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The new Swiss banks of crypto

Stefan Deiss, founder and CEO of the Swiss crypto accelerator, Blockchain Propulsion, spent two months looking for a bank account for Polo Pecem, the world’s first blockchain-powered “Smart Chain City,” one of the companies under his wing. “That’s a long time in the life of a startup,” he said to Decrypt. 

That’s why Deiss, and countless others, are cheering the launch of Switzerland’s two new crypto asset banks, Zug-based Seba and Zurich-based Sygnum. The crypto banks, which are aiming to serve asset managers, regular banks and startups, will now be regulated, just like other financial institutions. In August, the Swiss regulator, FINMA, granted Seba and Sygnum provisional banking and securities licenses.They are the first such licenses granted anywhere in the world, and will enable the banks to integrate cryptocurrency into a wide range of services—deposits, withdrawals, lending and investing.

Perhaps most important, they will fill the void in banking services for crypto traders and entrepreneurs, who are regularly denied and locked out of bank accounts because of the risky reputation of crypto companies. 

Dedicated crypto banks are nearly here 

“It’s a great move for Switzerland, but also for other countries around the world, because now you have banks that are specialized in crypto,” said Deiss. 

Blockchain Propulsion has hubs around the world. It helps its startups raise capital, and can help domicile clients who operate in less favorable jurisdictions in Switzerland. But Deiss hasn’t yet decided which of the two new crypto banks to recommend to his clients. Neither Seba nor Sygnum has yet been permitted to publish its prospectus.

Once they’re fully licensed, which is expected within a month, they’ll be able to issue, store, trade and manage cryptocurrency, such as bitcoin and ether, and convert fiat currencies to crypto. They could also offer custody, brokerage and tokenization services for digital assets to qualified i...

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