The Swiss Finance Minister, Federal Councilor Ueli Maurer, has set-up a working group under the leadership of the Swiss Banking Association (SBA) to develop recommendations on how banks should deal with blockchain companies.
Heinz Tännler, the Financial Director of Zug, had complained in a statement earlier this week of difficulties blockchain companies face when it comes to opening bank accounts.
“It must not be that Switzerland loses an innovative industry because it makes payment transactions impossible,” Tännler said, warning blockchain companies might leave if the matter is not addressed.
He was joined by Ernst Stocker, Zurich’s Financial Director, who reached out to the finance minister. Maurer in turn called a meeting.
In attendance were representatives of the Swiss National Bank (SNB), the State Secretariat for International Financial Affairs (SIF), the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (Finma), the SBA, the mortgage bank Lenzburg and the cantons of Zurich and Zug.
The result of the meeting is this working group which is now to come up with recommendations on how banks should treat blockchain companies where it concerns banking services.
Gianluca Giancola, Co-founder of the Zug-based blockchain-powered loyalty ecosystem qiibee, says:
“This is a crucial step in the right direction for Switzerland in terms of consistency and support for blockchain companies.
In recent years, the canton of Zug has established itself as a forward-thinking hub for all things blockchain. While banks, on the other hand, have been naturally more conservative and risk-averse, and have thus hindered blockchain companies’ ability to easily open bank accounts.”
This is the first time, as far as we are aware, that long standing complaints in this space regarding what some call as an anti-competitive move by banks, is being addressed at such a high level.
The closest Britain came to it, when they were waving the crypto flag, was to murmur in a long report that implicitly suggested banks are acting anti-competitivley.
They never did much, as far as we are aware, to address what is a very serious accusation, albeit implicitly made. For Switzerland, however, it looks like a different matter.
Although the working group is seemingly being led by effectively bankers, the Swiss economy has benefited by the organic establishment of a Crypto Valley in Zug where the Ethereum Foundation is based.
They’ve been keen to encourage tech innovation and thus potentially external investment in the economy, with some suggesting that part of Estonia’s and Lithuania’s economic growth was due to a boom in Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs).
Britain too rose to become a fintech centre due to significant support by the government which encouraged tech innovation as applied in finance.
Banks, however, may not like change very much as they are happy to keep making billions in profits through fees and other means, so whether the Swiss will manage to twist their arm and open their barriers or otherwise, remains to be seen.