AWS Security Blog

Prepare your AWS workloads for the “Operational risks and resilience – banks” FINMA Circular

In December 2022, FINMA, the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority, announced a fully revised circular called Operational risks and resilience – banks that will take effect on January 1, 2024. The circular will replace the Swiss Bankers Association’s Recommendations for Business Continuity Management (BCM), which is currently recognized as a minimum standard. The new circular also adopts the revised principles for managing operational risks, and the new principles on operational resilience, that the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision published in March 2021.

In this blog post, we share key considerations for AWS customers and regulated financial institutions to help them prepare for, and align to, the new circular.

AWS previously announced the publication of the AWS User Guide to Financial Services Regulations and Guidelines in Switzerland. The guide refers to certain rules applicable to financial institutions in Switzerland, including banks, insurance companies, stock exchanges, securities dealers, portfolio managers, trustees, and other financial entities that FINMA oversees (directly or indirectly).

FINMA has previously issued the following circulars to help regulated financial institutions understand approaches to due diligence, third party management, and key technical and organizational controls to be implemented in cloud outsourcing arrangements, particularly for material workloads:

  • 2018/03 FINMA Circular Outsourcing – banks and insurers (31.10.2019)
  • 2008/21 FINMA Circular Operational Risks – Banks (31.10.2019) – Principal 4 Technology Infrastructure
  • 2008/21 FINMA Circular Operational Risks – Banks (31.10.2019) – Appendix 3 Handling of electronic Client Identifying Data
  • 2013/03 Auditing (04.11.2020) – Information Technology (21.04.2020)
  • BCM minimum standards proposed by the Swiss Insurance Association (01.06.2015) and Swiss Bankers Association (29.08.2013)

Operational risk management: Critical data

The circular defines critical data as follows:

“Critical data are data that, in view of the institution’s size, complexity, structure, risk profile and business model, are of such crucial significance that they require increased security measures. These are data that are crucial for the successful and sustainable provision of the institution’s services or for regulatory purposes. When assessing and determining the criticality of data, the confidentiality as well as the integrity and availability must be taken into account. Each of these three aspects can determine whether data is classified as critical.”

This definition is consistent with the AWS approach to privacy and security. We believe that for AWS to realize its full potential, customers must have control over their data. This includes the following commitments:

  • Control over the location of your data
  • Verifiable control over data access
  • Ability to encrypt everything everywhere
  • Resilience of AWS

These commitments further demonstrate our dedication to securing your data: it’s our highest priority. We implement rigorous contractual, technical, and organizational measures to help protect the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of your content regardless of which AWS Region you select. You have complete control over your content through powerful AWS services and tools that you can use to determine where to store your data, how to secure it, and who can access it.

You also have control over the location of your content on AWS. For example, in Europe, at the time of publication of this blog post, customers can deploy their data into any of eight Regions (for an up-to-date list of Regions, see AWS Global Infrastructure). One of these Regions is the Europe (Zurich) Region, also known by its API name ‘eu-central-2’, which customers can use to store data in Switzerland. Additionally, Swiss customers can rely on the terms of the AWS Swiss Addendum to the AWS Data Processing Addendum (DPA), which applies automatically when Swiss customers use AWS services to process personal data under the new Federal Act on Data Protection (nFADP).

AWS continually monitors the evolving privacy, regulatory, and legislative landscape to help identify changes and determine what tools our customers might need to meet their compliance requirements. Maintaining customer trust is an ongoing commitment. We strive to inform you of the privacy and security policies, practices, and technologies that we’ve put in place. Our commitments, as described in the Data Privacy FAQ, include the following:

  • Access – As a customer, you maintain full control of your content that you upload to the AWS services under your AWS account, and responsibility for configuring access to AWS services and resources. We provide an advanced set of access, encryption, and logging features to help you do this effectively (for example, AWS Identity and Access ManagementAWS Organizations, and AWS CloudTrail). We provide APIs that you can use to configure access control permissions for the services that you develop or deploy in an AWS environment. We never use your content or derive information from it for marketing or advertising purposes.
  • Storage – You choose the AWS Regions in which your content is stored. You can replicate and back up your content in more than one Region. We will not move or replicate your content outside of your chosen AWS Regions except as agreed with you.
  • Security – You choose how your content is secured. We offer you industry-leading encryption features to protect your content in transit and at rest, and we provide you with the option to manage your own encryption keys. These data protection features include:
  • Disclosure of customer content – We will not disclose customer content unless we’re required to do so to comply with the law or a binding order of a government body. If a governmental body sends AWS a demand for your customer content, we will attempt to redirect the governmental body to request that data directly from you. If compelled to disclose your customer content to a governmental body, we will give you reasonable notice of the demand to allow the customer to seek a protective order or other appropriate remedy, unless AWS is legally prohibited from doing so.
  • Security assurance – We have developed a security assurance program that uses current recommendations for global privacy and data protection to help you operate securely on AWS, and to make the best use of our security control environment. These security protections and control processes are independently validated by multiple third-party independent assessments, including the FINMA International Standard on Assurance Engagements (ISAE) 3000 Type II attestation report.

