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Switzerland Eases Blockchain Firms' Access To Bank Accounts

Switzerland is reportedly exploring ways to make it easier for blockchain companies to open corporate bank accounts as the government moves to prevent those innovators from leaving the country.

Reports in Reuters on Friday (Sept. 21) said the Swiss Bankers Association (SBA) is taking measures to address what the publication described as an "exodus" of blockchain projects from Switzerland. Experts said blockchain innovators struggling to access the traditional financial services sector have been pushed out because of it.

The SBA issued guidelines to Swiss banks in an effort to support those innovators' access to bank accounts, reports said, noting that financial institutions (FIs) have been reluctant to provide banking services to these startups for fear of anti-money laundering (AML) non-compliance.

There are 530 blockchain startup companies based in Switzerland's Crypto Valley, and there are 250 banks in the country. However, reports said "only a handful" of those institutions provided deposit services for these startups that needed to deposit the fiat-currency equivalent of cryptocurrencies they raised in their initial coin offerings (ICOs). Institutions are concerned that the companies have not adequately run AML checks on their investors, sources told reporters.

Two of those banks that had previously offered services to crypto startups backtracked and withdrew their services in recent months. Earlier this year, unnamed sources told the publication that the nation's fourth-largest bank, Züercher Kantonalbank, closed more than 20 startups' bank accounts.

In a statement, SBA Strategic Advisor Adrian Schatzmann said the guidelines will help foster those startups and prevent them from moving elsewhere to access bank accounts and other financial services.

"We believe that with these guidelines, we'll be able to establish a basis for discussion between banks and innovative startups, making the dialogue simpler and facilitating the opening of accounts," Schatzmann said.

The guidelines include a series of checks that banks can complete when opening a bank account for these startups, including Know Your Customer (KYC) and AML checks for companies that have completed ICOs in both cryptocurrencies and fiat currencies.

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