banks have been further scrutinized by Americans when it became known that Mitt Romney, Republican nominee for the United States Presidency, has also opened Swiss-bank accounts in an effort to escape from paying taxes on some of his earnings.

With the recent news of Romney’s foreign account, and the state of the American and European economies I understand why this issue has come to the forefront. I do believe that the tax dollars recuperated through this crack-down on foreign accounts will greatly help struggling economies, as well as aid in improving current political issues such as schooling, healthcare, unemployment, etc. But with the backbone of Swiss banking becoming extinct, what will Swiss banks do to remain strong, and keep the Swiss economy among the best in the world?


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The World’s Most Expensive City: Zurich

The Swiss Economy has been one of the most resilient economies in Europe, and has been able to succeed even in this current euro-crisis. They are one of the wealthiest countries in the entire world, and rank highly is nearly every single economic category.

Switzerland boasts two of the world’s top three most expensive cities. Zurich ranks as the most expensive city in the world, and following close behind at #3, split only by Tokyo, is Geneva. To put this in perspective for us Americans, New York City ranks #47, as no North American city even cracked the top 10 on that list. Zurich is about 66% more expensive to live in than New York City.

This is the first time in nearly two decades that Zurich has taken the top spot in this list. Part of the reason for their ascent to the top is the surge in the Swiss franc over the past couple of years. With the franc still growing we can only expect Zurich and Geneva to continue to be among the most expensive cities to live in.

However, until that point comes let me clarify for you a little better just how expensive things can get for the Swiss. In Switzerland it costs on average about $150 (USD) to fill your car, hair cut would cost around $93 (USD), and around $14 (USD) for a medium meal from McDonald’s which would only cost around $5 in the US.

Prices like that are what make Switzerland a class ahead of its following countries.  While it keeps Switzerland a class ahead of other countries, some Swiss must learn the art of budgeting and bargain hunting.

High prices in Switzerland lead to a few, yet very noticeable differences in how some things are done. The first is tickets. It seems in Switzerland they have a ticket for everything imaginable, and it is inevitable that at some point you will receive a ticket. Second, many things are machine operated, as the cost of labor in Switzerland is higher than that of the US. Finally, theft seems to be a growing issue in Geneva. With easily accessible borders and a very high rate of wealth, the Swiss have been the victims of much theft. All of this causes the crime rate in Geneva to rise, but Geneva is still considered to be the sixth safest city in the world.

While high prices and wealth seem to cause a few headaches or problems, this extravagant economy still keeps Switzerland beautiful, and for the most part safe. I can only expect the Swiss to stay among the top for years to come, but I wonder how long it will be until cities, such as Sydney and Singapore, catch up or surpass Zurich and Geneva.

Is the Euro-Crisis finally hitting the Swiss?

In the midst of a global economic downturn very few countries have been able to null its effect. One country in particular, Switzerland, has been able to show growth regardless of the downturn taken by many of its European neighbors. Switzerland has developed one of the highest incomes per capita in the world, and has done so by achieving low unemployment rates, and maintaining a fairly balanced budget. The Swiss economy depends strongly on industry and trade. Their major exports include chemicals (medicines), watches, and jewelry.

However, according to reports the Swiss have shown a slight contraction in their growth by .1%. This contraction has caused many to believe that the European economic recession has caught up to the Swiss. Many believe that the contraction is due to the cap that the Swiss National Bank (SNB) placed on their currency, the Swiss Franc. This cap has been placed by the SNB to keep the country’s high-value exports competitive.

The cap is a movement by the SNB to keep the economy flowing well. However, many argue that this cap has been part of the problem of the slow in growth. Chief Economist Julius Baer defended the cap by saying: “The SNB has no other option but to continue with its (franc) policy, no matter how costly it is, it would have been even more costly not to do anything at all.” Further defending the cap placed by the SNB, Baer stated that the economy would be down regardless of the cap, but there was less of a downturn thanks to the cap.

Instead, of the cap being the root of the contraction, several believe that the downturn of Switzerland’s neighbors has injured the growth of the Swiss recently. Bernd Hartman, VP Bank Head of Investment believes that European crisis has finally caught up with the strong Swiss economy. “The Swiss economy successfully bucked the difficult trend in the euro zone for a long time, but the slight contraction in the second quarter shows that the Swiss economy cannot completely decouple itself. The linkages within Europe are too great.”  Countering this theory however is the growth of .3% that Germany was able to show in the same time period.

A removal of the cap is an option to oppose this lack of growth, but how much would the removal truly help? The debate at hand now is whether the economy has slowed in growth because of the cap placed by the SNB, or because Switzerland has shown that it is not immune to the downturn that has plagued its neighbors. Many believe that the cap is the root cause of this lack of growth, but SNB Chairman Thomas Jordan clarified the importance of the cap by saying: “Any new rise in the franc would pose a major threat to the economy.”

With more economic slowing predicted for the upcoming fiscal quarter, the Swiss must determine whether the economy has slowed because of the cap or the downturn surrounding Switzerland. It is more likely that the Swiss economy has finally been nudged by the surrounding European economies than the cap slowing growth. Low unemployment rates have always been a staple to a successful Swiss economy, and the lack of spending and growth by other countries (minus Germany) during the recession has left many feeling a lack of job security. For a country that generates much of its revenue through import and export, it is hard to imagine that they could continue such growth without surrounding trade partners that can maintain the status quo of this resilient economy.