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Switzerland Issued Full-Fledged Licenses to Two Resident Blockchain Companies

Vsevolod Gnetii

The Swiss Supervisory Authority, the banking sector regulator (FINMA), issued the first two licenses, one banking and one trading, to blockchain-based operators. When issuing licenses, it was specifically stipulated that business models based on blockchain technology should demonstrate transparency and commitment to the fight against money laundering and the financing of terrorism.

A banking license to trade in securities implies a denial of anonymity. FINMA and other supervisory authorities in the financial sector have always paid special attention to cryptocurrencies and related technologies, which are still considered fertile ground for potential money laundering and terrorist financing.

In order to counter anonymity in the payment transaction system, an official statement circulated by FINMA clarifies that anti-money laundering (AML) rules that establish transparency of all information about the payer and beneficiary of financial resources should be interpreted in accordance with the principle of “technological neutrality” and therefore apply to services provided in the blockchain sector.

Thus, in accordance with the guidelines established by the FINMA supervisory authority, institutions subject to regulation will be able to send cryptocurrencies or other tokens only to their clients' external wallets, which are already properly identified, and only these will be able to accept cryptocurrencies or tokens.

On the other hand, transfer to or from an external wallet from a third party will be allowed only if the FINMA-supervised institution has previously identified a third party, if it has established a beneficiary, if it has established the competence of a third party to manage the external wallet involved in the operation.

FINMA’s guidelines are consistent with GAFI’s provisions aimed at applying the current anti-money laundering rules to service providers in the blockchain sector, i.e. foreign exchange companies, wallet providers and platforms for trading and exchanging digital cryptocurrencies.

However, FINMA does not intend to reject the innovative potential of the new technologies for the financial markets and, taking this into account, has announced that it has granted permission to conduct banking operations and securities trading to two financial service providers, Seba Crypto SA, based in Lugo and Sygnum Ltd, Zurich who can offer services to institutional and professional clients.

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