Business 6 November 2018Gerald Fenech
Switzerland clamps down on banks trading in crypto: report
The situation in Switzerland got a whole lot more difficult for cryptocurrency and banking in general, as the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) is getting tough on those banks who want to trade in crypto assets.
On Monday, Swissinfo.ch reported that the financial regulator has described its stance on how financial institutions should weigh crypto assets.
In a letter to EXPERTsuisse, a copy of which was obtained by the Swiss news outlet, FINMA noted that banks and securities dealers should assign “a flat risk weight of 800% to cover market and credit risks” against crypto assets. This means that with the current BTC price of $6,000, institutions would have to value the coin at no less than $48,000 as a buffer level. EXPERTsuisse is a group representing Swiss trustees and accountants.
The guidance is on the high end of the range and on the level of hedge funds, according to the report, meaning FINMA considers crypto assets to be volatile.
Swissinfo.ch reported that FINMA has also set the crypto-trading cap at 4% of a bank’s total capital, noting that banks must report to the authority if they reach that upper limit.
While the letter offers insight into the regulator’s stance and outreach on this issue, it hasn’t yet released official rules for how Swiss banks should deal with cryptocurrencies under the Basel III international banking regulations, according to the report. The financial regulator has already issued an official guidance for initial coin offerings (ICOs) in February, after it received a number of enquiries on the matter.
At the time, FINMA said the applicability of regulation to cryptos would be determined on a case-by-case basis—a stance that is similar to the one taken by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in July.
According to FINMA, “asset tokens” fall under securities, meaning there are securities and civil law requirements for trading such tokens. It noted, “FINMA regards asset tokens as securities, which means that there are securities law requirements for trading in such tokens, as well as civil law requirements under the Swiss Code of Obligations.”
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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