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 Blockchain and crypto firms in Switzerland aren't welcome at Swiss banks.

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PostSubject: Blockchain and crypto firms in Switzerland aren't welcome at Swiss banks.   Sat Sep 15, 2018 6:47 pm

Blockchain and crypto firms in Switzerland aren't welcome at Swiss banks. Now, a small regional lender is stealing a march on its bigger rivals by opening up to the budding digital token and tech sector.

Despite the crypto boom in Switzerland, firms involved in digital tokens or blockchain have long struggled to open accounts with traditional finance providers – banks, as finews.com  reported last year. Crypto broker Bitcoin Suisse told finews.com that it received «amazing harassment» from banks before eventually heading for Liechtenstein's more receptive bankers.

Swiss banks cite strict anti-money laundering rules and so-called «know your customer» guidelines, as well as the legal quagmire surrounding projects like formerly embattled Tezos, in shunning crypto business. The refusal throws a spanner in official Switzerland's efforts to become a «crypto nation» and attract leading industry providers.

Now, regional lender Hypothekarbank Lenzburg is opening the door to crypto and blockchain firms in Switzerland, CEO Marianne Wildi told finews.com: «It's a question of credibility for us, as a bank with a technology-based strategy of cooperating with fintech firms, to work together with the young crypto and blockchain scene in Switzerland,» she said.

«Open Banking» Play

Under Wildi, the mid-sized bank with a history of mortgage lending has made a name for its keen interest in digital solutions. «Hypi» Lenzburg is the only bank in Switzerland to practice «open banking» by opening its application program interfaces, or APIs, to outside fintech firm. The bank's proprietary core banking system and modular set-up is already used by several of its banking rivals.

Wildi, who trained as a computer programmer and has argued that Switzerland should adopt a crypto Swiss franc, said the bank evaluated potential compliance risks before deciding to open up to blockchain and crypto firms, and had also informed Swiss overseer Finma of its decision. Hypi Lenzburg is selective in letting clients in, she noted: two crypto clients onboarded in recent weeks underwent a rigorous due diligence process.

Cryptos Pay More

The bank has hired Geissbuehler, Weber & Partner, compliance experts, with the due diligence. «They have a lot of expertise in the crypto sector and will analyze client requests in terms of their legal background and potential impact for us, giving our management a recommendation,» Wildi said.

The bank plans to pass on the cost of the due diligence to clients – meaning crypto accounts will be more expensive than a regular corporate Swiss bank account. Hypi Lenzburg said it views the expansion into crypto less as a lucrative new avenue of business than consistent pursuit of its digital strategy.

Bank Frick in Liechtenstein and Falcon Private Bank, the Abu Dhabi-owned wealth manager which has put crypto at the center of its new strategy following a major scandal, are among the few banks to welcome crypto firms.
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