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Reducing barriers to market entry for fintech firms in Switzerland

During its meeting on 2 November 2016 the Federal Council called for an easing of the regulatory framework for providers of innovative financial technologies. This initiative sets out for reducing barriers to market entry for providers in the fintech area as well as increasing legal certainty for the sector overall. Market participants representing diverse business models, have different expectations in terms of the barriers for market entry. Willing to fulfill their needs as far as possible, the Federal Council is recommending an approach with three supplementary elements:

  • deadline of 60 days for the holding of money in settlement accounts - this amendment would be generally applicable and would not be restricted to fintech companies,
  • sandbox - in this area, a provider can accept public funds up to a total value of CHF 1 million and such activities do not have to be authorised and are not monitored by the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) (this fact must be disclosed). The AML provisions are still applicable,
  • new fintech license for institutions restricted to the deposit-taking business (acceptance of public funds) and not operating in the lending business with maturity transformation. The public funds accepted by providers with a fintech licence may not exceed the overall value of CHF 100 million (a higher threshold might be authorized by the FINMA if protection of the individual client is guaranteed by special conditions). For institutions with the new licence, the minimum capital should amount to 5% of the accepted public funds (but no less than CHF 300,000).

The Federal Department of Finance (FDF) has been instructed to prepare a corresponding consultation draft by the start of 2017.