The Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) has been one of the most proactive regulators of crypto assets. FINMA divides tokens into three categories on a case-by-case basis: payment, utility, and asset tokens, and regulates them accordingly. 

FINMA applied the Anti-Money Laundering Act to VASPs and clarified it as part of the latest update to the FINMA-AMLO legislation (Article 10). Additionally, it published guidance covering the Travel Rule on August 26th, 2019, which went into effect on January 1st, 2020.

1. Is cryptocurrency legal in Switzerland?

Cryptocurrencies are legal across Switzerland. Switzerland has no regulations regarding the buying and selling virtual currency units or their use as a means of paying for goods and services. No special approval is required for crypto activities.  

2. Are there any AML crypto regulations in Switzerland?

Yes. FINMA introduced guidance for the crypto industry covering the Travel Rule on August 26th, 2019. The text was approved as part of the latest update to the FINMA-AMLO legislation (Article 10).

3. Is the Crypto Travel Rule mandated in Switzerland?

Yes. FINMA, the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority, introduced Article 10 AMLO-FINMA, guidance for the crypto industry that required the transmission of originator and beneficiary customer alongside payment orders on August 26th, 2019. 

4. Who regulates cryptocurrency in Switzerland? 

The Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) is Switzerland’s crypto travel rule regulator. FINMA divides tokens into three categories on a case-by-case basis:

  • Payment tokens: a token that functions as a means of payment or as a means of money or value transfer
  • Utility tokens: a token designed, for example, to provide digital access to an application or service 
  • Asset tokens: a token whose function is similar to stocks and bonds and, therefore,  subject to securities rules

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FATF Travel Rule requirements in Switzerland

1. Are there licensing or registration requirements for VASPs in Switzerland?

Yes. Under the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA), financial intermediaries, not members of a self-regulatory organization, require a license from FINMA. There are different crypto licenses:

  • Exchange license, 
  • Banking license
  • Investment fund license
  • Fintech license

⚠️ Some trading activities with virtual currencies require a banking license and involve ongoing monitoring by FINMA. This is generally the case when an organization accepts money commercially from clients and keeps it in its accounts. The same applies to providers who lodge virtual currency holdings from customers in “wallets” and manage accounts. 

However, FINMA’s current position is that no banking license is required if virtual currency holdings are transferred for secure safekeeping only and if these virtual currency units are stored separately on the blockchain for each customer. Each deposit can be attributed to an individual customer at all times.

2. When does the Crypto Travel Rule go into effect in Switzerland?  

The crypto Travel Rule entered into force on January 1st, 2020. It requires VASPs to implement the travel rule for transactions above $1000 (1,000 CHF) and prove ownership of non-custodial wallets.

3. Does Switzerland permit a grace period to comply with the Crypto Travel Rule? 

Neither the English guidance nor the German guidance mentions a grace period. 

Complying with the FATF Crypto Travel Rule in Switzerland

1. What is the minimum threshold for the Crypto Travel Rule in Switzerland?

On February 7th, 2020, FINMA released an amendment to its Anti-Money Laundering Ordinance (AMLO-FINMA), lowering the transaction threshold for the Travel Rule from $5,000 (5,000 CHF) to $1,000 (1,000 CHF). 

2. What personally identifiable information is required to be shared for the Crypto Travel Rule in Switzerland?

Information on the Originator Customer:

  • Name 
  • Account number

If no account number is available, the financial intermediary shall provide a reference number that refers to the transaction. 

  • Address 

The address may be replaced with the originating customer’s date of birth and place of birth, client number, or national ID number. 

Information on the Beneficiary Customer:

  • Name
  • Address

The Originating VASP shall ensure that this information is accurate and complete. 

3. What are the non-custodial or self-hosted wallet requirements in Estonia?

FINMA goes explicitly further than the FATF requirements and denies the transfer of funds to unregulated wallet providers:

“For such systems or such agreements to meet the requirements of Article 10 AMLO-FINMA in future, they would have to involve only service providers who are subject to appropriate anti-money laundering supervision. Unlike the FATF standards, Article 10 AMLO-FINMA does not provide an exception for payments involving unregulated wallet providers. Such an exception would favor unsupervised service providers and would result in supervised providers not being able to prevent problematic payments from being executed.”

There is an exception for transactions where customers can prove beneficial ownership of their self-hosted wallet. 

“As long as an institution supervised by FINMA is not able to send and receive the information required in payment transactions, such transactions are only permitted from and to external wallets if these belong to one of the institution’s own customers. Their ownership of the external wallet must be proven using suitable technical means. Transactions between customers of the same institution are permissible. A transfer from or to an external wallet belonging to a third party is only possible if, as for a client relationship, the supervised institution has first verified the identity of the third party, established the identity of the beneficial owner and proven the third party’s ownership of the external wallet using suitable technical means.”

Why choose Notabene for Crypto Travel Rule Compliance in Switzerland?

Notabene is the only end-to-end solution that provides a staged approach to crypto Travel Rule compliance. Our protocol-agnostic software allows VASPs to securely share required PII before sending and receiving crypto transactions to and from any jurisdiction. Notabene helps Swiss VASPs and financial institutions comply with the FATF’s Recommendation 16, “crypto Travel Rule,” as the FiNMA and the European Commission requires. Additionally, our software can help prove the Ultimate Beneficial Ownership of your customers’ blockchain accounts.