By Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi
ZURICH (Reuters) – Swiss financial regulator FINMA is planning to loosen anti-money laundering rules for smaller financial technology firms, part of a drive to boost innovation and shore up the country’s position as a leading money management hub.
The revisions, prompted by a new ‘fintech’ licensing category carved out by the Swiss parliament in June, will clarify how non-banks applying for the new license must ensure due diligence.
Its proposal defines small institutions as those with gross revenues under 1.5 million Swiss francs ($1.5 million).
Under its terms small institutions, unlike banks, will not for instance have to establish an independent anti-money laundering unit with monitoring duties, it said.
Switzerland, the world’s largest center for offshore wealth, has gained prominence in recent years as a hub for financial technology providers, such as banking software groups Temenos (TEMN.S) and Avaloq AVLN.S, as well as cryptocurrency projects.
But advocates have warned that as banks face increasing margin pressure and tougher competition from technological rivals, more must be done to promote innovation if Switzerland is to remain a leading financial hub.
The new license, intended to promote financial innovation, will apply to groups which accept public deposits of up to 100 million francs but don’t invest the funds or pay interest.
It will likely have the biggest immediate impact on activities such as crowdfunding, which under current rules could often require a banking license.
Cryptocurrency projects — which often fall under anti-money laundering or securities regulations under FINMA’s current guidelines but generally don’t require a banking license — are unlikely to be affected by the changes.
The federal government plans the amendments to take effect from Jan. 1, and FINMA said its own adjustments to the Anti-Money Laundering Ordinance should enter into force simultaneously, if possible.
FINMA opened a review period for its proposal on Tuesday to run through October 26.
($1 = 0.9957 Swiss francs)