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Bitcoin Merchant Adoption Stagnates, But Switzerland is Reviving Payment Narrative

In 2017, the store of value narrative surrounding Bitcoin and its astronomical rise to $20,000 solidified the “hodl” meme in retail investors, causing them to spend their crypto less often in fear of missing out on incredible gains.

With less people spending their Bitcoin, merchant adoption came to a screeching halt. Since then, a number of merchants have pulled their support of accepting cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin or Ethereum as a method of payment. But as merchant adoption stagnates in most of the world, Switzerland is leading the way back into regular growth of Bitcoin usage for paying for good and services.

Switzerland Leads the Way for Retail Merchant Adoption of Crypto Payments

When Bitcoin was initially developed by the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto in the wake of the last financial crisis, it was designed to be a peer-to-peer system for electronic cash, or essentially a digital currency designed to be a medium of exchange.

However, Bitcoin’s highly-publicized meteoric rise and the switch to a store of value narrative caused more and more Bitcoin enthusiasts to simply “hodl” onto the leading crypto asset by market cap, rather than spending it on goods and services.

Related Reading | Economist: Bitcoin Is The Fastest And Highest Rising Value Asset Ever

The lack of Bitcoin usage for transacting with merchants has slowed merchant adoption significantly, and in some ways it has sent it on a reverse path. The most recent example of this, was with Amazon-owned Twitch dropping cryptocurrency payments from its platform. With the support of a major retail parent company being pulled, merchant adoption for Bitcoin and crypto isn’t on the best footing.

But in Switzerland, the country’s biggest online retailer, Digitec Galaxus AG, which generates just under a billion dollars in revenue each year, has opted this month to begin accepting cryptocurrencies as a means of payment, including Bitcoin.

Retail Ripple-Effect Causes More To Merchants To Accept Crypto in Switzerland

Since Digitec Galaxus AG added support for accepting crypto payments, even more retailers have begun to accept the emerging asset class as a payment solution.

Not even two weeks later, historic five-star Swiss luxury hotel Dolder, Zug-based House of Wines, and Kessel Auto dealers have begun accepting cryptocurrencies as payments, reviving the “means of exchange” narrative that’s been recently lost on Bitcoin.

The three retailers will accept crypto via a smartphone-based payments app called inapay. The app is developed by Swiss-based Inacta.

Related Reading | Precious Metals Firm Drops Crypto: Is the Bitcoin Digital Gold Narrative In Trouble? 

Roger Darin, head of blockchain advisory at Inacta says the inapay app “allows vendors, who may be cautious about handling cryptocurrencies directly, to accept payments from these clients.” He hopes one day “an array of small businesses, such as hairdressers, will use inapay to accept cryptocurrency payments from their customers.”

With inapay already garnering such support, and Switzerland being a supportive financial hub that’s welcoming to crypto assets, merchant adoption should only increase further in the country from here on out, hopefully reviving crypto use as a payment technology throughout the rest of the world.

Featured image from Shutterstock

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Switzerland Moves Forward to Fit Cryptocurrency Into Traditional Regulations

 The Federal Assembly of Switzerland has voted in favor of putting cryptocurrency on equal footing as traditional assets.


A Hesitant Vote

99 members of the National Council, Switzerland’s lower house of the Federal Assembly, have supported a motion to put forward proposed regulations by liberal public representative Giovanni Merlini. 83 people voted against, while 10 refrained from voting at all.

The proposed regulations will now have to be considered by the Council of States, which is the Federal Assembly’s upper house. Switzerland’s Federal Assembly is the country’s legislative authority.

Per the proposed regulations, the existing legislation of both administrative and judicial authorities should be adapted and applied to cryptocurrencies as well.

While making his proposition, Merlini argued that:

Cryptocurrencies could be issued to anyone with a decentralized, cryptographic-based peer-to-peer data network. A large part of the cryptocurrencies is completely anonymous, which favored extortion and money laundering.

It’s worth noting that this narrative has little support given Europol’s assessment from late 2018. Reads Europol’s Internet Organized Crime Threat Assessment:

The use of cryptocurrencies by terrorist groups has only involved low-level transactions — their main funding still stems from conventional banking and money remittance services.

Surprising Move?

Merlini’s arguments, as well as the proposed regulations, seem somewhat surprising given the country’s pro-cryptocurrency stance. The country classifies virtual currencies as assets and it has fairly relaxed regulatory burdens and low entry barriers.

In December, the country’s finance minister Ueli Maurer said that instead of coming up with new cryptocurrency-specific regulations, the Federal Assembly will be adapting existing ones to fit the needs of the industry.

Following the motion’s approval, however, Maurer, stated that the proposal has gone further than the scope of the planned regulations.

Former UBS Bankers Raise Funds for Innovative Bank in Zug

Arguments have also been made against the motion, as it had failed to clarify how and if there are measures to be taken to mitigate any risks.

Additional doubts have been raised whether cryptocurrency trading platforms “should be equated with the financial intermediaries and subjected to Switzerland’s Financial market Supervisory Authority (FINMA).

Switzerland’s progress in terms of cryptocurrency adoption, on the other hand, can’t be unnoticed. Earlier this week, Bitcoinist reported that the country’s biggest online retailer started accepting bitcoin for payments on their platform.

What do you think of the latest move by Switzerland to approve regulatory changes proposed by Merlini? Don’t hesitate to let us know in the comments below!


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Swiss Bank Julius Baer Launching Crypto Services to Meet ‘Increasing Demand’

The Swiss private bank industry is stepping up its efforts to become a formidable world player in the crypto industry. Now, Julius Baer, one of the largest and oldest Swiss private banks, and SEBA Crypto AG are joining forces to offer their clients a range of digital asset services, in a fully regulated environment.


