Swiss Info reported on Aug. 22 that the Zurich-based institution — which has $8.2 billion AUM but faces stiff market competition and an erosion of its margins — has opted to embrace blockchain to rejuvenate its business.
Bid to be “the go-to private bank” in Swiss crypto
In an interview with Swiss Info, Maerki Baumann CEO Stephen Zwahlen said that the bank’s revelation it would be launching a crypto business already signals a dramatic reversal in fortunes:
“In our traditional business, we usually have to run after each client. It’s […] rather rare for clients to just knock on our door. We suddenly had 400 people wanting to talk with us. And they were exactly the kind people we had been struggling to access for 10 years […] they were typically between 30 to 40 years old, very well educated and with an entrepreneurial mindset.”
Zwahlen said that Maerki Baumann has “the ambition to be the go-to private bank in the Swiss crypto arena,” underscoring that banking support for the nascent industry remains a fraught issue in the country.
“It cannot be that innovative Swiss companies have to go to Liechtenstein for corporate banking services,” he said. “Many of them represent a great opportunity to further develop our financial centre.”
Maerki Baumann’s initial focus — approved by its board this March — will be to offer business accounts and advice for start-ups launching Security Token Offerings.
By early 2020, it aims to establish partnerships with crypto specialists to roll out outsourced storage and trading services for Bitcoin (BTC) and other digital assets.
Crypto expected to outstrip traditional business
The third stage of Maerki Baumann’s planned crypto business will be to provide advisory and asset management services for private banking clients who want to invest in new crypto assets such as tokenized shares. Anticipating great demand and pay-offs for this new area, Zwahlen said:
“I would expect over time that digital assets such as crypto/blockchain might even take on a greater significance than our traditional private banking business, particularly in terms of asset growth.”
Maerki Baumann won’t be taking Bitcoin directly onto its books, however, the CEO revealed, noting that the bank always outsources trading, clearing and settlement processes.
In summer 2018, Hypothekarbank Lenzburg became the first Swiss bank to provide enterprise accounts for blockchain and crypto-related fintech companies.
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