FINMA publishes Initial Coin Offering (ICO) guidelines

In its media release of 16 February 2018 the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority FINMA published its long-awaited guidance on Initial Coin Offerings (ICO) which defines the minimum information required and principles for requests for negative clearance.

An ICO is a digital form of public fund-raising for entrepreneurial purposes. Blockchain-based “coins” or “tokens” are sold in exchange for cryptocurrencies (e. g. Bitcoin) or FIAT currencies. The token represents a certain value or service that the issuer defines prior to the ICO.

In its media release of 29 September 2017 FINMA already acknowledged the innovative potential of this technology and pointed out to intersections between ICOs and the applicable financial market laws. In its new guidance FINMA rightly points out that generalized statements with respect to the applicability of financial market laws is not possible due to the variety of tokens and ICOs. Instead, every ICO must be assessed individually on a case-by-case basis.

Types of token

FINMA basically distinguishes between three different types of tokens (although hybrid forms are possible):

  • Payment tokens: These are considered standard crypto currencies. They can be used as means of payment for the purchase of goods or services as well as for the transfer of money and values. They are not associated with any other functions or projects.
  •  Utility tokens: They provide access to a blockchain-based applications or services.
  • Investment tokens: These tokens represent assets (such as shares of companies, revenues or entitlements to dividends or interest payments). Depending on its design, this type of token is similar to a share, bond or derivative financial instrument.

Legal assessment

FINMA came to the conclusion that it is particularly the Anti-Money Laundering and securities regulations that are concerned with respect to ICOs. Conversely, the Banking Act (“BA”) and the Collective Investment Schemes Act (“CISA”) are typically not concerned.

Based on the functionality of the various tokens FINMA makes the following legal considerations with respect to ICOs:

  • Payment ICOs: Payment tokens fall within the scope of the Anti-Money Laundering Act (“AMLA”) but do not qualify as securities under the Financial Markets Infrastructure Act (“FMIA”) and the Securities Trading and Exchange Act (“SESTA”).
  •  Utility ICOs: Utility tokens are basically not qualified as securities provided that they are intended to provide access digitally to an application or service and may be used in this capacity at the moment of issuance. Conversely, if a utility token is also used for investment purposes it is qualified as security.
  •  Asset ICOs: Asset tokens are treated as securities by FINMA.

Combinations of the various types are also possible.

FINMA recognizes the innovation potential of ICOs and the block chain technology but also highlights risks that result for investors.

Contact Us

Günther Dobrauz
Leader PwC Legal Switzerland
+41 58 792 14 97

Tina Balzli
Head Banking
Legal FS Regulatory & Compliance Services
+41 58 792 15 54

Simon Schären
Legal FS Regulatory &
Compliance Services
+41 58 792 14 63

Mark A. Schrackmann
Assistant Manager
Legal FS Regulatory and Compliance Services
+41 58 792 25 60

Orkan Sahin
Assistant Manager
Legal, FS Regulatory & Compliance Services
+41 58 792 19 94

Far-reaching consequences of disruptive innovations for the Liechtenstein financial market

The Liechtenstein financial market has demonstrated its ability to adapt in recent years by keeping pace with changing framework conditions. Financial industry stakeholders manage more assets today than before the outbreak of the financial crisis. Liechtenstein remains as attractive as ever as a location for private banking and wealth management. The Principality of Liechtenstein is not the only country in which the financial sector is undergoing fundamental change. Digitisation is the main driver of this transformation, and banks are the hardest hit. More and more so-called “digital disruptors” are offering banking services without actually choosing to adopt a banking model themselves.

The challenge of digitisation

Customer behaviour and expectations have evolved. New competitors (e.g. FinTechs) and new technologies (e.g. blockchain) are provoking a fundamental shift in the business model of banks. Digitisation offers new opportunities, but also generates risks. Traditionally structured banks operate an integrated business. They sell products that they have developed themselves via their own distribution channels. All transaction and support services are provided internally. In contrast, new technologies enable a high degree of standardisation to be achieved, leading to a fragmentation of the value chain. According to the PwC Global FinTech Report 2017, 82% of the study participants questioned want to enter into partnerships with FinTech companies within the next three to five years. 77% expect blockchain technology to have become a part of their company’s productive system environment by 2020. Banks in Liechtenstein will not be able to escape this development. They need to carefully analyse the strategic options for action before putting appropriate measures into practice.

