ESG Governance at BCF
Since its creation in 1892, the Banque Cantonale de Fribourg has been at the service of the people of Fribourg. It is proud to have contributed actively to the development of the canton. Over the years, BCF has developed all the services of a local universal bank. Today, it has a highly diversified clientele: individuals, SMEs, large companies, government agencies and institutions. It offers tailor-made solutions to each and every one of them. BCF is headquartered in Fribourg and has 27 branches, including one online.
BCF can count on the skills, efficiency and motivation of 489 employees (403 full-time jobs).
Ethics and Corporate Governance
BCF is the leading bank in its canton, with a balance sheet total of CHF 27.3 billion. Its financial capacity has been growing for some 20 years. The bank’s health and the skills of its staff give it major advantages in meeting the challenges of tomorrow.
By relying on efficient and sustainable corporate management, BCF contributes to the autonomous development of the canton of Fribourg and to the preservation of its resources. BCF’s corporate governance principles are set out in the Annual Report.
Transparency and dialogue with stakeholders
Through regular and in-depth exchanges with its stakeholders, BCF is able to identify the requirements it must meet, observe trends and define strengths and potential for improvement. By stakeholders, BCF understands all economic actors who play a significant role in the creation of value or in the activities of BCF.
The personal relationship with the bank’s contact persons and close contacts throughout the bank’s business area are of paramount importance.
The intensity and frequency of contact is adapted to the needs of the client and the extent of the client relationship. Customers have a choice of access channels for services.
BCF organises events to promote dialogue with its regional stakeholders. Market or satisfaction studies concerning the services offered are carried out regularly.
Employee satisfaction surveys are conducted. BCF also has an institutionalized idea management tool that allows employees to suggest improvements. In this way, BCF encourages employees to be entrepreneurial and promotes their entrepreneurial activity. BCF’s personnel regulations provide for the existence of a Personnel Commission (COPE), which defends the interests of employees in relation to the bank’s management bodies. A separate regulation governs this Personnel Commission.
The way in which BCF involves its employees in change processes is described on page 30 ofthe Sustainability Report 2022.
State of Fribourg
A regular and institutionalized dialogue on economic, ecological and social issues is conducted with the State of Fribourg.
Supplirs and partners
Suppliers and partners are integrated in the framework of tenders and bids or in institutionalized bodies for exchange and partnership steering.
The various authorities and the media are informed primarily through press releases, publications and regulatory reports. In addition, requests can be forwarded to the bank via the press office. All information on this subject can be found on the BCF website.
Standards of behavior
BCF recognizes international human rights standards and identifies with the values and aspirations they convey. BCF’s personnel guidelines regulate the protection of employees’ integrity: employees may not be discriminated against directly or indirectly. Managers are responsible for ensuring that the working environment is conducive to work and free from any form of harassment.
Employees have internal channels for reporting personal attacks or irregularities such as violations of laws, regulations and directives.
The Personnel Regulations and the Personnel Guidelines are an integral part of the employment contracts. They include rules of conduct relating in particular to corruption and money laundering. Employees confirm in writing that they have received these guidelines and undertake to comply with them. These topics are discussed at the induction day for new employees and during various training courses.
More generally, BCF invests considerable resources to effectively combat money laundering and terrorist financing. It also complies with tax requirements. Clients are responsible for complying with the legal and regulatory provisions applicable to them, which include, among other things, the obligation to file tax returns and pay taxes. Clients release the Bank from any liability in this regard.
BCF has established internal processes for monitoring business relationships and transactions, as well as for the application of economic sanctions. In addition, BCF has ensured optimal communication between the front line and compliance specialists in order to achieve its compliance objectives as efficiently as possible.
Structure and autority
The procedures for electing the Board of Directors and the terms of office of its members, as well as the related powers, are defined in the Law of 22 November 1988 on the Banque Cantonale de Fribourg (LBCF). The composition of the Board of Directors as well as the education, professional background and other mandates of its members and its Chairman are published on the BCF website and in the Annual Report. The competencies of the Board of Directors are defined and published, as well as the various Board committees and their members. The process for the nomination and selection of members of the highest governance body is defined and published.
