Switzerland is an open and resource-poor economy in a global market. In order to secure jobs and prosperity, the Swiss economy is reliant on continuous innovation. For several years, digitalisation in particular has offered great potential for innovation and had a considerable influence on structural change and economic growth.
This is particularly applicable to the financial sector. Digitalisation in this field facilitates new, innovative business models. These developments are driven by more powerful mobile end-user devices, improved availability and analysability of big data and blockchain technology. Fintech startups and technology companies such as Google or Apple develop these complex technologies. Traditional intermediaries such as banks and insurers are increasingly integrating this kind of innovation into their business models causing them to face immense challenges: processes, products and structures are turned upside down and employees at all levels are required to acquire new knowledge and skills.
The state also faces challenges. Digitalisation is an important factor for the competitiveness of the Swiss financial centre and requires innovation-friendly framework conditions. Regulation should not present any unjustified barriers to market entry for the development of new technologies.
The first steps have been taken. In July 2017, the Federal Council created an extended authorisation-exempt area (regulatory sandbox) and extended the timeframe for settlement accounts to 60 days. FINMA has also examined the regulations in its area and designed them to be technology-neutral (e.g. video and online identification).
In December 2018, the Federal Council adopted a report on the legal framework for blockchain and distributed ledger technology (DLT) in the financial sector. It emphasised that it wants to create the best possible framework conditions so that Switzerland can establish itself and evolve as a leading, innovative and sustainable location for fintech and DLT companies. Moreover, it wants to consistently combat abuses and ensure the integrity and good reputation of Switzerland as a financial centre and business location.
On 1 January 2019, a licence category tailored to Fintech entered into force.
In March 2019, the Federal Council initiated the consultation on the adaptation of federal law to developments in DLT. It thereby wants to increase legal certainty, remove hurdles for DLT-based applications and limit risks of misuse. The draft serves to further improve the regulatory framework for DLT in Switzerland, in particular in the financial sector. The consultation will last until the end of June 2019.
However, the work is far from complete. Potential need for action exists with regard to the legal treatment of currencies and assets based on blockchain technology, the introduction of an eIdentity or securing a start-up friendly environment. Digitalisation is also highly challenging in terms of taxation.
Last modification 14.05.2019