Matthew Allen

Matthew Allen

When not covering banks, tax disputes, trade, Brexit, the World Economic Forum and FIFA, swissinfo.ch's business correspondent can be found playing cricket on various grounds in Switzerland - including the frozen lake of St Moritz. Initials: mga

Articles by Matthew Allen

Swiss law reforms make crypto respectable

Bitcoin used to be something of a dirty word, associated with crime and money laundering. Switzerland has now amended its legal code to welcome cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology into the mainstream.

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Precious metal stablecoin plugs into gold frenzy

The price of gold and silver is rising in the face of a sharp economic downturn. Swiss company AgAu has chosen this moment to announce a precious metal-backed stablecoin onto the blockchain. It aims to provide better access to gold and silver and an alternative to bank-printed money.

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Digital grassroots response to government bailouts

The CHF60 billion Swiss state bailout of companies is well underway. But there is a feeling that government funds that hand out loans and pay workers’ wages will not be enough. How do companies maintain contact with customers and develop their brands during a lockdown?

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Central banks weigh up response to Libra and bitcoin

Central banks are contemplating a response to alternative money systems, such as bitcoin or Libra, with new digital versions of their own currencies. They go by the name of Central Bank Digital Currencies, or CBDCs. Libra’s stablecoin project launched in Geneva last year was a “watershed” moment that “kicked everyone in the pants”, Michael Sung, a professor at Fudan University, told the recent Crypto Finance Conferenceexternal link (CfC) in St Moritz.

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Swiss fintech firms venture deeper into Middle East

Swiss fintech company Instimatch has launched into the Middle East, having won a licence to operate in Qatar, and signed up its first Kuwaiti bank. The mineral and cash-rich region is proving a magnet for financial innovation from Switzerland. Instimatchexternal link’s digital platform directly connects deep-pocketed corporate, financial and municipal lenders with global investments.

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Swiss ski resort accepts bitcoin for settling tax bills

The iconic ski resort of Zermatt has become the second local authority in Switzerland to allow residents to pay their tax bills using the cryptocurrency bitcoin. Zermatt, which lies in the shadow of the Matterhorn mountain, said on Tuesday that it will allow people living there to pay the whole range of taxes in bitcoin with no limit on the amount they contribute in the cryptocurrency.

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Negative interest rates have cost Swiss banks CHF8 billion

Swiss banks have been forced to fork out CHF8 billion ($8.3 billion) in negative interest fees since the Swiss National Bank (SNB) imposed its policy in 2015. Last year saw the heftiest annual bill of CHF2 billion, according to research from German company Deposit Solutions.

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Neon banking app slashes fees in growth drive

Swiss financial services company Neon says it will scrap card fees for customers shopping abroad to spearhead an ambitious drive to boost the number of clients to 250,000 in the next two years. The Zurich-based fintech company has laid down a challenge to foreign competitors, such as Revolut and N26, with its announcement.

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Slice of prime Zurich real estate sold on blockchain

A building on Zurich’s most exclusive shopping street has been converted into a blockchain-powered investment following its CHF130 million ($134 million) sale. It is the latest attempt to unlock the value of bricks and mortar using digitally-coded tokens.

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Crypto determined to emerge from the shadows

Global politicians, regulators, financiers and technology pioneers will soon be gathering in Switzerland for the World Economic Forum. This has not been lost on the blockchain and crypto industry, which is redoubling efforts to engage with policy makers. Next week’s Crypto Finance Conference (CfC), in the up-market ski resort of St Moritz, has positioned itself to attract such big-hitters, days before they attend the annual WEF summit in nearby Davos.

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The spirit of Fintech past and the spectre of Fintech future

It was a busy 2019 for Swiss fintech and there is promise for more to come in 2020. Here’s a round-up of fintech past and my observations of how things may shape up in the coming months. The year 2019 started with the arrival of a new breed of Fintech banking license, designed to allow small financial players to accept up to CHF100 million in deposits, but with restrictions.

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Retail digital franc remains taboo for Switzerland

Switzerland has ruled out the possibility of a central bank-issued digital franc for the general public in the foreseeable future. The government has backed up the Swiss National Bank’s (SNB) fears that this would lead to financial instability. Responding to a parliamentary question, the Federal Council on Friday said an ongoing project to produce a digital franc that is restricted for use by financial players was a more sensible option than a cryptocurrency for people to buy their groceries or other goods.

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Bank savers feel sting from negative interest rates

Swiss savers are being made to pay for global demand for the franc. The number of bank customers being charged negative interest rates on their deposits is on the rise – and shows no sign of reversing. The problem for domestic savers stems from the popularity of the Swiss currency. Amid economic uncertainty worldwide and a paucity of return on many investments, people have taken to dumping their assets in the solid franc.

