A course on crypto finance will teach Swiss bankers all they need to know about blockchain. Swiss banks need to step up their blockchain game because the crypto-banks are coming.

Swiss banks have understood that blockchain is more than a temporary hype. Even more important, they have realized that crypto and blockchain are not only a threat but also an opportunity.

That’s why, starting in March 2020, the first Swiss-based course on crypto banking will teach bankers all they need to know about the new technology. The Swiss Association for Quality (SAQ), which is responsible for maintaining the educational standard of Swiss bankers, will offer a “Certified Crypto Finance Expert” certificate for bankers. The course was designed by the media company Financialmedia and consulting company Bravis.

Throughout the course, participants will learn the basics of blockchain technology, crypto-assets, tokenization, crypto trading, and crypto custody. Additionally, regulations and compliance will be a key focus of the program. The participating bankers will also visit businesses in Zurich and the Crypto Valley to learn how companies make use of the technology.

According to Julian Lininger from Bravis, several banks have already registered their employees and demand for the course ist high. Among the first banks joining the program are Swissquote and Raiffeisen. Lininger says, “We also received interest from a large regional bank and several private banks. […] We expect 15 to 20 registrations for the first course.”

Banks will have to get involved with blockchain

Cryptocurrencies and blockchain are having an impact on the traditional banking industry already today, but the technology is still early stage. When asked about the disruptive potential of blockchain in the banking system, Arthur Vayloyan, former Credit-Suisse Banker and now CEO of Bitcoin Suisse, says, “It seems a bit radical to me, that everything will completely change immediately.”

He explains the invention of Bitcoin has proven that it is possible to exchange value via the internet peer-to-peer, without the involvement of a centralized third party. He calls this the emergence of the “internet of money” – which will change the banking industry, but this change will take time.  

This form of digital peer-to-peer money transaction was not possible before, as digital information can easily be duplicated. However, using a blockchain combined with various other technological innovations enables a solution that guarantees the uniqueness of digital information. As Vayloyan believes banks increasingly lose their position as a trusted intermediary, they will have to get involved with blockchain and cryptocurrencies.

Pressure is increasing: The crypto-banks are coming

The fact that traditional banks show interest in a course on crypto finance demonstrates that banks are going into the direction suggested by Vayloyan. Larger players have already established their own blockchain divisions. Swiss banking giant UBS, for example, has announced to tokenize various asset classes.

The pressure on traditional banks is building up, not only because customers are becoming increasingly interested in digital services, but also because technology-focused startups are entering the market and may take away some of the market shares over the next months.

In Switzerland, SEBA Bank AG has just recently received a Finma license and is now able to provide crypto services for Swiss-based clients. The newly founded crypto bank targets in particular institutional clients. Likewise, Sygnum has received a Finma license for providing crypto-banking services in Switzerland.

Hence, the crypto-banks are coming. Although they are still relatively small today, their significance will grow with the further adoption of digital currencies and blockchain technologies. If banks want to remain competitive, they will have to step up their blockchain game. Maybe the first wave of “Certified Crypto Finance Experts” can start facilitating this development.

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