World’s 1st crypto banks get licenses in Switzerland

The Swiss financial regulator has granted capital market and securities dealer licenses to two blockchain companies, set to become the world’s first crypto banks.
The Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) has issued licenses to Zug-based SEBA Crypto AG and Zurich-headquartered Sygnum AG earlier this week, making them the first companies registered in Switzerland as broker-dealers with a blockchain focus. The companies will be able to issue, store, trade, and manage digital assets – namely bitcoin and ethereum – as well as convert fiat currencies such as Swiss francs, US dollars, and euros into the two cryptocurrencies.

The logo of Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority FINMA. File photo © Reuters / Ruben Sprich

They also plan to offer their investors custody, brokerage and tokenization services for their digital assets. Both companies, however, have yet to fulfil certain “secondary criteria” demanded by FINMA to become fully-operational Swiss banks. These criteria have not been disclosed to the public.

“We have been approached over the past few months by many parties who hold a lot of cryptocurrencies and look for a fully regulated bank. One of their biggest challenges is to find banking specialists to connect them to the real world, to pay their taxes, their employees’ salary,” Sygnum co-founder Mathias Imbach told Bloomberg, explaining the motivation for establishing a crypto bank. Sygnum, which is also headquartered in Singapore, now plans to apply for a banking license in the island nation as well.

“Being awarded the banking and securities dealer license from FINMA is a significant milestone, and an important step towards the institutionalization of the digital asset economy,” Manuel Krieger, CEO of Sygnum Switzerland said, as cited by Swissinfo.

In a separate move, FINMA, which oversees Switzerland’s financial system, this week issued new guidance on anti-money laundering (AML) requirements for blockchain-based companies, banning FINMA-supervised companies from dealing with unverified clients. In the guidance published on its website, the regulator stated that: “…Institutions supervised by FINMA […] send cryptocurrencies or other tokens to external wallets belonging to their own customers whose identity has already been verified and are only allowed to receive cryptocurrencies or tokens from such customers. [They] are thus not permitted to receive tokens from customers of other institutions or to send tokens to such customers.”

FINMA added that it will not allow the passing of tokens from unregulated wallets and will demand AML information for all parties.


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