Banque Cantonale Vaudoise



You know that famous Swiss banking efficiency you hear so much about? Well, it's definitely lacking at Banque Cantonale Vaudoise (BCV), Switzerland's fourth largest banking group (2001 revenues $268 million, 2,200 employees). Per my usual routine, I had mailed a letter of introduction a month before my anticipated arrival and addressed it to the company's CEO, in this case Gilbert Duchoud, President-Executive Board. Oddly, several weeks later I receive an unmarked envelope with a Lausanne postmark (my mail gets forwarded to me on the road). Opening the envelope I find its contents consists solely of the address label off the envelope, which I had earlier mailed to CEO Duchoud. His name had been crossed off and right above it was a handwritten note in FRENCH. So let's recap this; someone at BCV received and opened the letter, then went to the trouble of cutting out the address label from my envelope, put the address label in another envelope with a note in FRENCH above the crossed out name of Duchoud and then, mailed it back to my USA address in an unsigned, unmarked envelope.

BCV's head office is in one of those gorgeous grandiose buildings banks around the world built in the early 1900's. BCV occupies a prime spot in the city center. Its immediate neighbors, the main post office and the local main branch of competitor UBS having similar imposing-looking buildings from the same time period. Though BCV's building is grand, it isn't that large or tall (five-stories). However, if you go around the backside you'd see an enclosed skywalk connecting to a very large seven-story, early 1960's-ish building built below street level on a steep incline.

Walking through the grand banking hall I spot two receptionists manning an area leading to offices so that's where I go. I explain to receptionist Micheline Rochat-Schneider what I do and about the returned label from my envelope. As I suspected, she says Gilbert Duchoud recently left the bank. That would explain the crossing out of his name on my envelope. Why hadn't that person given me another name? That person must also have read the letter. Rochat-Schneider then spends the next 18 minutes making a slew of phone calls trying to track down the whereabouts of my letter, but no luck. Rochat-Schneider does get a secretary to one of the directors to come down and I leave the secretary background material and contact information with a promise she'll get back to me.

Several days pass and of course the secretary never contacts me so, it's back I go. Thankfully the helpful Rochat-Schneider is around. After making a series of calls Rochat-Schneider leads me to a meeting room and says, "someone will be with you shortly". She no sooner leaves the room than she returns and says, "someone won't be meeting with you after all, they'll be contacting you". Jeez, that's kind of weird. You'd think a bank that's been around since 1845 would have its act together. Guess what, nobody ever gets back to me.