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Blockchain shares – who needs lawmakers?

The Swiss parliament will soon get to grips with merging the current financial system with new blockchain architecture. This is a bit like refitting your whole house to make sure the swanky new furniture and fittings blend in. Switzerland has deliberately chosen to not to tear the whole house down and build it again in a new style.

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Swiss crypto sector welcomes proposed blockchain law

Proposed updates to the banking, corporate and financial infrastructure laws to accommodate Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) have been broadly welcomed by Switzerland’s growing blockchain industry. Parliament is now set to debate the wide-ranging set of proposals presented by the governmentexternal link on Wednesday.

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Blockchain: your questions answered

Blockchain: the very name fascinates and bamboozles in equal measure. Although businesses based around the technology are popping up all over Switzerland, many still wonder what exactly it does and how it can improve their lives. The potential possibilities are myriad, yet many still appear tantalisingly out of reach.

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Swiss company shares traded as digital tokens

A Swiss-German consortium has successful traded company shares on a blockchain-style digital platform using a Swiss franc-backed stablecoin to instantly settle the transaction. The trade marked a significant step towards creating a new breed of stock exchange.

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Swiss crypto bank SEBA outlines ambitions

Crypto bank SEBA is confident of attracting a “three-digit” number of Swiss clients by the end of the year before setting its sights on global expansion and raising more than CHF100 million ($101 million) in extra funding from the public.

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Swiss payments system aims to link bitcoin and retailers

Prominent European payment infrastructure provider Worldline has teamed up with financial services firm Bitcoin Suisse to allow cryptocurrency enthusiasts to spend their bitcoin in Swiss shops. Worldline last year took over SIX Payment Services, the former arm of the Swiss stock exchange group that provides payment card terminals in 85,000 Swiss retail outlets.

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Is blockchain real estate in need of renovation?

Our regular analysis of developments in the world of fintech and Crypto Nation. Property has for some time been hailed as prime real estate for blockchain disruption. The incorruptible ledger will replace mountains of paperwork while interested parties will have a sovereign claim to validate transactions in property sales.

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Blockchain for Good faces familiar blockages

Our regular analysis of developments in the world of fintech and Crypto Nation. All eyes were on Libra at the Blockchain 4 Impact summit in Geneva last week. But the Facebook stablecoin project was only one part of a two-day event asking the question: Can blockchain help meet Sustainable Development Goals?

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Another Swiss bank delves into cryptoassets

Arab Bank Switzerland has teamed up with blockchain technology firm Taurus to offer its wealthy clients access to bitcoin and ethereum. The bank joins a growing list of established players joining forces with fintech firms to tap into cryptoassets.

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Swiss Banks Slow on the Digital Uptake

Swiss banks are turning their attention to providing more digital services for customers, but their progress has been slow. This may have something to do with new technology upstarts struggling to gain significant traction thus far in Switzerland, according to a new study.

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Switzerland’s First Crypto Banks Receive Licences

The Swiss financial regulator has awarded banking and securities dealer licences to two new “crypto banks”. SEBA and Sygnum have been cleared to operate in the new world of tokenised digital securities, a major milestone for the fledging industry.

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Swiss central bank asked to issue stock exchange digital currency

The Swiss stock exchange wants the country’s central bank to issue a form of cryptocurrency to settle payments on its new digital securities trading platform. If the Swiss National Bank (SNB) agrees, it would represent a departure from its cautious policy on digital currencies. Stock exchange operator SIX Group revealed at the Crypto Valley Association conference that traders on its forthcoming SDX platform would be able to swap cash for a new digital token.

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‘Mature’ Swiss crypto industry demands banking access

Representatives from Switzerland’s growing cryptocurrency and blockchain sector say it has matured into a viable and respectable industry that demands to be taken seriously by banks. “The hype, nonsense and scams have gone away,” says Daniel Haudenschild, President of the Crypto Valley Association (CVA), referring to a “wild west” phase over the last two years that saw several flimsy and phony companies set up and go bust, burning millions in public investments.

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Industry challenges blockchain during hackathon

More than 200 hackers from 19 countries converged on Switzerland at the weekend to take part in the Swiss Blockchain Hackathon. Participants were challenged to come up with blockchain innovations in a variety of sectors as diverse as finance, logistics and agriculture. Switzerland has hosted numerous hackathons over the past few years, designed to stimulate digital entrepreneurship using cutting-edge technologies. Several events have already spun off start-up companies while others have focused on the non-profit sector, tackling humanitarian projects.

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Ailing fintech Monetas goes into liquidation again

Bankruptcy proceedings have been reignited against troubled Swiss digital payments company Monetas more than a year after the enterprise hit serious financial difficulties. Efforts to find a new buyer appear to have come to nothing as the firm goes into liquidation.