Attractive framework conditions

The government is supporting technological change by means of its “Impuls Liechtenstein” programme and the “Regulatory Laboratory” set up within the Financial Market Authority Liechtenstein (FMA). The FMA pursues a forward-looking regulation policy in line with European law. The team of experts from the Regulatory Laboratory advises financial intermediaries at the interface between regulations and the market. At statutory level, modifications have been made to banking legislation which permit the needs-based approval of service providers. Furthermore, there are specific statutory provisions applicable to payment and electronic money institutions. In addition, service providers and organisations benefit from private initiatives which help to establish extensive networking within the FinTech industry in Liechtenstein.

Healthy prospects

There are healthy prospects for overcoming the technological transformation. Liechtenstein as a financial centre has significant expertise in the field of finance, responds rapidly thanks to its short decision-making channels, and is capable of implementing practical solutions. This creates stability and legal certainty. These are good basic conditions to ensure its continued survival in a competitive environment in such fast-moving times. In the future, financial intermediaries will however be required to prove their ability to adapt more than ever before.


Claudio Tettamanti
PwC | Partner | Market Leader Liechtenstein
Office: +423 233 10 02
Mobile: +41 79 696 45 89
PricewaterhouseCoopers GmbH
Austrasse 52 | Postfach | FL-9490 Vaduz

FINMA revises circular on video and online identification

On 18 March 2016, the Swiss Financial Supervisory Authority FINMA brought into force the circular 2016/7 “Video and online identification”. Since then, financial intermediaries have been able to identify new clients digitally, in addition to face-to-face meetings or the opening of a client relationship by correspondence.

In its media release of 13 February 2018, FINMA announced that due diligence obligations in the area of digital client on-boarding are being adapted to technological developments. The draft of the partially revised circular includes the following innovations in particular with regard to the digital identification of new clients:

Video identification

  • In order to ensure secure identification and make the use of counterfeit ID cards more difficult, financial intermediaries should now check at least three randomly selected optical security features of the ID documents (e. g. holograms, laser-tilt images, security thread, micro text, etc.);
  • The formal characteristics (e. g. layout, orthography, font, etc.) are to be compared with references from an identity card database;
  • The verification of the contracting party in the identity process using a one-time password (TAN) will no longer be required;
  • The identification process should now be allowed to continue even if there are indications of increased risks. However, the business relationship shall only be established after additional clarification and approval of a superior person/ management.

Online identification

  • Financial intermediaries should be encouraged to obtain a photograph from all relevant pages of the identification documents. Similar to video identification, the comparison with an ID card database should also be required for the online identification;
  • As an additional safety element, a liveness detection is required;
  • A money transfer from a bank in Switzerland shall no longer be a mandatory requirement. Under certain conditions, money transfers from banks in Liechtenstein or a member state of the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering (FATF) should also be sufficient.

FINMA holds a hearing until 28 March 2018. As soon as the revised circular will enter into force, financial intermediaries are required to adapt their video and online identification process within 6 months.

Contact Us

Günther Dobrauz
Leader PwC Legal Switzerland
+41 58 792 14 97

Tina Balzli
Head Banking
Legal FS Regulatory & Compliance Services
+41 58 792 15 54

Stephanie Kok
Legal FS Regulatory & Compliance Services
+41 58 792 48 94

Mark A. Schrackmann
Assistant Manager
Legal FS Regulatory and Compliance Services
+41 58 792 25 60

Uber’s business model goes into overdrive

Buy, grow and knock out the competition – and now share. Some markets are moving beyond growth and hypercompetition to collaborative consumption via digital platforms. What makes these new models different? Why are some succeeding? And what can they teach us? In this blog we compare the conventional taxi operator model with Uber’s pioneering new approach.

Share, share and spread it around

Holiday apartment platform Airbnb and transport network Uber are at the vanguard of the sharing economy. Basically they’re nothing new: bartering began long before the digital revolution, the practice of renting out rooms for a small consideration was common back in the Middle Ages, and noticeboards for people seeking or offering lifts have been around for decades. But it’s only with the advent of digital platforms that this has all been possible on a large scale, turning markets into mass markets.

A model with a certain extra something

Journalists have taken to labelling promising new startups taking on established markets as ‘the new Uber’. Uber is the epitome of the sharing economy. By simplifying the interface between people offering rides and those looking for them, it’s sending waves of trepidation through the world of established taxi operators. In many places – for example New York and cities in Germany – traditional players are having to resort to legal action to defend their turf, in some cases successfully. It all begs the question of what makes Uber’s approach so superior to the conventional model.

Flexible key resources

At first glance there doesn’t appear to be that much difference between Uber and traditional taxi companies. They all get passengers from A to B. But Uber takes a radical new approach to key resources and the channels used to reach customers.

