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Bitcoin Models & Crypto Business in Switzerland

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Crypto business in Switzerland

If you’re planning on investing or developing a Crypto business, you might be inclined to choose Switzerland as your company’s home country. Switzerland features some great business-friendly laws that work well with crypto businesses in Switzerland.

On top of everything, you should know that Switzerland doesn’t feature any particular law that governs or regulates cryptocurrency or Bitcoin in Switzerland. There are also no laws governing crypto commerce of crypto financial services.

Legality of Bitcoin in Switzerland

The first thing you might be asking about Swiss crypto laws is whether Bitcoin or cryptocurrencies are authorised in Switzerland. Well, the Swiss Federal Council has outlined as a basis that:

  • Intrinsic tokens are considered virtual currencies and that;
  • All virtual currencies are to be treated as regular currency, ie fiat currency.

FINMA came to the conclusion in 2014 that:

  • A Bitcoin is, in fact, a virtual currency which can be legally used to purchase goods and services
  • Using a bitcoin or bitcoins to purchase goods or services is not state-controlled.

With the above in mind, you are thereby able to:

  • Purchase items and services with bitcoin
  • Receive payments in bitcoin

Without the need to obtain a license.

Summary

Both Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are legal means of payment in Switzerland and neither are state-controlled. This means that bitcoin-based businesses and other crypto businesses in Switzerland are able to accept virtual currencies, and these currencies may also be used to purchase anything from foods to hotel rooms and anything in between.

It is completely legal for corporate, government and private companies to accept payment in bitcoin and cryptocurrencies. You can find more information on Bitcoin in Switzerland on the Fintech page of our website.

The Trade, Exchange or Movement or Virtual Currencies

If you’re interested in exchanging bitcoins, trading or holding them for commercial and professional reasons, there are a few things you’ll need to know. Due to being a fairly new currency form, there aren’t entirely solid rules and regulations in place yet.

Keeping in mind that the Swiss Federal Council stated:

  • Intrinsic tokens, including bitcoin, are considered a virtual currency, though:
  • They must be treated as though they are a fiat currency or any other currency.

This means that in regards to Swiss law, any organisation’s business activities that are required to accept money in the form of cryptocurrency, bitcoin or traditional currency will need a bank license. FINMA outlined that the same rules apply to those who accept bitcoin, as well as those who administer holdings in bitcoin for their clients.

Generally speaking, bitcoin and cryptocurrencies must be considered a traditional currency in every sense. There are no loopholes or any other legal bypass for virtual currencies.

Classification of Swiss Financial Businesses

There are financial businesses that Swiss law distinguishes between, which are regulated by a few factors including the types of operations and business structure.

Swiss law differentiates the following:

  • Financial Intermediaries including; banks and security dealers which both require FINMA authorisation before activities begin
  • All other financial Intermediaries including; gold traders, asset managers, money remittance as well as money exchange and similar businesses – all of which must apply to be supervised by FIMA or an SRO.

This distinction is vital as there are a few operational requirements prior to launch

  • One is able to launch and operate as an authorised ‘Other Financial Intermediary’ which only requires a capital of 20,000 CHF for a GMBH or 100,000 CHF for an AG
  • Though, if the business model is in line with ‘Financial Intermediary’ in other words, a Bank, then a 20,000,000 CHF capital is required before FINMA will grant a bank license.  

Which Bitcoin and Crypto Businesses in Switzerland Have Been Approved?

To give you a better insight into Switzerland’s legal stance on virtual currency businesses and their operations, we’ve listed below a number of different business models that have been approved to operate and are therefore approved by FINMA or as an SRO. In basic terms – businesses which don’t require a banking license.

Bitcoin-focused ATM businesses

One of the first Bitcoin-based business models in Switzerland was Bitcoin Suisse. The company established an ATM network exclusively for bitcoin.

Legal basis: The Bitcoin Suisse model must be regulated by either FINMA or SRO as there are funds being transferred through the service, and the business doesn’t hold any of their client’s funds. This, in turn, means there’s no requirement to hold a client balance.

Bitcoin and virtual currency exchange business structures

There are countless virtual currency exchanges in operation in Switzerland that are operating as a business that simply swaps bitcoin or other currencies for another currency.

Legal basis: This business will be required to operate under a form of FINMA or SRO supervision as the businesses aren’t required to physically hold and manage client funds.

The basic crypto wallet business structure

The first crypto wallet company approved and launched in Switzerland was US cryptocurrency wallet company XAPO. The company was the first in the country to receive complete FINMA approval to operate in the cryptocurrency space under the regulation by FINMA/SRO as an ‘Other Financial Intermediary’ business.

Though XAPO did take almost 2 years of back and forth communication with FINMA before being approved to begin operation. The reason behind the lengthy process was determining an answer to the question: Will XAPO hold their client’s virtual funds?

Do virtual currency wallets actually hold funds?

As regulation by FINMA requires that cryptocurrencies be treated exactly the same as all other currencies, it is also required that crypt wallets hold no currency for later use by their clients. In the event a Wallet does hold these crypt funds, then a bank license will be required.

This decision was determined over 2 years of discussion and debate by FINMA and other advisory branches because of XAPO’s planned emergence in Switzerland.

How did FINMA allow crypto wallets to operate in Switzerland as an SRO?

The complexities of virtual currencies that use the blockchain are what allowed FINMA to approve the launch of crypto wallets without needing them to obtain a banking license. The main factor with the approval rests on the fact that the wallets do no actually store the coins within, they simply store your information including the balance and other information – the coins themselves are stored on the blockchain.

The wallet is solely used by clients as a means of storing their blockchain keys for access to their currencies. It’s similar in a way to using a USB or hard drive to store alias files that are stored in the cloud – there is no file on the USB or hard drive, but it opens up access to the cloud files.

Legal basis: The crypto wallet is required to operate under FINMA or SRO supervision. This is down to the fact that there are no funds in the wallet and that there are no intrinsic currencies under the ownership of the wallet company, it all remains on the blockchain.

All of the above generally outlines that crypto businesses in Switzerland are to follow the exact same laws and operational business models as other financial businesses. This is also FINMA’s stance on companies involved with Bitcoin in Switzerland when operating as a business. We have a startup-friendly informative brochure available for download if you want to learn more about how we can help you launch a crypto business in Switzerland.

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