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Swiss regulator fires warning over buy-to-let property lending

The Swiss financial regulator has warned banks that rules on mortgage lending may be further tightened if they fail to control their appetite for dishing out real estate credit. Loans tipped the one trillion franc mark in 2017 and continue to swell, particularly in the buy-to-let market.

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Cryptocurrencies accepted by Switzerland’s biggest online retailer

Switzerland’s largest online shop, Digitec Galaxus, has announced it will start accepting payments in bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. The company, which saw turnover of close to a billion francs last year, is by far the largest Swiss retailer to date to take this step. The move may go some way to answering the question posed by many bitcoin holders: “I have cryptocurrencies, now what do I do with them?”

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Swiss-German venture aims to build blockchain trading marketplace

A consortium of Swiss firms has joined forces with Germany’s main stock exchange to create a distributed ledger technology (DLT) trading system that would rival one being built by the Swiss stock exchange. The alliance is between Deutsche Börse, Switzerland’s state-owned telecoms company Swisscom, budding Swiss crypto bank Sygnum, the Daura platform for listing tokenised company shares and financial services start-up Custodigit.

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Swiss private banking giant dips toes into crypto scene

One of Switzerland’s largest banks, Julius Baer, has entered the cryptoassets world by announcing a partnership with budding crypto bank start-up SEBA. While other Swiss banks, such as Vontobel, Falcon and Swissquote, are already active in the space, Julius Baer’s entrance has attracted particular attention.

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New Crypto Valley Association President seeks to heal divisions

The new President of the Crypto Valley Association has vowed to turn around the divided organization. Daniel Haudenschild was elected on Thursday evening together with a new board following months of unrest. Speaking to swissinfo.ch two days after his shock departure from Swisscom Blockchain, Haudenschild said his priorities are to heal divisions, build bridges between other blockchain groups in Switzerland and bring international business and capital to Crypto Valley.

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Swisscom Blockchain head departs abruptly

Daniel Haudenschild has stepped down as Chief Executive Officer of Swisscom Blockchain with immediate effect. The state-owned telecommunications group gave no reason for the shock move by the top manager and shareholder of its blockchain advisory unit. News of Haudenshild’s departure clearly came out of the blue for the Swiss blockchain sector.

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Blockchain start-up growth bucks Swiss trend

The number of blockchain companies in Switzerland grew 20% to reach 750 in the last three months of 2018. But the market capitalisation of such firms, measured by the dollar exchange rate of tokens in circulation, more than halved as crypto-assets nose-dived in value.

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Xapo shifting services from Hong Kong to Switzerland

Bitcoin services provider Xapo is winding down activities at its Hong Kong base and transferring key operations to Switzerland. Xapo president Ted Rogers said the move has been driven by Switzerland’s friendlier regulatory environment. “It was once thought that Hong Kong was the holy grail of crypto regulations,” Rogers told swissinfo.ch at the World Web Forum in Zurich. “But it has become more opaque.”

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Cryptoasset start-up backed by Swiss banking heavyweights

Some of the doyens of the Swiss financial industry, including former Swiss National Bank president Philipp Hildebrand and ex-UBS CEO Peter Wuffli, have joined the cryptoasset revolution with new financial services operator Sygnum. The Swiss-Singapore enterprise announced itself suddenly on Thursday after operating in stealth mode for months.

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Crypto bond catapults Swiss franc onto blockchain

A new bond has been launched in Switzerland to help investors and blockchain start-ups escape the volatility of cryptocurrencies. Issued by Swiss Crypto Tokens, the bond is a representation of the safe haven currency on the blockchain. The first 10 million units of the bond, each worth a franc and pegged to the Swiss currency, are sold out and will be issued on Thursday.

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Smart Valor tackles cryptocurrency volatility problem

Cryptoasset trading platform Smart Valor plans to launch a new cryptocurrency pegged to the Swiss franc. The CHFt coin will join a growing list of so-called ‘stable coins’ designed to dampen the huge price swings of cryptocurrencies, such as bitcoin, which limits their everyday use. Smart Valor said on Monday that it is in talks with Swiss banks and cryptocurrency exchanges to issue CHFt.

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Swiss blockchain industry sees meteoric growth

The booming Swiss blockchain sector continues to grow: over 600 companies and institutions are now located in the ‘Crypto Nation’ and neighbouring Liechtenstein, according to recently-released data. The industry employs around 3,000 people in Switzerland and Liechtenstein, as well as many more abroad, says investment group Crypto Valley Venture Capital.