Uber’s business model.

Flexible key resources

By key resources we mean all the means (which are in scarce supply) used to profitably produce or enrich an offering, for example talented staff, rare minerals, unique brand appeal, etc. Most established taxi firms have a large fleet of vehicles and taxi licences that have to be obtained from the towns and cities where they operate. The supply of licences is strictly limited to prevent the competition from getting too intense and putting too much pressure on wages. At the same time it makes it almost impossible for taxi operators to expand into other towns and cities.

Uber, by contrast, doesn’t have a fleet of its own, never mind its own drivers. Its key resource is its digital platform, the virtual marketplace where independent drivers can connect with passengers seeking a ride. Uber lays down the rules for these business relationships (type of vehicles permitted, prices, payment and ratings). To expand into new cities Uber hasn’t had to build a fleet or recruit new drivers. It’s been able to roll out its platform in new locations easily at fairly minimal personnel expense. This has enabled it to expand across the planet with almost unprecedented speed and aggression.

Connected customer channels

Customer channels are what connects offers with customers. They include all distribution and communication channels through which the customer finds out about or acquires the product or service. In the taxi business a passenger is looking for a taxi. If there’s no taxi available nearby they have to call the taxi office and wait a while. Not with Uber. You don’t have to know a whole bunch of phone numbers by heart. Once the Uber app’s installed on your smartphone you’re only a few clicks away from your ride. The app locates you automatically by GPS and connects the driver and passenger immediately. Less far for the driver to travel, less time for the passenger to wait.

In a nutshell

At the core of every business model is the utility a customer enjoys by virtue of acquiring the product or service. Both Uber and conventional taxi operators enable passengers to get from A to B. But Uber’s model differs fundamentally from the traditional set-up in terms of the way it harnesses key resources and customer channels to optimise the utility for both passengers and drivers. The app minimises the effort to order a taxi and the time passengers have to wait. And it makes it easier for drivers to get fares – so much so that even private individuals are getting on board and offering their services as paid drivers.

It is this type of disruption of existing business models that is transforming many industries, and Uber and other similar platforms are prompting many businesses to re-examine their own business models and try to ‘disrupt themselves’ from within rather than waiting to be disrupted.



Olivier Kofler
Experience Center Director
Office: +41 58 792 3090

Lasting technological benefits: but only if you implement RPA but don’t neglect the bigger picture

When you adopt robotic process automation (RPA), the main focus is on short-term added value in the form of cost savings and efficiency gains. A centre of excellence will enable you to bundle your organisation’s automation activities, define the priorities in a book of work, and manage the successful execution of RPA solutions. But RPA is no substitute for thinking strategically. Whatever you do, you should keep the long term in sight and make sure your process and IT landscape remains fit for the future.

RPA increasingly figures on the management agenda at large corporations, and big banks in particular. Wherever there are opportunities to automate large volumes of manual tasks and close gaps in information process, RPA offers attractive rewards in the form of cost savings, increased effectiveness and efficiency, reduced error rates, and the chance to free up personnel resources for more highly qualified tasks.

RPA solutions are generally used for a wide variety of processes in different business units and divisions. So the key question for management is how to coordinate the RPA initiative on an enterprise-wide basis, combine it with other systems using application programming interfaces (APIs) and enhance it with technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), and how to align it with the company’s compliance and risk management requirements. Setting up a centre of excellence (CoE) is a good way of coordinating and monitoring these efforts.

A CoE, often called a competence centre, is where an organisation brings together the management, best practices, research and training relating to a specific topic of focus, such as a technology, business approach or competence. In technology companies, the CoE concept mostly has to do with new software tools, technologies or corresponding concepts.

Targeted use of energies and synergies

A CoE bundles all RPA-related competences and initiatives, trims the overall course, and measures the achievement of objectives. The CoE has a systematic structure and a clear hierarchy (see Figure 1), and is designed to ensure compliance with the relevant external and internal standards. A structured CoE can be set up in house, outsourced to a strategic partner, or operated with a combination of internal and external specialists.

A well-structured CoE brings together the many layers of RPA expertise to create a powerful organisation.

Multilayered excellence

To perform the management and control function for all the company’s RPA efforts, a CoE should ideally include different functions and draw on the experience of specialists.

