The Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) has certified two Blockchain institutions. This makes SEBA and Sygnum the first crypto banks to be licensed by the Swiss regulator. Thanks to the banking and securities trader approvals, the firms can now sell their services to both corporate and professional users.

The news release dated 26th August 2019 by SEBA reified its operations. SEBA affirmed that the license would come in handy in uniting the digital market with conventional banks. According to Guido Bühler, the Chief Executive Officer at SEBA, this development will link old and new industries.

What this means for SEBA and Sygnum

According to Bühler, it has taken only 17 months for SEBA to develop into a 21st century bank. Aside from consolidating traditional and digital property transactions, the firm also plans to introduce services like custody storage, wealth administration, as well as trading and liquidity control. What’s more, it will engage local Blockchain organizations in creating accounts for both fiat and virtual assets.

SEBA is also working on a trading service. In a similar partnership with Julius Baer, the platform’s launch will go live in October 2019. This collaboration will provide advanced solutions to manage digital assets. According to SEBA’s council chairperson Andreas Amschwand, this permit is not only an achievement for the company but it will also transform banking in the Blockchain sector. However, the permit is only valid when SEBA meets FINMA’s secondary guidelines. Failure to do so will lead to the cancellation of the license.

Similarly, the license will help Sygnum register and deal with tokenized assets. In a bid to create a reliable digital ecosystem, the crypto service partnered with capital market heavyweight Deutsche Borse and tech giant Swisscom early this year. Sygnum is targeting offerings like Ethereum, Swiss Franc coins, and Bitcoin. As explained by the company’s Switzerland boss Manuel Krieger, this clearance is useful to the growth of the digital economy.

Sygnum aims to increase liquidity and minimize capital costs by creating asset tokens from the available financial properties. Sygnum’s Co-founder and  Singapore executive Mathias Imbach, on the other hand, says the permit will enhance digital asset banking through developing safer customer-friendly products. As such, Sygnum will start taking virtual asset products to the market. Since the absence of institutional-grade control has delayed crypto asset adoption, Chairperson Luka Müller-Studer argues that the license will methodologically incorporate virtual properties into traditional banking. This will thereby lead to the introduction of distributed ledger technology (DLT) flexibility to develop a new asset class.

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New Blockchain Regulations

The licenses follow FINMA’s recent controls on Blockchain payments. To minimize crypto usage for illegal activities, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) compiled a document regulating digital market participants such as trading services, exchanges, and coin wallets. Although FINMA sees the innovative capability of emerging technologies, it maintains that financial laws must apply to all service providers regardless of their underlying structures.

The regulator is particularly concerned about enforcing anti-money laundering (AML) laws. Therefore, FINMA requires that these companies confirm their customers’ and beneficial owner identities, analyze business relationships and notify the Money Laundering Reporting Office Switzerland (MROS) in case they suspect money laundering.

These laws require customer and beneficiary details to accompany payment orders. By so doing, the financial agency can compare a sender’s name with its sanction records. As such, the intermediary will know whether to cancel payments in case of a mismatch. Because of the need for tech-neutral explanations, these provisions also include Blockchain-based services. Note that communication isn’t restricted to Blockchain. Information can still be transferred using alternative channels. Like bank payments, FATF demands that client and beneficiary particulars be sent with token transfers. This will eliminate anonymous transactions involving states or sanctioned individuals.

When a FINMA-monitored organization cannot transfer the necessary details in payment transactions, buying and selling is only allowed for external wallets if their owners are the firm’s customers. However, the wallet’s possession must be established technically. The law also permits transactions between customers from the same establishment. Even so, third-party wallet transactions are only legal if the identities of the outsider and the beneficial owner are verified. What’s more, the wallet’s ownership should be confirmed using technical methods.

Compared to other nations, Switzerland is more welcoming to crypto innovation. Investors are migrating from regions like the U.S and Europe citing harsh regulations. United States-based Facebook, for example, has chosen Switzerland as the base for running its Libra cryptocurrency.

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