Switzerland Considers Granting Crypto Businesses Access to Banking Services

Switzerland Considers Granting Crypto Businesses Access to Banking Services

Crypto companies based in Switzerland may receive access to regular banking services as early as this year. Political will and economic wisdom seem to be in place as some government officials and bankers are already working to resolve a serious issue. Swiss banks have been refusing accounts to firms from the growing crypto industry.

Also read: Swiss Crypto Company Acquires License to Distribute Funds to Investors

Banks Expected to Offer Services by the End of the Year

Switzerland Considers Granting Crypto Businesses Access to Banking ServicesIn terms of crypto development, Switzerland is now standing at a crossroad. With very few exceptions, most of its banks have been refusing banking services to a growing number of startups residing in the country’s Crypto Valley and this is beginning to suffocate growth in the fintech sector.

Luckily, far-sighted policy makers and seasoned financiers have already pulled their sleeves up and are working to break the deadlock. One of them is Heinz Tännler, the finance director of the canton of Zug, home of the Swiss Crypto Valley. Speaking to the Financial Times, Tännler said he expected Swiss politicians and regulators to remove the obstacles in the coming months, which would allow crypto companies based in the country to operate with banks just like any other business. He added:

We hope to clarify relationships by the end of the year at the latest. Time is pressing – other jurisdictions such as Malta and Singapore are very active and making a lot of effort to attract these companies. The lack of access to bank services is a significant competitive disadvantage.

According to Mr. Tännler, the country’s central bank, financial supervisor and federal government “are willing to help.” He also stressed that “We have to push certain national institutions to resolve this problem quickly and effectively, but that now seems to be going well.”

Traditional financial institutions are increasingly under pressure to offer crypto startups regular services like bank accounts. According to Swissinfo, the bottleneck has become acute since the ICO craze brought $1.46 billion to Switzerland last year. A recent report by the Crypto Valley Association revealed that token sales through May this year have attracted nearly double the funds raised in 2017.

Mounting Pressure to Break the Deadlock

Switzerland Considers Granting Crypto Businesses Access to Banking ServicesRepresentatives of the industry have warned that if crypto businesses are not provided with access to banking services they may start looking for better conditions elsewhere.

“Starving startups of bank accounts is akin to killing the goose that laid the golden egg,” said blockchain and cryptocurrency expert Guido Schmitz-Krummacher, former director of the Tezos foundation and advisor to projects like Cardano. He believes that the failure to provide a reliable environment for startups will harm the reputation of the Crypto Valley in Zug.

“I am already seeing projects choose Singapore, Malta and Gibraltar because they can’t get a bank account in Switzerland. They will be followed by projects already established in Switzerland unless the banks and politicians address this topic.” The lack of access to normal banking services is worrying, according to Alain Kunz, chief executive of Coinlab Capital, a startup offering blockchain asset management services. “You can do a lot with crypto but you can’t pay rents and salaries,” he told the FT.

Switzerland Considers Granting Crypto Businesses Access to Banking Services

Some Swiss politicians and bankers have already heard these worries. In January, economy minister Johann Schneider-Ammann shared a vision of Switzerland becoming a “Crypto Nation.” His colleague, finance minister Ueli Maurer went a step further by forming a working group with representatives of the Swiss Bankers Association (SBA), the financial regulator and the central bank in an attempt to find a solution. The SBA has also set up a taskforce and is planning to establish a set of standards for ICO startups in order to simplify the process of opening bank accounts.

“Both we as an association and the banks have an interest in business relations in this growth area. Banks see the potential that the blockchain technology offers for their industry and Switzerland as a financial and technology hub,” the SBA said in a written statement quoted by Swissinfo. Welcoming its actions, the Crypto Valley Association (CVA) said it anticipated “a progressive broadening of offerings by a number of Swiss banks.”

Switzerland Considers Granting Crypto Businesses Access to Banking ServicesVery few legacy institutions in Switzerland have so far declared readiness to offer services to the 200 Zug-based blockchain and crypto firms. Among them are Neuchâtel Cantonal Bank and Neue Helvetische Bank. They were joined recently by Hypothekarbank Lenzburg, which announced this month it was accepting cryptocurrency related businesses as account holders. In the meantime, some Swiss startups have opened bank accounts in neighboring Liechtenstein using the services of local banks such as Frick and Alpinum. Others have decided to enter the sector of traditional financial services through partnerships.

Do you expect Swiss banks to offer crypto companies unrestricted access to banking services? Share your thoughts on the subject in the comments section below.

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Bitcoin in Brief Wednesday: Zug Tests Blockchain to Decide on Fireworks and Digital IDs

Bitcoin in Brief Wednesday: Zug Tests Blockchain to Decide on Fireworks and IDs

The city of Zug, home of the Swiss Crypto Valley, will invite its residents to take part in an experimental blockchain-based vote. They are expected to share opinions on several questions of local importance, including the fireworks display during the annual Lakeside Festival and the use of digital IDs to borrow books and pay parking fees. This and other fintech and crypto-related stories from the Alpine nation and other corners of Europe are featured in today’s edition of Bitcoin in Brief.   