  • Governance and strategy: This area regulates the interplay of all RPA-related activities and keeps them on track across the company. It’s here that the company defines what it wants to achieve with RPA overall: what legal, regulatory, economic and social requirements are to be met, and how objectives are to be reported and, ultimately, monitored.
  • Change management: RPA applications lead to technological, organisational and process-related changes. Change management provides the corresponding guidelines.
  • Knowledge management: One of the keys to the success of RPA is knowledge of the way things fit together and the different impacts and implications. This section of the CoE is responsible for building, deepening and sharing this knowledge and securing it for the long term.
  • Guidelines and standards: This function regulates the entire technical component, covering areas including certification policy, service management (e.g. for releases), the definition of data models and key performance indicators, and all monitoring with a view to regular optimisation.
  • Technology architecture: When you deploy RPA solutions you need clear specifications for the tools to be used. This area covers the evaluation, selection, licensing, implementation, commissioning and maintenance of RPA instruments. This is also where you address the question of how far the architecture should also include other technologies such as AI.
  • Implementation: This organisational area covers the actual execution of RPA solutions, from set-up through operation to maintenance. The book of work defines the criteria for prioritising the tasks involved. This is also where the organisation estimates the benefits of RPA, defining the tangible and measurable added value it expects its RPA architecture to deliver, and how it intends to reinvest it.
A CoE has various core functions designed to ensure the sustained effectiveness of RPA technologies.

From a centralised to a decentralised structure

Global organisations intending to systematically deploy RPA have a much more complex framework to consider than a company with only one home market. The operating models of their CoEs will differ accordingly. A centralised model will be led by a team with common resources, and will usually be based at the place where the organisation (and its technology) is headquartered. In the decentralised approach, the RPA monitoring function is carried out by different business units, usually geographically separate. The hybrid model represents a combination of these two approaches. What all these approaches have in common is that they are designed to bring together knowledge and controls to ensure that the organisation’s RPA- and compliance-related goals are met.

In a nutshell

When you implement RPA you have to work out how to make sure this new interface technology will deliver lasting benefits. A well-thought-out centre of excellence will help you coordinate your RPA efforts, channel your resources and harness synergy. But there’s more to it than that. The benefits of RPA are primarily short-term: cost savings, greater efficiency, freed-up resources and lower error rates due to manual interventions. This economic immediacy is what makes the technology so attractive. But it’s by no means enough. RPA solutions make your IT and process landscape more complex, and they may lead you to put off thinking about fundamental changes you need to make to your architecture, such as replacing a legacy system. You should use RPA technology as a way of making short-term savings while using existing IT systems, giving you the time and flexibility to make sure your IT architecture meets the long-term needs of your organisation. For RPA to deliver long-term technological benefits, you have to keep sight of your longer-term, strategic initiatives. In other words, implement RPA, but don’t neglect the bigger picture.



Alexander Schultz-Wirth
Partner Financial Services – Business Technology
Office: +41 58 792 47 97

A look back at the PMI event: Creating high-performing teams for your projects, February 8

Lively exchange, interesting topics and inspiring conversations at the event held by the Project Management Institute (PMI) and PwC Switzerland

Human capital research has given us some interesting insights over the last 30 years. Did you know, for example, that undermined motivation probably has a larger effect on productivity and quality than any other factor? And that after motivation, probably the largest influencer of productivity is the individual capabilities of members of a team or the working relationships among them? These and other facts have been discussed yesterday at the event on the subject “Creating high-performing teams for your projects”.

The interactive presentation has drawn on experience with building high-performing teams for IT projects, nationally and internationally. Attendees got insights into how to build teams that make the grade, what roles need to be included, and what factors influence behaviour and motivation.

We would like to say thank you to all attendees, colleagues, PMI and especially to our speaker Maarten Broekhuizen, senior manager in the Transformation Assurance division at PwC Netherlands, and would be delighted to have the pleasure of your company again soon.

About the next event: Artificial Intelligence & Project Management: Beyond human imagination!

Around 200 years ago the industrial revolution changed society for good. Today another revolution is under way, with potentially even farther-reaching consequences.

Artificial intelligence (AI) in industry, experts are predicting, will change everything about the way we produce, manufacture and deliver. Cognitive computing, machine learning, natural language processing – different terms have emerged as the technology has progressed in recent years. What they all encapsulate is the idea that machines could one day be taught to learn how to adapt by themselves, rather than having to be spoon-fed every instruction for every eventuality. Now, according to many, that day has arrived. AI will change the world.

Date: Thursday, April 12, 2018 from 6:00 PM to 9:30 PM (CEST)
Location: Geneva, Switzerland.



