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Swiss watchdog issues ICO laws amid drive to become ‘crypto-nation’

Switzerland’s financial regulator has responded to the booming interest in digital currencies such as bitcoin with a rulebook to support those involved in the market.

The Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (Finma) said it would regulate certain so-called initial coin offerings (ICOs), a fundraising method that has soared in popularity over the last year, to apply anti-money laundering laws to some sales.

Eager to attract more start-ups as other regulators show resistance to cryptocurrencies, Switzerland has already launched a ‘Crypto Valley’ in the Swiss city of Zug, while economics minister Johann Schneider-Ammann has said he wants the country to be the “crypto-nation”.

 

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Finma said on Friday that it recognised “the innovative potential of blockchain technology” and hoped its “balanced approach” to handling ICO projects would help entrepreneurs navigate the regulatory landscape.

Interest in raising money via ICOs, which involves companies issuing digital ‘tokens’ in exchange for a digital currency, has grown alongside the rising value of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

However it has attracted global regulatory scrutiny amid concerns that ICOs are vulnerable to scams, cyber attacks and money laundering, with China and South Korea banning the schemes all together.

European Securities and Markets Authority (Esma) warned investors last year that there was a high risk they could lose all of their money.

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