Change location

You are about to change the origin location from where you are visiting

*The location of origin is defined in your browser settings and may not be identical with your citizenship and/or your domicile.

Choose Language
Deutsch Die Seite ist nicht verfügbar
Deutsche Startseite
Français Page indisponible
Page d'accueil en Francais
Italiano Pagina non disponibile
Home page di Italia

Our founding father. Alfred Escher.

Alfred Escher is one of the most important personalities of Swiss politics and economic history. We are proud to call him our founder. An insight into an inspiring life. And into the timelessness of values such as determination, foresight, and entrepreneurship.

Born in Zurich. Devoted to his country.

Businessman and politician Alfred Escher ranks among the most distinguished personalities of the 19th century and the founders of modern Switzerland. To this day he is considered the driving force behind the transformation of a backwards agricultural country into a nation renowned around the world for its financial and economic competence.

Escher seemed to have the golden touch: In addition to founding Credit Suisse, Escher also had a hand in establishing the federal technical university ETH Zurich, pension provider Swiss Life, the reinsurance company Swiss Re and the Swiss Northeastern Railway, which was later integrated into the Swiss national railway system.

As a politician, Escher was notable as the president of the Swiss National Council, chairman of the government of Canton Zurich, and vice chairman of the Swiss School Council. With his contributions toward the construction of the Gotthard Tunnel, he also succeeded in laying another milestone in Switzerland's structural development.

Alfred Escher: A trailblazer who achieved virtually every goal he set for his country.

Founding of Credit Suisse

Escher was born in 1819 into a country handicapped by major structural problems: Twenty-two cantons with different currencies; officialese that hindered business, education, and progress; a practically non-existent railway system to connect Switzerland to trade opportunities in Europe.

Early on, Escher made the sparsely developed railway infrastructure a priority and resolved that it should be privately funded. In order to maintain Switzerland’s autonomy, he determined that the capital should come from within Switzerland and not from abroad. And so on July 5, 1856, Escher founded the Schweizerische Kreditanstalt, the forerunner to today's Credit Suisse, to fund the project. Within three days, the shares issued for a high of three million francs, had reached a value of 221 million francs.

In addition to the railway project, the Schweizerische Kreditanstalt began soon after to invest in many other areas of industry. In this way, it also made possible numerous fledgling businesses and enterprises.

A visionary with a healthy dose of reality, Escher was well aware of the risks of big undertakings and concerned for the safeguarding of people and projects. Thus in 1857 he founded Switzerland's first pension program, guaranteed by Credit Suisse funds. In 1863, he laid the financial basis for the hedging of a new reinsurance company. These two institutions, Swiss Life and Swiss Re, as well as Credit Suisse, are to this day world ambassadors for Swiss insurance and financial expertise. After establishing Credit Suisse, Alfred Escher served as chairman of its board for more than 20 years, from 1856 to 1877 and again from 1880 to 1882. A life's work that bore many fruit.

Gotthard Tunnel. A breakthrough.

In 1872, work started on the Gotthard railway and its centerpiece – the Gotthard Tunnel. A mammoth undertaking with enormous demands on capital and many challenges for the engineers involved. Escher fought vehemently for the completion of the tunnel, which would offer an attractive transit route between southern and central Europe and free Switzerland from its economic isolation for good. When the tunnel opened in 1882, the Swiss economy wasn't the only beneficiary. Tourists also benefited from the wondrous opportunities afforded by this railway route. In this sense, Escher made Switzerland's riches accessible to the masses.