The Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) handed out provisional bank licenses and those of securities brokers to the companies SEBA and Sygnum. This will allow them to become the first ‘cryptocurrency banks’ in the world.
In particular, SEBA and Sygnum will be able to issue, store, market and manage digital assets such as bitcoin and ethereum, convert fiat money such as Swiss francs, Singaporean and US dollars, as well as euros into cryptocurrencies. However, in order to start exercising these functions, companies will have to meet certain secondary criteria required by FINMA. Details about these criteria are unknown.
“Many people who own a lot of cryptocurrencies and look for a fully regulated bank have addressed us in the past few months. One of their biggest challenges is finding bank specialists that connect them to the real world, and help pay taxes and wages,” the co-founder of Sygnum, Mathias Imbach, told Bloomberg to explain the reason that led him to establish a ‘cryptocurrency bank’.
In turn, the company’s executive director, Manuel Krieger, stressed that the granting of licenses by FINMA is “a significant event and an important step” towards the institutionalization of digital assets. Now, his company, which is based in Zurich, plans to apply for a bank license to perform the same activities in Singapore.
“Cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin have been banned in several countries as they are potential instruments that help commit crimes related to money laundering” is a myth usually heard in the media. FINMA published on its website a new guide with requirements regarding the fight against money laundering for companies specializing in ‘blockchain’.
“Institutions supervised by FINMA are only allowed to send and receive cryptocurrencies or other tokens to external portfolios belonging to consumers whose identity has already been verified,” the statement said .
In addition, the Swiss regulator added that it will not allow to transfer tokens to unregulated accounts. In recent years, the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority has tried to provide a blockchain-based infrastructure to organize the trade of new digital assets. In turn, the Swiss stock market operator SIX plans to launch a new platform for similar purposes next year.
Translated by JRE/EF