Traditional European financial institutions are integrating Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies into their services. Switzerland, Germany and Liechtenstein are at the forefront with Maerki Baumann & Co. AG, Falcon Private Bank and Bank Frick serving clients in crypto-related businesses and services.
Zurich-based Maerki Baumann & Co. AG has announced that it will be accepting cryptocurrencies, according to a report by International Investment. The bank serves private clients, institutional clients and external asset managers.
Due to money laundering regulations and concerns, most banks are rejecting cryptocurrency deposits. To limit the scope of origin and the due diligence involved in tracking the source of the digital assets, Maerki Baumann is accepting crypto deposits only from payments received for services rendered, including mining.
International Investment reports,
”Maerki Baumann closely monitors the development of these investment vehicles and the underlying regulation without our commitment to engage in this area. This concerns investments in cryptocurrencies as well as the technologies required to trade and store these instruments. We currently see cryptocurrencies as alternative investment vehicles, but we have limited experience and data (prices, volatility, trading volumes) available in our house,’ the bank said in a statement.”
Maerki Baumann joins Swiss bank Falcon Private Bank which began accepting crypto deposits in July. Michael Helbling, head of Falcon’s crypto desk, said in the roundtable interview with The Business Times that the bank has seen “tremendous interest.”
Falcon’s move into crypto is a bit more fraught as the bank is just sailing through a rebranding following the multibillion-dollar 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) embezzlement scandal. A Swiss investigation continues, implicating Falcon as failing to report and repossess $1.27 billion in suspicious deposits linked to Malaysia’s 1MDB.
Maerki Baumannk, on the other hand, was named “Best Swiss private bank” by the business magazine “Bilanz” in 2017.
Bank Frick of Liechtenstein launched a crypto trading platform back in February, listing Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, Ripple and Bitcoin Cash. Cryptocurrencies can be purchased with euros, US dollars and Swiss francs. In addition to the fiat pairs, Bank Frick also offers custodial services for its clients, who are primarily professional market participants and financial intermediaries. Crypto assets are kept in cold wallets.
Fully regulated under Liechtenstein and European (EU/EEA) law, Bank Frick clients can only invest in cryptocurrencies once they have been fully identified and verified. The bank says that the verification and identification process also involves checking the origin of the money used to invest in the cryptocurrencies.
“Our services are in demand from companies across the whole of Europe. This is because they know that we can offer them reliable support in implementing their business models with cryptocurrencies and blockchains in line with the existing regulatory framework,” Chief Client Officer Hubert Büchel explains. “We aim to place crypto-banking on at least the same level of quality as traditional banking.”
Family-owned and operated since 1998, Bank Frick is the only bank in Liechtenstein with acquiring licenses from Visa and MasterCard.
Like small banks in the US that have been finding strategies to accept local clients, usually small businesses that are generating revenue in cryptocurrencies, European banks see a business opportunity and they’re moving to compete in the space.