Local banks register an increased number of partnership applications

​Crypto companies from the US begin to open accounts in Swiss banks in droves

22.03.2023 - 11:45

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3 min

Crypto firms are scrambling to find institutions to bank with after the collapse of Signature Bank and Silvergate Capital, two lenders that were friendly to digital currency companies.

Some of these companies have turned to crypto-friendly Swiss banks, flooding them with requests for banking services, according to multiple industry insiders who spoke to CNBC.

Typically, the crypto industry has found it difficult to access banking services from traditional lenders, who don’t want to touch anything that does not have a clear regulatory framework. This has included blockchain and crypto firms, who have instead had to turn to specialist banks.

But with two of the biggest lenders, along with SVB, now out of the picture, cryptocurrency firms have turned to Switzerland, which has sought to market itself as a crypto hub with solid regulation.

“We have been inundated with requests,” said an advisor at a private Swiss bank, who preferred to remain anonymous due to the sensitive nature of the matter.

The advisor said on the Monday after Silvergate and Signature Bank’s winddown this month, the private lender had more requests in a single day than ever before.

“It is just nuts,” the advisor said.

The enquiries have been coming despite turmoil in the Swiss banking sector after Credit Suisse

teetered on the brink and was eventually acquired by UBS in a regulator-brokered deal to stem contagion to other lenders. The episode has put Switzerland’s reputation as a stable financial hub on the line but it has not deterred crypto companies.

The advisor said the “problem is still there” in terms of crypto firms still needing banking services, adding that people are seeing the Credit Suisse incident as an “unfortunate single risk” with an individual bank.

U.S., non-Europe firms look to Switzerland

Dominic Castley, chief marketing officer at Sygnum, one of Switzerland’s biggest banks that is focused on servicing digital asset companies, said it is seeing an influx of enquiries.

“Over the past weeks as the current banking industry events have unfolded, we have seen a significant increase in onboarding enquiries from various international locations,” Castley said, adding that Sygnum’s location in both Switzerland and Singapore is attractive to companies.

Sygnum has a Swiss banking license and a capital markets services license in Singapore, bringing it under the purview of regulators.

One Switzerland-based advisor to financial technology companies, who also preferred to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of the situation, said that has been “a lot more inflow from U.S. customers” to Swiss banks.

An executive at a European trading firm, meanwhile, said their company had been seeing “non-Europe based entities” making enquiries for new banking relationships. The executive, who wished to remain anonymous due to the sensitive nature of the topic, said these firms include crypto-focused hedge funds and venture capital firms.

Castley said interest is “mainly coming from investors, asset managers and blockchain projects looking to diversify their crypto investments with a trusted Swiss partner like Sygnum Bank.”

Switzerland’s other major lender that deals with the digital assets industry — SEBA Bank — did not respond to a request for comment when contacted by CNBC.

Switzerland’s crypto-friendly stance

Part of why companies are seeking out Swiss banks is the country’s regulation which is welcoming to cryptocurrency firms in need of a stable operating environment.

The country has created what locals dub “Crypto Valley” in the region of Zug, just outside the Swiss capital Zurich, where start-ups and more established digital currency firms have set up shop.

In 2021, the government introduced a regulation on companies using so-called “distributed electronic register technology” or blockchain, which originated with the cryptocurrency bitcoin but has since evolved.

Thierry Arys Ruiz, CEO of Swiss-based blockchain firm AgAu.io, said Switzerland is “more stable” and there is “more certainty to what the rules are.”

The anonymous advisor at the private Swiss bank said that companies are coming to Switzerland to be in a “safer jurisdiction” for crypto regulation.

This material is taken from the website https://www.cnbc.com.

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