It’s been an interesting few days for digital payments, blockchain finance and cryptocurrencies in Switzerland, with several companies and projects announcing developments.
At the tail end of last month, budding crypto bank Mt Pelerin said was applying for a Swiss fintech license, aiming to join the only recipient of that category so far – Yapeal. But more interesting still, was that Mt Pelerin held its first shareholder meeting on the blockchain.
Mt Pelerin is one of the most interesting blockchain start-ups that I’ve been tracking for some time. In 2018, it claimed to be the first company in Switzerland to issue shares in the form of digital tokens that are recognizable under Swiss law. On June 26, shareholders were, for the first time, able to wield those tokens to good effect by voting on agenda items.
The company said the AGM went without hitch with shareholders able to follow the event on their smartphones via their Bridge Wallets – a technology that Mt Pelerin plans to develop into an industry standard for token creation, distribution and management.
The main drawback for tokenized securities at present is their lack of liquidity. Holders can trade them over the counter, but a secondary market of stock exchanges that can handle the likes of digital shares are still works in progress.
Mt Pelerin says ownership of its shares are recognised by Swiss law. But as I’ve pointed out in previous newsletters, the law is currently being updated to adapt to the new world of digital asset trading. Until that process is complete, by the start of 2021 at the earliest, there remains scope for doubting whether blockchain shares have the same legal footing as normal company stocks.
On the digital payments front, fintech firm Neon has announced a deal with British financial services company Transferwise to allow Neon account holders to transfer their funds abroad at a lower cost. Bridging the two fintech companies is Hypotherkarbank Lenzburg that will handle the transactions over its Finstar open banking platform.
Credit Suisse has announced it will onboard Google Pay for its Swiss credit card clients from mid-August while Switzerland this week switched to QR payments for household bills, concluding a process by SIX Group that has taken a few years to bring online.
It may be a bit premature to predict the death of cash payments in Switzerland but the coronavirus pandemic appears also to have given digital payment systems a boost. “Over the last 12 months, the proportion of contactless card payments in Switzerland has more than doubled, while cash withdrawals from ATMs have declined. This proportion of contactless card payments is likely to continue rising sharply compared to cash payments, not least because of the pandemic,” said Credit Suisse.
Finally, the transaction bank InCore said this week that it is now offering banking services for clients of the giant cryptocurrency exchange Kraken. InCore will act as a bridge for investors who want to get into crypto or expand their portfolio.
InCore had previously announced a partnership with Maerki Baumann bank, which is no surprise given that InCore is a spin-off from the Zurich private bank, which itself is making a play in the digital assets sector. The gap between the traditional financial world and crypto is narrowing all the time.
I’m told there were efforts to get some major crypto exchanges up and running in Switzerland a couple of years ago, but these efforts were stymied by the financial regulator. Partnerships like InCore/Kraken may prove a useful workaround.