The strategy is developed by the Executive Board in collaboration with the Board of Directors. It is approved by the Board of Directors. An annual seminar of the Board of Directors is organised to discuss key elements of BCF’s development. The strategy is part of this seminar. A self-assessment of the performance of the highest governance body is carried out each year.
The Audit and Risk Committee regularly monitors risk management. Major concerns are submitted to the Executive Board and the Board of Directors.
The economic, environmental and social commitments are made explicit. Stakeholders (customers, employees, suppliers, representatives of the State and of civil society) are informed about the reporting processes.
Sustainable development management
Sustainability is fully integrated into BCF’s vision. All of BCF’s activities are based on the principles of sustainable development based on ecological, societal and economic criteria. The principles of good governance are applied.
The corporate governance guidelines, the risk policy principles, the credit policy, the service standards, the Sustainability Charter, the staff regulations and the staff guidelines are pillars of the sustainable development management.
The mission of the BCF is included in the Law of 22 November 1988 on the Banque Cantonale de Fribourg (LBCF). According to art. 2 of the LBCF, the BCF pursues three goals in carrying out its tasks:
- Contribute to the development of the economy of the canton of Fribourg;
- Provide for the financial needs of companies and individuals; to offer them the possibility of secure investments for their savings and capital;
- Provide financial resources to the canton of Fribourg.
The client is at the heart of our business. BCF responds to the needs of its clients and is a trusted partner. Relationships are transparent, direct and constructive.
BCF relies on qualified and committed employees. It encourages their ongoing training so that they can constantly develop their skills.
BCF places great importance on efficiency, whether in its relations with clients, its products, its processes or its organisation. The bank’s management structure and operational processes allow for rapid decision-making.
BCF’s activities are based on the principles of sustainable development based on ecological, societal and economic criteria. The principles of good governance are applied.
BCF creates a climate of trust and meets the needs of its clients in a responsible manner in accordance with ESG principles. This means:
- Sharing its values with its clients;
- Systematically integrating ESG criteria into its activities;
- Intensifying the role of ambassador of its brand by its employees.
BCF builds its strategy by developing its business models. In particular, it follows the “New Generation Business Model” method.
By applying this methodology, the added value for clients is always at the center of BCF’s concerns, activities and innovations. Thus, the ESG expectations of clients are an integral part of the business models implemented by BCF.
Declining business models, the Board of Directors decides on the investment budget for future achievements and thus fully supports the ESG efforts proposed by BCF’s Executive Board.
In this way, the loop from the implementation of the vision to the contributory projects is ensured in an approach that is conducted and consistent throughout the company’s.
In the governance of BCF, ESG responsibility is declined and ensured by :
- The Board of Directors, which defines and implements the strategy;
- BCF’s Executive Board, which proposes strategy, develops business models and implements action plans;
- In 2022, under delegation from the Executive Board, the ESG working group defined the ESG objectives of the Sustainable Development Charter, developed ESG action plans and implemented them.
The ESG working group
BCF conducts ESG activities with an ESG working group (WG ESG) that is cross-functional to its organisation and made up of the various stakeholders.
The ESG WG is led by the Head of Strategy / ESG / Transformation, who is a member of the extended Executive Board.
The members of the GSS WG are representatives from the following areas:
- Board of Directors Assistants;
- Human Resources ;
- Legal, Risk and Compliance;
- Credit Management ;
- Finance ;
- Products and Services ;
- Marketing and social commitment;
- Real Estate and Logistics;
- IT and digital channels.
Each member is included in the subgroups of the areas reported in the Sustainability Report:
- Sustainable Products and Services;
- BCF as an employer;
- Social commitment;
- Corporate ecology and climate protection.
BCF actively collaborates with the cantonal banks in French-speaking Switzerland and neighboring regions: BEKB, BCVs, BCGe, BCN and BCJ. As a founding member of Carbon Fri, BCF has been involved with the Foundation since its creation. It is also attentive to the strategy of the Cantonal Climate Plan of the State of Fribourg.
Timing of the meetings
The ESG WG holds regular meetings according to the bank’s requirements, but at least once a month. For specific issues, ad hoc working groups are convened by the Head of ESG, who organises them at short notice.
