With one bank you haven't much clout. Put 512 Swiss banks together
and you've got yourself a presence. Schweizer Verband der Raiffeisenbanken
is a cooperative banking group comprised of 512 Raifffeisen banks,
each being an independent cooperative.
You don't find the head offices of this banking group in the
financial centers of Zurich or Geneva but in St. Gallen, a city
of 70,000 inhabitants in the northwest corner of Switzerland.
Headquarters stands near the edge of downtown St. Gallen. My
letter of introduction sent a month earlier to CEO Marius Cottier
turns out to be for naught as I learn from receptionist Emma
Erni that he's no longer the CEO. Well jeez, their website is/was
of no help with that kind of info since English isn't one of
Ms. Walvogel, an assistant to Chairman Pierin Vincenz, commanders
Pius Schaerli to meet with me. Schaerli, Editor-in-Chief of Panorama,
the company's in-house employee publication, answers questions
while sitting in one of the two employee cafeterias.
Four modern buildings make up the headquarters complex with Chairman
Vincenz hanging his hat in a six-story structure built in 1997.
A total of 900 employees work in the buildings, if you drive
to work you pay to park in the bank garage, smoking is allowed
in offices and the company's art collection is international
in scope. It's an hour to the nearest major airport (Zurich)
and employee perks includes the usual special rates on banking
services and insurance.
Chairman Vincenz's office contains one real plant, a picture
of his two daughters, three tombstones, a stand-up desk and,
an unusual piece of art on a wall-consisting of seven imprints