FINMA

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Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA)
Finma.png
Founded 2009
Headquarters Bern, Switzerland
Key People Mark Branson, CEO
Employees 501-1000
Twitter @FINMA_media
LinkedIn Profile
Website FINMA Homepage

The Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) is Switzerland's financial markets regulator.[1]

Overview

FINMA was founded in 2009 by three Swiss institutions: the Swiss Federal Banking Commission (SFBC), the Federal Office of Private Insurance (FOPI), and the Anti-Money Laundering Control Authority (AMLCO). The establishment of FINMA was an attempt to consolidate the responsibility of supervising the Swiss financial markets into a single entity.[2]

FINMA is responsible for monitoring banks, insurance companies, stock exchanges, and other market participants in Switzerland, as well as enforcing Swiss financial markets laws.[3]

Cryptocurrency

Switzerland is considered to be a crypto-friendly nation for the most part; Johann Schneider-Ammann, the country's economics minister, claims that Switzerland wants "to be the crypto nation." In February 2018, FINMA released a set of guidelines for local ICOs to help clarify when and how they should observe Swiss AML and securities laws.

The Canton of Zug in northern Switzerland is a popular location for cryptocurrency startups. One reason for this may be that financial services companies seeking to do business in Switzerland are usually required to either be a member of a self-regulatory organization (SRO) or be approved by FINMA. For a time, FINMA specified on its website that "the use of bitcoins as a means of payment is not state-controlled," so technically those trading bitcoin for one reason or another were not required to have a license to do so.[4]

Under FINMA's new regulatory framework for cryptocurrencies and ICOs, crypto companies are only required to be licensed by FINMA if the services they offer fall under one of three categories: payments, utilities, or assets.[5]

ICO Regulation

According to FINMA's official guidelines, there are three types of ICOs, based on the nature of the services their digital tokens confer:[6][7]

Payment ICO Utility ICO Asset ICO
Tokens can function as a means of payment over time and have no further functions or links to other development projects Tokens give users access to a digital service Tokens pay dividends, interest, give rights to a share of company revenue
Must comply with AML regulations; not regulated as securities Regulated as securities Regulated as equities, bonds, or derivatives

Crypto Exodus

Two Swiss banks, including Zuercher Kantonalbank (ZKB), closed numerous accounts in 2018 for engaging in cryptocurrency-related activities. As a result of this, a large number of crypto startups began leaving the Canton of Zug, Switzerland's infamous "Crypto Valley," in favor of the neighboring principality of Liechtenstein, or other political areas with, supposedly, more crypto-friendly banking systems. Members of the Swiss National Bank and banker's association, as well as representatives of FINMA, met in July 2018 to discuss how the Swiss government should regulate cryptocurrencies to protect investors, as well as preserving Switzerland's reputation as a haven for ICOs.[8][9]

References