Business 8 August 2018

Dan Taylor

Maerki Baumann breaks ranks to offer Swiss crypto firms banking access

Swiss banking group Maerki Baumann has become only the second bank in Switzerland to extend services to the cryptocurrency sector, providing much-needed access to banking services for crypto businesses operating in the country.

The private bank, based in Zurich, is reported to have agreed to form banking partnerships with cryptocurrency businesses, joining Falcon Private Bank in providing services to the cryptocurrency sector, according to financial publication International Investment.

Despite active development around cryptocurrency in Switzerland, mainstream financial institutions have so far proved reticent to support blockchain and cryptocurrency businesses.

However, following the move from Falcon to enter the space, including a decision to launch cryptocurrency asset management services last year, Maerki Baumann is now “keeping an eye” on crypto as an asset class, with a view to becoming more actively involved.

Clarifying its position on cryptocurrency, Maerki Baumann previously said it was “generally prepared” to work with businesses dealing in cryptocurrency, noting, “Maerki Baumann is keeping an eye on the development of these investment instruments and the corresponding progress on the regulatory side, without looking to gain exposure to this young asset class at the present time. This is true not just of direct investments in cryptocurrencies, but also investments in the necessary technology for the trading and custody of these instruments.”

“Maerki Baumann is generally prepared to accept funds generated through cryptocurrencies, be it through speculative transactions or in the form of payment received for services provided or from mining profits,” the Swiss bank said in an earlier statement.

The move coincides with reports of concerns amongst Swiss regulators over the loss of a number of firms from the country’s “Crypto Valley,” with lack of banking facilities one of the key reasons for relocation out of the country.

Their departure coincides with the closure of two smaller banks serving the sector, leaving a lack of banking provision for cryptocurrency businesses.

As a result, Switzerland has been losing ground to markets like Malta and Gibraltar, each with their own emerging blockchain and cryptocurrency hubs supported by favourable regulation and a more supportive banking ecosystem.

Regulators will hope the decision from Maerki Baumann to open up to cryptocurrencies will help stem the tide, and allow Switzerland to regain its reputation as an important centre for cryptocurrency development.

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (SegWit) chain are referenced as BTC coins; tokens on the Bitcoin Cash ABC chain are referenced as BCH, BCH-ABC or BAB coins.

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