Additionally, FINMA guidelines lay out requirements for the written agreement between a Swiss financial institution and its service provider, including access and audit rights. For Swiss financial institutions that run regulated workloads on AWS, we offer the Swiss Financial Services Addendum to address the contractual and audit requirements of the FINMA guidelines. We also provide these institutions the ability to comply with the audit requirements in the FINMA guidelines through the AWS Security & Audit Series, including participation in an Audit Symposium, to facilitate customer audits. To help align with regulatory requirements and expectations, our FINMA addendum and audit program incorporate feedback that we’ve received from a variety of financial supervisory authorities across EU member states. To learn more about the Swiss Financial Services addendum or about the audit engagements offered by AWS, reach out to your AWS account team.


Customers need control over their workloads and high availability to help prepare for events such as supply chain disruptions, network interruptions, and natural disasters. Each AWS Region is composed of multiple Availability Zones (AZs). An Availability Zone is one or more discrete data centers with redundant power, networking, and connectivity in an AWS Region. To better isolate issues and achieve high availability, you can partition applications across multiple AZs in the same Region. If you are running workloads on premises or in intermittently connected or remote use cases, you can use our services that provide specific capabilities for offline data and remote compute and storage. We will continue to enhance our range of sovereign and resilient options, to help you sustain operations through disruption or disconnection.

FINMA incorporates the principles of operational resilience in the newest circular 2023/01. In line with the efforts of the European Commission’s proposal for the Digital Operational Resilience Act (DORA), FINMA outlines requirements for regulated institutions to identify critical functions and their tolerance for disruption. Continuity of service, especially for critical economic functions, is a key prerequisite for financial stability. AWS recognizes that financial institutions need to comply with sector-specific regulatory obligations and requirements regarding operational resilience. AWS has published the whitepaper Amazon Web Services’ Approach to Operational Resilience in the Financial Sector and Beyond, in which we discuss how AWS and customers build for resiliency on the AWS Cloud. AWS provides resilient infrastructure and services, which financial institution customers can rely on as they design their applications to align with FINMA regulatory and compliance obligations.

AWS previously announced the third issuance of the FINMA ISAE 3000 Type II attestation report. Customers can access the entire report in AWS Artifact. To learn more about the list of certified services and Regions, see the FINMA ISAE 3000 Type 2 Report and AWS Services in Scope for FINMA.

AWS is committed to adding new services into our future FINMA program scope based on your architectural and regulatory needs. If you have questions about the FINMA report, or how your workloads on AWS align to the FINMA obligations, contact your AWS account team. We will also help support customers as they look for new ways to experiment, remain competitive, meet consumer expectations, and develop new products and services on AWS that align with the new regulatory framework.

To learn more about our compliance, security programs and common privacy and data protection considerations, see AWS Compliance Programs and the dedicated AWS Compliance Center for Switzerland. As always, we value your feedback and questions; reach out to the AWS Compliance team through the Contact Us page.

If you have feedback about this post, submit comments in the Comments section below. If you have questions about this post, start a new thread on the Security, Identity, & Compliance re:Post or contact AWS Support.

Margo Cronin

Margo Cronin

Margo is an EMEA Principal Solutions Architect specializing in security and compliance. She is based out of Zurich, Switzerland. Her interests include security, privacy, cryptography, and compliance. She is passionate about her work unblocking security challenges for AWS customers, enabling their successful cloud journeys. She is an author of AWS User Guide to Financial Services Regulations and Guidelines in Switzerland.

Raphael Fuchs

Raphael Fuchs

Raphael is a Senior Security Solutions Architect based in Zürich, Switzerland, who helps AWS Financial Services customers meet their security and compliance objectives in the AWS Cloud. Raphael has a background as Chief Information Security Officer in the Swiss FSI sector and is an author of AWS User Guide to Financial Services Regulations and Guidelines in Switzerland.