Also read: Bitcoin in Brief Tuesday: POT Saves World, Coinbase Pumps ETC, Binance Wants EUR

Zug Experiments with Blockchain-Based Vote

Bitcoin in Brief Wednesday: Zug Tests Blockchain to Decide on Fireworks and IDsAuthorities in the Swiss city of Zug plan to ask local residents to participate in a consultative blockchain-based vote this month utilizing the city’s electronic ID system. They will be able to vote via their smartphones by downloading and installing an app. The experimental vote will be held between June 25 and July 1. Citizens will be asked if they are in favor of setting alight fireworks during the annual Lakeside Festival, and whether they think digital IDs should be used to borrow books from the library, pay parking fees, and for identification on regular referendums.

According to Swissinfo, the results of the vote will be non-binding. Nevertheless, the initiative, which aims to test whether blockchain can be used on a broader scale, highlights again the positive attitude of Swiss authorities towards cryptocurrencies and the underlying technology. The canton of Zug, dubbed Switzerland’s Crypto Valley, has become home to many fintech startups and even established crypto companies like the Chinese giant Bitmain, which has opened an office there.

Bitcoin in Brief Wednesday: Zug Tests Blockchain to Decide on Fireworks and IDsFor some time now, Zug has been accepting cryptocurrency payments for municipal services, including company registrations using bitcoin and ether. The city introduced its eID system to provide citizens with digital access to council services. The pilot phase of the project started last fall. The system is based on blockchain technology.

New Swiss Body to Simplify Capital Markets

In another example of Switzerland’s serious approach to fintech innovations, leading representatives of the country’s financial, technological, academic and legal sectors have recently formed the new Capital Markets and Technology Association (CMTA) to facilitate the use of blockchain in financial markets. In a press release, they noted that “the blockchain technology has the potential to reduce the complexity of the capital markets system and lower the barrier of entry for startups.”

According to CMTA’s founders, the lack of legal certainty is slowing and can potentially compromise development in the field. They hope to facilitate access to funding for new businesses by defining a set of industry-supported open standards. These should ultimately contribute to value creation throughout the economy said Jacques Iffland, CMTA’s chair and partner at Lenz & Staehelin, the largest Swiss law firm.

Bitcoin in Brief Wednesday: Zug Tests Blockchain to Decide on Fireworks and IDs

Swissquote Bank Ltd, a leader in online banking, and Temenos, which specializes in banking software, are also behind the initiative. CMTA promises to work to create toolkits that can be used by new or established companies, businesses and startups to access funding and raise capital securely and efficiently, using new technologies and leveraging digitalization. The association is based in Geneva.

Irish Blockchain Startup Delivering Aid to Refugees Raises €1m

Bitcoin in Brief Wednesday: Zug Tests Blockchain to Decide on Fireworks and IDsAn Irish startup, using blockchain to facilitate the distribution of humanitarian aid, has raised an estimated €1 million from investors, according to industry sources quoted by The Irish Times. The Dublin-based Aid:tech is working in refugee camps, often in hotspots like the Middle East. On Wednesday, Enterprise Ireland and SGInnovate, the venture capital arm of the Singaporean development authority, announced simultaneous investments in the Irish company. This is the first time both state-backed organizations have allocated funds to support a blockchain business, the Irish daily notes. Amsterdam-based Blue Parasol Investments and Tin Fu Fund, a closed private equity fund managed by Shenzhen Capital Group, also took part in the funding round.

Aid:tech aims to increase transparency in the distribution of aid, welfare, remittances, donations, and healthcare services through digitizing their delivery using blockchain technology on its platform. According to the company, only a fraction of the estimated €306 billion (~$360 billion) transferred each year by non-governmental aid organizations is currently delivered via transparent systems which, the startup claims, are extremely expensive to administer. The blockchain technology employed by the Irish firm would allow all international aid to be accounted for, including the distribution of medicine, food and other essentials, the publication details.

Government-Backed Platform to Promote Ireland as a Blockchain Hub

In an attempt to highlight Ireland’s capabilities in the blockchain ecosystem, authorities in Dublin have launched a new government-backed platform. Blockchain Ireland, founded in partnership with a young company called Consensys, aims to create conditions for greater cooperation between startups working in the sector, both on national and international level. The platform was launched by the Irish Blockchain Expert Group and backed by Enterprise Ireland, the Irish Department of Finance, leading members of the country’s blockchain industry and representatives from a number of academic institutions.

Bitcoin in Brief Wednesday: Zug Tests Blockchain to Decide on Fireworks and IDs

The online platform is a source of useful information about the Irish blockchain ecosystem. It will be used to promote the country as a blockchain hub by highlighting the Irish technology sector and business environment which turn Ireland into an ideal location for blockchain-enabled business, Silicon Republic reports. The services it will be offering include providing information on setting up a new company and support for blockchain projects in Ireland. Its activities, however, will stretch beyond Irish borders. Blockchain Ireland will be working to develop the European and international blockchain ecosystem as well.

What are your thoughts on today’s topics in Bitcoin in Brief? Let us know in the comments below.

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