New Swiss FinTech rules

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Switzerland adopts revised banking regulations in order to facilitate the business activities of “FinTech” companies

On February 1, 2017 the Federal Council initiated a public consultation suggesting modifications to Swiss banking regulations. The purpose of the proposed revision was to create appropriate regulations for FinTech companies operating outside the traditional financial sector, taking into account the specific risk potential of their respective business models. The proposed revision included amendments to both the Banking Act (“BA”) and the Banking Ordinance (“BO”). The public consultation lasted until May 2017.

On July 5, 2017 the Federal Council finally adopted the new Swiss regulatory framework with regard to the BO. The new regime will formally enter into force on August 1st, 2017 so that FinTech companies will be able to benefit from these new rules as quickly as possible.

The amended rules provide for the following:

  1. Settlement account exemption: An exemption for settlement accounts will be created. This will allow companies to hold funds in a settlement account for 60 days without the operation of such account being deemed an acceptance of public funds subject to licensing under the BA (Art. 5 para 3 let. c BO). The BO in its current version did not contain a 60-day period of this kind, thereby creating some uncertainty.
  2. Innovation space (“sandbox”): Companies are allowed to hold public deposits of up to CHF 1 million without having to obtain a banking license (“sandbox”). Consequently, holding public funds of less than CHF 1 million does not qualify as “operating on a commercial basis”, which is a requirement in order to fall within the scope of the BA and the BO (Art. 6 para 2 let. a BO). According to the BO in its current version, taking public funds from more than 20 persons is deemed as “operating on a commercial basis”. Under the revised version of the BO, the number of persons providing funds is irrelevant as long as the threshold of CHF 1 million is not exceeded. Furthermore, the funds raised may neither be invested nor be subject to interest payments (Art. 6 para 2 let. b BO). Finally, the persons providing the funds must be informed that the respective business model is not subject to supervision by the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) and that the rules on deposit insurance do not apply (Art. 6 para 2 let. c BO). This new innovation space will enable FinTech companies to try out experimental new business models without immediately having to obtain a banking license.

All in all, these innovative amendments to the BA and the BO will substantially facilitate the operation of FinTech business models in Switzerland. Moreover, the revision of the BA and the BO is further evidence of the Swiss government’s commitment to constantly improving and redesigning the regulatory environment in order to boost Switzerland as a major FinTech hub.

Your contacts:

Guenther Dobrauz
Partner|Leader PwC Legal Services Switzerland
Tel. +41 58 792 1497

Tina Balzli
Director|Legal FS Regulatory & Compliance Services
Tel. +41 58 792 1554

Simon Schären
Manager |Legal FS Regulatory & Compliance Services
Tel. +41 58 792 1463

Published by

Guenther Dobrauz

Guenther Dobrauz

Guenther Dobrauz
Leader PwC Legal Switzerland
Birchstrasse 160
Postfach, 8050 Zurich
+41 58 792 14 97

Guenther leads PwC Legal in Switzerland and the Legal FS Regulatory & Compliance Services department. He is a PwC Partner since 2015 and a global expert on legal advisory, specializing in supporting the structuring, authorization and ongoing lifecycle management of financial intermediaries and their products. He in particular also focuses on leading large scale regulatory change and compliance alignment projects.

Guenther is the author of books on investment selection, FinTech Regulation and European, Swiss and Liechtenstein investment law. He also wrote 80+ publications in international expert magazines and has to date been speaking at more than 60 conferences worldwide.

Guenther Dobrauz received his Masters and PhD degrees in law from Johannes Kepler University (Linz, Austria). He holds an MBA from the University of Strathclyde Graduate School of Business (Glasgow, UK) and has participated in Harvard Business School’s Executive Education Program.

Guenther Dobrauz was Legal Counsel of an international hedge fund group and served as Managing Partner and Legal Counsel of a Swiss Venture Capital firm. He has practiced in court and with a leading business law firm.