Major Swiss Banks Embracing Cryptocurrencies

The Julius Baer group is partnering with SEBA to respond to its clients’ growing demands for crypto asset services. According to the announcement on February 26, 2019,

Julius Baer will enter into a partnership with SEBA to take advantage of their innovative platform and capabilities in order to provide Julius Baer clients with leading-edge solutions in the area of digital assets to meet an increasing demand.

At the announcement, Peter Gerlach, Head Markets at Julius Baer, remarked,

At Julius Baer, we are convinced that digital assets will become a legitimate, sustainable asset class of an investor’s portfolio. The investment into SEBA as well as our strong partnership is proof of Julius Baer’s engagement in the area of digital assets and our dedication to make pioneering innovation available to the benefit of our clients.

Julius Baer’s move follows the trend set by other Swiss private banks. In August 2017, Maerki Baumann Private Bank announced that it would be accepting cryptocurrencies. And, Falcon bank already allows direct crypto transfers, while its blockchain facilitates investments in Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ether, and Litecoin.

Moreover, Switzerland’s stock exchange Six has been offering a Bitcoin-heavy cryptocurrency ETP for some time now and planning its own security token offering (STO) later this year.

Bridging the Gap Between Fiat and Cryptocurrencies

SEBA, headquartered in Zug, Switzerland, aims “to build a FINMA supervised and progressive technological bridge between the traditional and the crypto worlds.”

SEBA is currently petitioning The Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) for a banking license.

Swiss Regulators Engage Banks to Prevent Exodus of Cryptocurrency Ventures

The partnership with Julius Baer will take effect when SEBA obtains a securities dealer and banking license from FINMA.

Thus, besides providing a platform for storage, transaction and trading solutions for digital assets, SEBA will ensure that these services will be delivered within the FINMA regulatory framework. In this regard, Guido Buehler, CEO SEBA, underlines,

We are very proud to have Julius Baer as an investor. SEBA will enable easy and safe access to the crypto world in a fully regulated environment. The cooperation between SEBA and Julius Baer will undoubtedly create value for the mutual benefit and to the clients.

How do you think Julius Bair and other major Swiss banks’ ventures into the crypto space will impact Bitcoin’s value? Let us know in the comments below!


Images courtesy of  Twitter/@Juliusbaier, Shutterstock

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Swiss Vontobel Bank to Offer Cryptocurrency Custody in Global ‘First’

Swiss private bank Vontobel is planning to offer custody services for cryptocurrencies in a move executives described as a worldwide “first.”


Vontobel To Create ‘Digital Asset Vault’

In an interview with local finance magazine Finews.ch, Vontobel, which has offered cryptocurrency-related investment products since 2016, said it now wanted to increase its integration.

“As far as I know, Vontobel is the only bank globally to offer itself as a custodian for digital assets,” investment banking head Roger Studer told the publication.

Alprockz Partners with Swiss Banks to Issue a New Stablecoin Backed by Swiss Franc

Switzerland continues to position itself as a leader in banking attitudes to cryptocurrency, with multiple entities seeking to open up the market to institutional and private investors.

However, Vontobel, Studer says, will be the first bank-sponsored custody solution to market, not just in Switzerland but in the world.

“…We decided two years ago to make the new crypto investment world available to our clients,” he continued. “Our custody offering is a further step in this direction.”

Legacy Finance Sidles Up To Crypto Assets

The move will come via a partnership with Geneva-based startup Taurus, which specializes in crypto custody and storage. Vontobel will ultimately operate what it calls a “Digital Asset Vault,” a label synonymous with the physical bunker currently operated in Switzerland by Xapo.

“The cooperation between Taurus and Vontobel is of high importance for the Swiss financial market because we are linking up two worlds: traditional banking and crypto finance,” Taurus co-founder Lamine Brahimi continued to Finews.

As Bitcoinist reported, 2018 already saw more direct support for Bitcoin specifically from Swiss financial sources.

IT consulting firm Inacta AG, one resident of the country’s Crypto Valley community in the city of Zug, became one of the first users of Blockstream’s Liquid sidechain in December.

What do you think about Vontobel’s cryptocurrency custody plans? Let us know in the comments below!


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Swiss Post, Swisscom Developing New Blockchain Platform on Hyperledger

Swiss Post, the country’s national postal service, and state-owned telecoms provider Swisscom have united to develop a blockchain platform.

The two announced Thursday that they are using Hyperledger Fabric to build their “simple, secure and sustainable” private blockchain infrastructure, intended to be utilized by their own, as well as other companies’, applications.

The infrastructure is designed to meet the high security levels required by banks, while all data hosted will remain within Switzerland, they added.

The announcement indicates that the system is more energy efficient than public blockchain offerings, stating:

“In contrast to “public blockchains” (e.g. bitcoin and ethereum), this private blockchain infrastructure requires much less energy, since it can only be used by identified users who have a contractual relationship with the providers of an application. This enables more efficient agreement procedures as well as significantly higher security and performance.”

The first pilot blockchain apps are scheduled for launch in Q2 2019, with use cases said to be focusing on corporates and government agencies desiring to digitize business processes in a “secure and verified” manner.

Swiss Post and Swisscom also said they are open to accepting other partners to join them on the project. Ultimately, they desire “to enable the Swiss economy to quickly obtain a leading position when it comes to using this promising technology.”

The two companies are already using blockchain technology for several use cases.

Swiss Post’s financial services unit PostFinance, for instance, launched a pilot project in May that provides smart energy billing via blockchain. It also stores temperature data on a blockchain for monitoring pharmaceuticals in transit.

Swisscom is working with its subsidiary, Daura AG, on a blockchain system that facilitates the issuance, purchase and sale of shares.

Swiss postal mailbox image via Shutterstock