‘Relaxed’ Swiss license allows fintech startups to accept public deposits

The Swiss financial regulator has issued fresh guidelines for fintech startups, giving leeway to licensees to accept up to CHF100 million ($100.1 million) in public deposits, in a radical move designed to boost innovation in the sector.

The move comes as part of the new Banking Act, which has been designed in part to create more favourable conditions for fintech businesses, including expanding the options for crowd-lending models within a regulatory sandbox environment.

The guidelines are part of a wider strategy of supporting the crypto sector by the Federal Council of the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority, which aims to boost Switzerland’s profile as a global destination for crypto and fintech startups.

Crucially, the new guidelines give crypto businesses the ability to accept deposits from the public without the need for the same authorisations as a bank, enabling them to explore innovative models without the full range of compliance expectations.

According to a statement from FINMA, which will oversee firms in the regulatory sandbox and is responsible for issuing the new licenses, the measures will begin to come into effect at the turn of the year. It explained, “With the new measure, companies with special authorisation can accept public funds of up to CHF100 million from 1 January 2019, provided they neither invest nor pay interest on these funds.”

The statement goes on to reference amendments to the Bank Ordinance (BankO), which will come into force in April 2019, noting, “In the BankO, the sandbox will additionally be extended to include crowdlending business models, whereby public funds up to a total amount of CHF1 million can one day be brokered not only for commercial and industrial purposes but also for private consumption.”

The fintech license is aimed at startups looking to explore models of taking deposits, without investing or paying interest on those deposits.

The policy is designed to help cement the reputation of Switzerland and the city of Zug as a haven for cryptocurrency innovation, with an already established and booming crypto sector in the country.  

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