Yesterday I was on a mission in Vienna to buy and store gold; today I was on another mission that is honestly quite sensitive, but I’m going to share it with you anyways.
For years, Austria has been one of Europe’s best destinations for ‘private banking’– professional wealth and asset management by conservative, responsible stewards who ensure that return on savings will beat the rate of inflation.
While Switzerland has closed itself off to many North American customers, particularly those who do not bring tens of millions of dollars to the table, several Austrian banks have remained open to working with Americans, in particular those who reside outside of the United States.
Of course, demonstrating that you reside outside of the United States is easy to do if you own property overseas, have a lease, or a residency permit. These are the sorts of things you should be doing anyways if you intend on taking control of your own freedom.
With Austrian banks, minimum deposits are often just a few thousand dollars for some of the larger banks, and $100,000 for the smaller, more personalized banks.
Austria is currently on the OECD’s ‘grey list,’ the list of countries that this completely worthless and irrelevant organization named several months ago for failing to hand over customer financial information to the international community.
In Austria, banking secrecy has been a long-standing tradition and is protected with the same legal status as the country’s constitution. Unfortunately, this has been coming under fire lately.
The OECD’s grey list has absolutely no force or economic effect whatsoever… notwithstanding, a small handful of politicians are terrified of having their country’s name on a list, any list, and amendments to the country’s banking laws have hit the parliament floor for vote.
The most recent legislative proposals from earlier this month did not pass, though I expect the executive branch to continue pushing the issue despite resistance from constituents.
Bear in mind, however, that loosening restrictions will not completely eliminate privacy… and in a world of such draconian government intervention, I still expect Austria to be an adequate banking jurisdiction in the future.
But there’s something else to watch out for in Austria— Some of the country’s larger banks have tremendous exposure to volatile Eastern European economies like Romania, Ukraine and Hungary where default rates are rising.
If Eastern Europe falls off the cliff, it will drag down many of Austria’s banks in the same way that a Latvian default will erode Sweden’s banks.
As such, I would stay away from Erste Bank and Raiffeisen in particular, but there are several smaller banks that are worthwhile and relatively unexposed to Eastern Europe.
I opened an account with a bank after cultivating a very personal relationship for more than a year. I am more than satisfied with the service that I receive, which includes this worldwide Maestro card, multiple currency accounts, online wire transfers, and very personalized service.
The bank knows that I write this letter (among many other things) and begged me to not publish their name. I gave them my word as a condition for opening the account.
I am happy, however, to point you once again in the direction of Mark Nestmann, who lived in Austria for some time and has strong ties there has written a recently updated book about Austrian banks—he names names and provides contact details for many of the personal, smaller banks in Austria.