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Swiss investors launch $100m blockchain start-up factory

A consortium of Swiss investors has launched a private equity vehicle that aims to collect up to $100 million with the long-term goal of getting 1,000 blockchain companies off the ground internationally every year. The Swiss company Crypto Valley Venture Capital (CV VC) launched its initial “Genesis Hub” incubator in Zug, home to Switzerland’s Crypto Valley, on Thursday.

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Commodity Trading Consortium Launches Blockchain Platform

A consortium of commodities traders, banks and the world’s largest goods inspection company have joined forces to launch a blockchain platform in Switzerland, which is intended to ease the administrative burden of shifting oil, grain and other products around the world.

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Ongoing roadblocks stifle growth of Swiss banks

Swiss banks are withstanding the pressure of ongoing headwinds, but real progress continues to be stalled by political and economic roadblocks, the Swiss Bankers Association (SBA) said on Thursday. Releasing its annual Banking Barometer, which measures the performance of the sector in 2017, the SBA found that aggregate profits (profits minus losses) across Switzerland’s 253 banks rose by nearly a quarter to CHF9.8 billion ($10.1 billion).

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‘Cryptocurrencies too primitive for national money’: SNB director

Cryptocurrencies and the blockchain technology they run on are currently far too primitive for the Swiss central bank to consider issuing a digital franc, says board director Thomas Moser. Moser’s comments on Thursday reflected the previously stated stance taken by the Swiss National Bank (SNB) towards an e-franc version of bitcoin.

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‘New buyer found’ for ailing Monetas blockchain firm

Troubled Swiss blockchain payments firm Monetas has found a new mystery buyer to pull it out of the mire, swissinfo.ch has learned. The company has run into major problems in the last few months, including enforced bankruptcy proceedings and the acrimonious failure of a previous takeover. “We are in the process of completing the purchase formalities with a buyer of Monetas.

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Silent Circle founder joins metals-backed crypto coin project

Renowned cryptographer Philip Zimmermann, who moved his smartphone encryption firm Silent Circle to Switzerland four years ago, has signed up to the metals-backed crypto Tiberius Coin venture as chief science and security officer. Zimmermann, who was inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame by the Internet Society in 2012, came to Switzerland to further develop his anti-snooping Blackphone away from invasive surveillance techniques in his native United Statesexternal link.

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Has Switzerland blown its crypto-opportunity?

Legendary United States crypto investor Tim Draper believes Switzerland has missed the boat in establishing itself as an attractive global hub for blockchain start-ups. Draper has invested in Tezos, which ran into a damaging governance row in Switzerland shortly after its initial coin offering (ICO) fundraiser.

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E-franc pipe dream fails to arouse Switzerland

Mounting calls for Switzerland to introduce a blockchain-based national cryptocurrency continue to fall on deaf ears at the Swiss National Bank (SNB). Romeo Lacher, chairman of the SIX Groupexternal link that runs the Swiss stock exchange, recently added his voice to the debate by advocating such a virtual currency.

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Chinese bitcoin mining giant sets up Swiss hub

One of the world’s largest bitcoin miners is setting up a hub for European operations in Switzerland, a person familiar with company has confirmed to swissinfo.ch. The Chinese firm Bitmain Technologies is setting up in Zug just as the Chinese authorities move to shut down cryptocurrency miners.

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Lawsuit seeks freezing of Tezos Foundation assets

A fourth Tezos lawsuit filed in the United States has called on Californian courts to freeze an estimated $1 billion (CHF990 million) of investor assets sitting in a Swiss-based foundation. Law firm Block & Leviton argues that the recent departure of a Tezos Foundation director and the apparent replacement of the entity’s auditor gives weight to its demand for funds, derived from an initial public offering (ICO) in July, to be frozen.

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Second class-action law suit lodged against Tezos

A second class-action lawsuit has been lodged in the United States against the founders of the tokenised blockchain project Tezos, and the Swiss-based foundation that houses hundreds of millions of dollars of investors’ money. The law firm Silver Miller Law presented its complaintexternal link in Florida this week, following a California lawsuit issued last monthexternal link.

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Scam cryptocurrency shut down by Swiss regulator

The Swiss financial regulator has closed down three companies linked to a fake cryptocurrency E-Coin amid fears that investors may have been conned out of millions of francs. The Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (Finma) said the probe is one of 12 it is conducting into cryptocurrencies. Finma has seized or blocked CHF2 million ($2.07 million) linked to Quid Pro Quo Association, which issued the E-Coins, along with Digital Trading and Marcelco Group.

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Chiasso accepts tax payments in bitcoin

Switzerland ramped up its bid to become a global hub for financial technology (fintech) and cryptocurrency start-ups with the decision by a town on the Italian border to accept tax payments in bitcoin. Chiasso announced that it would take bitcoin to settle up to CHF250 ($265) of tax bills from the start of next year.

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