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Wealthy Swiss Hoard Cash, See Doom for Euro

Thursday, 28 Jun 2012 | 12:20 PM ET
Zurich, Switzerland
Panoramic Images | Getty Images
Zurich, Switzerland

If you want proof that the world’s wealthy are worried, consider this: Swiss banking clients have nearly a third of their portfolio in cash. And one in five believe the Euro will collapse.

The findings are included in a new report from LGT Group, the Liechtenstein-based banking company, conducted with Austria’s Johannes Kepler University. The study found that wealthy Swiss and Austrian private-banking clients remain highly risk-averse and fearful of inflation, sovereign debt defaults and the unstable financial system.

In Switzerland, 58 percent of private banking clients have lost confidence in the financial system. Forty-four percent worry about inflation.

Fully 22 percent expect the euro zone to collapse. The number was the same for Austrian clients. Only 15 percent of Swiss and 16 percent of Austrians say the lessons have been learned from the euro crisis.

The study also said clients are reducing their diversification strategies and retreating to gold, cash and their home markets. Only a small fraction of clients are out to get better returns than the broader market.

Granted, Swiss banking clients are an especially conservative group by nature. Switzerland is seen by many investors as a safe haven.

Yet the report said the defensive crouch of Swiss banking clients is unlikely to change in the near future.

“Private banking clients are still being influenced in their behavior by the turmoil in the financial markets and it appears increasingly likely that this will remain the case for this generation of clients for a long time yet,” according to the report.

—Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported where LGT Group is based.

-By CNBC's Robert Frank
Follow Robert Frank on Twitter:
@robtfrank

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  • A reporter and editor, Robert Frank is a leading authority on the American wealthy for CNBC.