REPORT: SWITZERLAND: Swiss Financial Regulators Push ‘Anti-Crypto’ Bank Standards

The Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) announced in October its holding guidance for banks and securities firms that establish relationships with digital asset companies, according to a report by Swissinfo.ch.1 The guidance classifies “digital assets” as a “highly volatile” asset class and assigns a risk weight of 800% of market value.2

The guidelines also place a cap on digital asset trading activities at 4% of total capital, including long and short positions.3 FINMA also requires institutions to report when they have reached the limit.4

The guidelines are designed to make it easier for digital asset firms to access traditional banking services, but the risk weight imposed on digital assets and associated reporting requirements may limit the number of banks that offer these services.

The FINMA guidance follows in the steps of guidelines issued by Swiss Bankers Association (SBA) in late September for providing firms that carry out ICOs access to corporate bank accounts.

The SBA guidelines also recommend that members impose higher and additional know-your-customer and anti-money laundering requirements for ICOs that raise funds in fiat or digital currencies.5

Basel Committees Studying Risks Associated with Digital Assets

The Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (“Basel Committee”) is studying how to include digital assets in its recommendations on liquidity ratios, as there is currently separate exposure class for digital assets.

The Basel Committee has already exchanged views on some of the risks associated with digital assets, but further work is needed.6

FINMA will likely adhere to its present high-risk weight guidelines for digital assets until the Basel Committee issues its recommendations.

BitCoin Association Switzerland Offers Praise and Criticism of the Guidelines

Despite the stringent requirements placed on banks conducting business with digital asset firms, the Bitcoin Association Switzerland (BAS) reacted positively to the issuance of the new FINMA guidelines.

The BAS stated that it was “encouraging to see banks no longer turning down the increasing number of client requests for crypto services but asking for guidance and providing their input along the way,” BAS also stated that this was “the Swiss financial centre’s first step towards moving into the next decade where assets are no longer held in a single, central custody but instead are held on the blockchain.”7

The BAS also commended the SBA in September for issuing guidelines were that “a step in the right direction,” but a BAS community officer stated that banks expect firms to “to provide more evidence of future business success and stability than other small companies”.8

The information provided in this report is for informational purposes only. It should not be considered legal or financial advice. You should consult with an attorney, financial advisor, or other professional to determine what may be best for your individual needs.


This report was prepared by Trifin Roule.

For nearly two decades, Mr. Roule provided for the U.S. government legal analysis of anti-money laundering, counterproliferation financing and counterterrorist financing laws and regulations dozens of jurisdictions, and international standards, as detailed through intergovernmental bodies (e.g. Financial Action Task Force (FATF)), and financial institutions (e.g. banks’ financial intelligence units and compliance offices).

In addition, Mr. Roule has provided in-depth analysis of digital asset accounting, auditing, customer due diligence, exchange, licensing, mining, initial coin offering (ICO), private key storage, and record-keeping practices and regulations.

Mr. Roule is a former Assistant Editor at the Journal of Money Laundering Control, a peer-reviewed journal that provides detailed analysis and insight on the latest issues in the law, regulation and control of money laundering and related matters. Mr. Roule has published dozens of articles on anti-money laundering, and counterterrorist financing laws and regulations.

Trifin Roule is the Publisher of our new division, Abacus Legal, and his and his team’s reports will be free to read for the next 45 days. After that time they will be dubbed premium content and require a subscription.


  1. “FINMA sets tough restrictions on bank bitcoin trading,” SwissInfo.ch, 5 November 2018, https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/risk-weighting_swiss-regulator-gives-risk-guidance-on-crypto-trading/44518298/ (accessed 9 November 2018).
  2. “FINMA sets tough restrictions on bank bitcoin trading,” SwissInfo.ch, 5 November 2018, https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/risk-weighting_swiss-regulator-gives-risk-guidance-on-crypto-trading/44518298/ (accessed 9 November 2018).
  3. “FINMA sets tough restrictions on bank bitcoin trading,” SwissInfo.ch, 5 November 2018, https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/risk-weighting_swiss-regulator-gives-risk-guidance-on-crypto-trading/44518298/ (accessed 9 November 2018).
  4. “FINMA sets tough restrictions on bank bitcoin trading,” SwissInfo.ch, 5 November 2018, https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/risk-weighting_swiss-regulator-gives-risk-guidance-on-crypto-trading/44518298/ (accessed 9 November 2018).
  5. Opening corporate accounts for blockchain companies – Swiss Bankers Association publishes guidelines for its members,” Swiss Banking Association, 21 September 2018, https://www.swissbanking.org/en/media/positions-and-press-releases/opening-corporate-accounts-for-blockchain-companies-guidelines (accessed 9 November 2018).
  6. “Basel Committee finalises stress-testing principles, reviews ways to stop regulatory arbitrage behaviour, agrees on annual G-SIB list, discusses leverage ratio, crypto-assets, market risk framework and implementation,” The Bank for International Settlements Press Release, 20 September 2018, https://www.bis.org/press/p180920b.htm (accessed 9 November 2018).
  7. “FINMA sets tough restrictions on bank bitcoin trading,” SwissInfo.ch, 5 November 2018, https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/risk-weighting_swiss-regulator-gives-risk-guidance-on-crypto-trading/44518298/ (accessed 9 November 2018).
  8. “Blockchain and bank accounts: a Swiss tightrope act,” SwissInfo.com, 26 September 2018, https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/business/banking-services_blockchain-and-bank-accounts–a-swiss-tightrope-act/44425462 (accessed 9 November 2018).