Protection against import-export risks

A man wearing an helmet and a safety vest inspects the unloading of a container.

Swiss SMEs working in the import-export sector are exposed to multiple risks, but protection is available. Here is some advice.

Several solutions are available for SMEs wishing to protect themselves against import-export risks. Swiss Export Risk Insurance (SERV) enables companies to cover themselves against political and commercial risks. Private insurance also offers benefits not covered by SERV, such as assumption of foreign exchange risk or transport risk.

What are import/export risks?

Whether dealing with import or export, any international business activity has risks. They can be of various types:

  • Political
  • Economic
  • Logistical
  • Administrative
  • Other

How to protect yourself against import/export risks

If not controlled, risks affecting a company’s import-export activities can jeopardize its operation. There are several additional options available to Swiss companies to protect themselves:

  • Swiss Export Risk Insurance (SERV). SERV is a public insurance body attached to the Confederation which operates in addition to private insurance companies. It covers the political and commercial risks associated with the export of goods and the provision of services. Any company can use it, irrespective of its size, provided that it has its registered office in Switzerland and the products exported comprise a proportion of Swiss added value representing at least 50% of the value of the export operation. In exceptional cases, SERV may also enter into an insurance contract when this minimum share is not reached if adequate reasons are given (SERV Swiss Export Risk Insurance).
  • Private insurance companies. In addition to SERV, numerous private insurance companies offer Swiss companies protection for their import-export operations. A certain number of risks are also handled only by the private insurance market, including foreign exchange, transport and fire risks.
  • Stay informed. To limit their risks as much as possible, companies are advised to stay informed about all aspects of their import-export activities. For this, they can contact industry professionals as well as institutional agencies such as the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), Switzerland Global Enterprise (S-GE) or the Swiss Federal Customs Administration (FCA).

Foreign exchange risks: How SMEs can protect themselves

International trade exposes companies to the volatility of the currency market, both when importing and exporting. Financial institutions offer various type of customized coverage.

Import-export financing

Solutions such as documentary credit and supply-chain finance help reduce the financial risks associated with import-export.


Last modification 20.03.2020

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