Julius Baer, the 125 year-old Swiss private bank, has announced a partnership with cryptocurrency banking startup Seba Crypto AG. The bank did not release details of the agreement, but stressed that it was responding to increasing demand from customers for the capability to store, trade and invest in crypto assets.
‘Bridging the Traditional and Digital Assets Divide’
In a statement released Feb. 26, Julius Baer, which already holds a minority equity stake in Seba, said the deal will “provide its clients with access to a range of new digital asset services.” The Zurich-based bank stated that it aims to bridge the gap between traditional and digital assets, taking advantage of Seba’s innovative platform.
“At Julius Baer, we are convinced that digital assets will become a legitimate sustainable asset class of an investor’s portfolio,” Peter Gerlach, head markets at Julius Baer, said in the statement. However, the deal is dependent on Zug-headquartered Seba being granted a banking and securities dealing license by Switzerland’s financial markets regulator FINMA later this year.
A number of Swiss banks, including Swissquote and Falcon, are already active in the cryptocurrency space, but Julius Baer’s entry has drawn keen interest. Current Seba chairman Andreas Amschwand, who is also a board member at Julius Baer, is thought to have played a key role in facilitating the partnership between the two companies, according to Swiss news outlet Swissinfo.ch. Anschwand is, however, expected to step down from Julius Baer in April.
‘Raising the Bar’
Julius Baer, which has about 382 billion Swiss francs ($382 billion) of assets under management, is thought “to have raised the bar in the ongoing merger of crypto assets into the traditional financial sector.” This is significant in the sense that legacy banks in Switzerland and elsewhere have demonstrated a certain reluctance to integrate cryptocurrency products into their services, citing a plethora of potential risks. By dabbling into crypto, “Julius Baer has signaled that it believes the risks to be acceptable,” Swissinfo said.
Speaking on the partnership, Guido Buehler, chief executive officer of Seba, stated: “We are very proud to have Julius Baer as an investor. Seba will enable easy and safe access to the crypto world in a fully regulated environment.” Seba is expected to become one of just a few startups in the crypto space to close the regulatory gap between conventional and digital assets.
Switzerland has taken a progressive stance toward cryptocurrencies by legalizing their use and formalizing crypto transactions in a range of different contexts. But some crypto projects still struggle to open bank accounts, and cryptocurrency-focused bankers and investors still complain about a relative lack of regulatory clarity, as it remains unclear whether cryptocurrencies can be considered legal tender in certain contexts.
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Images courtesy of Shutterstock and Julius Baer.
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