Marc Lahmann
Director and Leader Transformation Assurance
+41 58 792 27 99

Manuel Probst
Senior Manager Transformation Assurance
+41 58 792 27 62


Fit for Growth: or what financial services leaders striving to grow and prosper can learn from wise gardeners

Smart businesspeople, like good gardeners, realise that you have to cut back to stay strong and stimulate growth. On 1 February, a select group of financial industry leaders came to our event on Strategy&’s Fit for Growth* approach to find out how some of the world’s leading organisations have learned how to compete and flourish by pruning intelligently and channelling their resources into the strongest and most vital parts of their operation – and how they could apply this know-how to their own business.

Business leaders are actually more like commercial fruit growers than amateur gardeners: there’s a lot more at stake if your whole survival depends on making the right choices. You have to prune back to survive and compete, but if you cut back too much or in the wrong places you can destroy the whole basis of your growth and livelihood. Strategy&’s Fit for Growth framework documents some spectacular examples of companies that have got cost-cutting wrong and gone under as a result.

But the people who came to the event on Fit for Growth (FFG) were more interested in stories of how to get it right. After a welcome by Daniel Diemers, Utz Helmuth and Torsten Eistert briefly introduced the FFG methodology. On the basis of decades of helping some of the world’s leading organisations to cut costs intelligently and invest in profitability, Strategy& – PwC’s strategy consulting arm – has come up with a highly effective approach called Fit for Growth. The idea of Fit for Growth is to make deliberate, holistic choices that will enable you to

  • focus on your unique differentiating capabilities
  • align your cost structure around ‘good’ and ‘bad’ costs and redistribute costs to make room for investment in differentiation and innovation
  • harness artificial intelligence and other digital technologies to help you achieve these goals.

The event continued with a keynote speech by PwC’s European Data & Analytics Advisory Leader, Christian Kirschniak, on how data analytics and artificial intelligence can fit into the Fit for Growth approach and help businesses achieve these goals.

Participants went away with some new and valuable insights into how to compete and succeed in an increasingly competitive climate – how to tread the line between cutting back too much and destroying your organisation’s vitality, and assessing your strengths so that you can prune wisely for growth and continued profitability.

*Fit for Growth is a registered service mark of PwC Strategy& LLC in the United States.


Utz Helmuth
+41 58 792 3159

Join PwC’s Treasury Conference 2018 in Zurich on 14.03.2018 and Geneva on 22.03.2018

Explore this year’s topic: The Future of Treasury

Our 2018 programme will be dedicated to the Future of Treasury, with a focus on Fintech, Cybersecurity, and Connectivity, as well as on the changes in the required skills of the Future Treasurer. We will provide context to the current Macro-economic environment and share relevant practitioner case studies.

PwC's Treasury Conference 2018 wille take place in Zurich on 14.03.2018 and in Geneva on 22.03.2018

A great networking opportunity

On top of the knowledge transfer, panel discussions and case studies, we are well aware that this event is an important moment for you to connect with your peers, so ample networking time will be provided throughout the day.

This year’s programme

You can find the detailed programmes and information for both locations on our PwC Event webpage. We are delighted of this year’s excellent line-up of speakers, and hope that you will be interested in the topics they will cover.

Register now and enjoy our Early Bird fees

Special Early Bird fees will apply to all registrations received before February 15th. Click the links below to register now to our PwC Treasury Conference:

> Register to the Zurich session on March 14th, 2018
> Register to the Geneva session on March 22nd, 2018

PwC’s Treasury Solutions Group looks forward to welcoming you at the 19th edition of the event in Zurich and the 12th edition in Geneva and remains at your disposal should you need any further information.

Feel free to contact our experts if you have any question related to this topic:

Michiel Mannaerts,
PwC Switzerland

Sebastian di Paola,
PwC Switzerland

Market design in a world of energy transformation

We are pleased to launch the new Power & Utilities roundtable discussion paper Market Design in a World of Energy Transformation.

Senior executives and experts from 12 countries and four continents gathered in for a PwC roundtable on market design in a world of energy transformation in Brussels, Belgium. The event brought together leading players with substantial experience from both the regulatory and corporate spheres to discuss how market design can best evolve to meet the challenges of new energy systems.

Power market design varies considerably in different jurisdictions around the world but everywhere market design faces common challenges. In a changing energy world, power systems are becoming more decentralised and, with that, comes volatility. The need to balance energy resilience with flexibility is adding a new tension to the central trilemma of reliability, affordability and sustainability. The contrast between the similarity of the challenges and the difference in market design approaches offers a great opportunity. What was evident from the roundtable discussion is that there should be no need to invent market design solutions from scratch. Different parts of the world have followed different evolutionary paths and have adopted different policy frameworks. There are things that are done well and things that are done badly everywhere and we can learn from them.

Read more.