If necessary, projects are conducted in parallel (e.g. mobility plan, SBA guidelines) in order to ensure an efficient pace for the achievement of the set objectives. In these cases, an appropriate organisation is defined according to the required competences, involving all necessary internal and external stakeholders.
The ESG manager ensures that priorities are well coordinated and that potential conflicts of interest do not hinder the achievement of ESG actions. The coordination of priorities for the implementation of the bank’s strategy and transformation is the responsibility of the Executive Board. Assumptions of a lasting conflict of interest are therefore immediately addressed within the Executive Board.
Law on the BCF
BCF is fully guaranteed by the Canton of Fribourg.
The BCF is a legal entity under public law. It is a separate entity from the State, but it is governed by the Law on the Banque Cantonale de Fribourg (LBCF). It is guaranteed by the State, according to article 3 of the LBCF, which stipulates that the State guarantees the bank’s financial commitments. To cover this guarantee, BCF pays the State an annual indemnity that takes into account the bank’s risks and results.
Compliance and respect of ethical rules are part of BCF’s core values.
As a responsible bank, BCF makes the loyalty and integrity of its practices the core of its relationship approach. Acting in compliance means ensuring that BCF’s actions comply with the provisions specific to banking and financial activities, whether they are legislative or regulatory in nature, or whether they are professional, ethical or internal standards. Compliance with these principles is a duty to our clients and a guarantee of confidence and reputation for the Bank.
In the event of specific questions or complaints concerning banking and financial transactions carried out by the bank, customers can turn to a neutral mediator: the Swiss Banking Ombudsman. Click here for further information. The Swiss Banking Ombudsman acts as an information and mediation body without jurisdiction for clients of the member institutions of the Swiss Bankers Association.
Customer data protection
BCF complies strictly with the Federal Data Protection Act (DPA).
The protection of personal data is of paramount importance to the bank. BCF is committed to strict compliance with the Swiss Federal Data Protection Act (DPA), which, together with banking secrecy, protects clients against unauthorized access to their personal data processed by BCF.
Governance principles, as well as technical, organisational and infrastructural measures have been put in place for this purpose.
Internally, the obligation to respect client confidentiality, in particular banking secrecy, is also specified in the employment contracts of employees as well as in the personnel regulations and directives. Employees are regularly made aware of the importance of compliance with the relevant standards and measures, including through various internal training courses.
BCF must apply the regulations on the automatic exchange of information (EAR).
In order to combat tax fraud, BCF applies the various regulations relating to the automatic exchange of tax information, whether in application of the OECD standard (EAR) or in the context of the FATCA agreement concluded between Switzerland and the United States.
These standards allow the tax authorities of adhering states to obtain data and financial information on accounts and securities deposits held by their taxpayers abroad. At the national level, Switzerland has put in place the Automatic Exchange of Information Act (AEIA) and the FATCA Act, which serve as the legal basis for the automatic exchange of information in tax matters.
These standards apply to both natural and legal persons. Data on clients and their assets will only be exchanged if Switzerland has concluded an agreement with the partner state concerned. A list of partner states with which Switzerland currently has an EAR is available on the BCF website and on the website of the State Secretariat for International Financial Matters . The latter also provides all information on the EAR.
With regard to cybersecurity in particular, the effectiveness of the system is regularly evaluated and its resistance to cyberattacks tested. The IT infrastructure is entirely outsourced to Swisscom (Switzerland) AG, which has implemented its own security standard (ITSLB – IT Security Level Basic) based on best practices in the technical, organisational and infrastructure fields.
Swisscom’s approach is deployed in all IT layers used by BCF: applications, databases, services, storage, workstations, networks and servers. In each of these layers, Swisscom guarantees the security of the configuration, protection systems, identity and access management, control and reporting.
General terms and conditions and regulations
BCF clients can easily consult the bank’s General Terms and Conditions and regulations online in a dedicated section, as well as the following documents and information:
- The brochure of the Swiss Bankers Association (SBA), which provides general information on the main financial services and the risks involved in trading in financial instruments;
- A description of the financial services offered by BCF as well as the provisions put in place to protect investors;
- An information notice concerning commissions and retrocessions, specifying the scope of article 31 of the General Terms and Conditions of the Banque Cantonale de Fribourg.