The wealth management industry has always found itself as a major darling in Switzerland. Housing about 27% of the global offshore wealth, Switzerland has always been a sort of money hub of the world. Owing to their wonderful financial market, it is hardly a surprise to see them flourishing on the digital currency front too. The world has been very harsh towards digital currencies and several countries, even till date, have been apprehensive about them. However, Switzerland was one of the first countries to adopt digital currencies and the flourishing ICO (Initial Coin Offering – an unregulated means to raise funds for new cryptocurrency ventures) market is helping Switzerland accelerate fast towards the status of a ‘Crypto Nation’. It’s great involvement in the subject matter and quick moves in this fintech industry has brought Switzerland at the epicentre of cryptocurrency revolution.
Here are a few insights about the cryptocurrency scenario in Switzerland:
Switzerland is fasting emerging as an ICO hub and this flourishment is largely owed to the great variety of rich investors and technical specialists, something that has always been Switzerland’s strong point. Economic experts and big financial players believe that Switzerland would be one of the strongest value holding contender in the future when digital currency becomes more mainstream.
Not just digital currencies, Switzerland is also emerging as a great ecosystem for blockchains and other distributed ledger technologies. With the recent the implementation of forward-looking regulation by the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority, Oliver Bussmann, the founder of the Crypto Valley Association said, ‘Switzerland is emerging as one of the world’s leading ecosystems for crypto, Blockchain, and distributed ledger technologies’.
The First Bitcoin ATM was set up in Zurich four years ago in 2014. Moreover, the Swiss national rail company has since 2016, been providing the possibility of purchasing Bitcoins at over 1,000 distributors across the country.
Zug, a small town a little while away from Zurich, has always been an economic hub owing to large investment firms, pharmaceutical companies and commodity trading groups. This place has unofficially become “Crypto Valley”, set up in 2013 their explicit aim is to draw startups dabbling in virtual currency technologies.
Zug’s Crypto Valley claims to be receiving 5 – 10 queries per day from startups that work in the blockchain and digital currency sector. To flourish and increase the popularity of digital currency and educate the people about how it can be used for practical purposes too, Zug started accepting in 2016, Bitcoins as a legal payment mode for council services.
According to the Swiss financial watchdog Finma, out of the world’s six biggest Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) last year, four took place in Switzerland.
There has been a lot of healthy competition in Switzerland for further advancement of digital currencies. Accordingly, the southern Italian speaking Swiss town of Chiasso, has been in healthy competition with Zug so as to establish itself as a “CryptoPolis”. It has started accepting bitcoin payments for some taxes.
Finma recently warned people against the threats of money laundering in digital currencies stating that, ‘in a decentralised blockchain-based system, in which assets can be transferred anonymously and without any regulated intermediaries.’ Owing to the sharp increase in the number of ICOs in Switzerland, regulators outlined regulation guidelines for these fundraising schemes saying, ‘Creating transparency at this time is important given the dynamic market and the high level of demand’.
Vontobel, one of Switzerland’s largest banks, created the first structured bitcoin product which is basically a tracker that lets an investor not to actually purchase any digital currency directly but to make an investment in its shifting value. Despite the involvement of some big names in the crypto pool, there still are several big names like UBS and Credit Swisse who have decided to keep their distance since they do not consider it valuable or sustainable in the long run.
Falcon Private Bank, a Swiss private banking boutique headquartered in Zurich, has offered asset management services for a huge range of digital currencies (including bitcoin and ethereum).
Switzerland’s openness to business innovation is another huge reason why it has been so successful on the digital currency front. Martin Eckert at MME has mentioned and applauded Swiss regulators to be one of the few ones who actually have good and deep understanding of the subject matter i.e. of the underlying technology and its complete working.
The Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation, deals with potential criminal infringements. Its Editor in Chief, Don Front, recently made a statement to Bloomberg News stating that is is possible for people with ill will to try and use these digital currencies in a way similar to Swiss accounts which would help them evade taxes. Accordingly, the IRS-CI has recently set up a team of special agents that would be investigating and providing proof of whether or not these digital currencies are being used to cheat the tax authority.
2017 was a big year for Swiss based ICOs. In the whole year, these ICOs raised about $550 million in funding. This makes up for almost 14% of the global ICO market, which stands at around $4 billion. The Zug based company, Tezos ICO raised around $232 million in July 2017.
Switzerland’s approach to the entire digital currency market has been described as pragmatic by some and opportunistic to a certain extent by a few people. Kari Larsen, an attorney at Reed Smith in New York, has international experience in managing global commercial and legal risks. She reportedly stated that simply welcoming without looking where the consumer and market appropriate is rather a short sighted approach by Switzerland since it could soon face competition from places like Gibraltar which would eventually lead to damaging competition to attract ICOs.