Swiss Startup Raises $103 Million to Launch Cryptocurrency Bank
SEBA is reportedly headed by former UBS bankers — Guido Buehler as chief executive and Andreas Amschwand as chairman — and plans to apply for a banking and securities dealer license from Swiss financial market regulator FINMA. A license would allow the firm to conduct crypto trading and investments business for other banks and qualified investors.
Buehler told Reuters that SEBA aims to become a bridge between traditional banking and the cryptocurrency industry. The startup also intends to provide corporate financing, including consultations on Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) and other digital asset-related services to corporate clients. Amschwand commented on the project:
“In Switzerland we have commitment from various authorities to establish a comprehensive regulatory environment for the development of blockchain technology and the sustainable, stable growth of crypto assets.”
SEBA is purportedly planning to expand its operations into major financial hubs, starting with Zurich in 2019. Investors who financed SEBA include such firms as BlackRiver Asset Management and Hong Kong-based Summer Capital, along with other parties from Switzerland, Singapore, Malaysia, China and Hong Kong.
Earlier this month, the Swiss Bankers Association (SBA) issued basic guidelines for banks working with blockchain startups in order to prevent a mass crypto exodus from Switzerland due to regulatory arbitrage.
Per the scheme provided by SBA, blockchain firms without Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) should be treated like other small- and medium-sized companies. Firms with ICOs must follow strict rules and fall under the purview of Swiss anti-money laundering (AML) and know-your-customer (KYC) laws.
In August, the Maerki Baumann private bank began accepting crypto assets from payment received for services rendered, as well as those earned from crypto mining. Maerki Baumann noted that they are not ready to provide direct cryptocurrency investments, but will provide “experts” to clients interested in crypto investing.
In June, Hypothekarbank Lenzburg became the first bank in Switzerland to provide business accounts to blockchain and crypto-related fintech companies. However, the bank is reportedly very selective in accepting new customers, and as of June had taken on only two companies from the crypto industry.