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Swiss banking elites: between internationalization and national career patterns


The aim of this paper is to explore how the restructuration of the Swiss banking field over the last four decades has affected the careers of Swiss banking elites. During this period the Swiss banking system has undergone a concentration process, has shifted its activities from retail to investment banking and has been thoroughly internationalized. Inspired by a bourdieusian framework, we examine the impact of these changes on top bankers careers. We conceptualize careers as dynamics of acquisition, accumulation and conversion of different types of capital and investigate different forms of internationality and mobility of top bankers. Using a database of 487 Executive and Non Executive Directors from 37 Swiss banks in 2010 we first perform a sequence analysis to understand different types of international and intersectoral careers. This is then completed by a multiple correspondence analysis which allows us to identify combinations of educational, social and cosmopolitan capital that lead to top positions in different areas of the Swiss banking field. Our findings show that a large part of Swiss bankers still pursue exclusively national careers and that truly international trajectories are limited to a small group of top bankers working in investment banking. These international careers in big banks, foreign banks and stock exchange banks are related to a large amount and particularly international type of educational capital, whereas careers of bank managers with no university education remain restricted to the national space. However, also managers of these regional and cantonal banks tend to imitate the internationality of big banker’s careers. They often spend a brief spell abroad at the beginning of their career or attend a short executive management program in order to give their career an international flavour.

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