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. Parliament adopted an authorisation category tailored to fintech in June 2018. FINMA has also examined the regulations in its area and designed them to be technology-neutral (e.g. video and online identification).
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.
The State Secretariat for International Financial Matters (SIF) has established a blockchain/ICO working group. It will review the legal framework and identify any need for action with the involvement of the Federal Office of Justice (FOJ), the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) and in close consultation with the sector.
Last modification 07.09.2018