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Swiss government report: Bitcoin too ‘insignificant’ for legislation

(CoinDesk) Switzerland’s Federal Council has published a report stating that,
for the time being, it will not create legislation relating specifically
to bitcoin or other digital currencies.
The government report
claims the economic importance of these currencies is currently “fairly
insignificant” and the council doesn’t expect this to change in the
near future.
This report has been created following the submission
of postulates by National Councillors Jean-Christophe Schwaab and
Thomas Weibel last year, which asked the Federal Council to examine the risks and opportunities associated with bitcoin.

No ‘legal vacuum’

A
point the government is keen to stress in the report is that virtual
currencies are not in a “legal vacuum”, meaning that existing laws apply
to activities associated with these currencies. It states:

“Contracts
with virtual currencies are enforceable in principle and penalties can
be imposed for criminal offences associated with virtual currencies.
Certain business models based on virtual currencies are subject to
financial market laws and need to be subjected to financial market
supervision.
Professional trade in virtual currencies and the
operation of trading platforms in Switzerland generally come under the
scope of the Anti-Money Laundering Act. This includes compliance with
the obligation to verify the identity of the contracting party and
establish the identity of the beneficial owner.”

Some
of the laws that apply to certain uses of digital currency include the
Swiss Code of Obligations, the Federal Act on Combating Money Laundering
and the Financing of Terrorism in the Financial Sector, plus the
Federal Act on Banks and Savings Banks.

Legal certainty

Schwaab
told CoinDesk he was pleased the report had clarified the legal status
of bitcoin: “The report ensures legal certainty. That’s the most
important topic at this point. Now, people who trade bitcoin can know
which financial sector regulation applies or not.”
He went on to say he thinks the report underestimates the economic potential of bitcoin. He said:

The more I learn about bitcoin, the less I remain sceptical about it!

“That’s
a big mistake for a country like Switzerland with a strong financial
sector. I hope the banking sector will be cleverer than the Government
on that point, but I’m pessimistic.”
Schwaab even went as far as to suggest he is personally becoming increasingly bullish about digital currency.
“In
the last months, my personal views about bitcoin have evolved: the more
I learn about bitcoin, the less I remain sceptical about it!”
Alexis
Roussel, CEO of Swiss based cryptocurrency broker SBEX, said the report
represented good news for the Swiss bitcoin ecosystem.
He was particularly interested in the parts of the report that are relevant to his company’s plans to deploy a bitcoin ATM network within Switzerland.
“Managing
an ATM would be considered directly as money transmitting service, with
tighter rules. This is starting to shape how bitcoins ATM will work,”
Roussel said.
He explained it means ATM operators would always
need to be licensed, unless they can ensure the user is in control of
the private key of the bitcoin wallet they are sending to.
“This
is imposing high standards in the bitcoin financial world, but this will
be beneficial for consumers in the end,” he added.

The risks

The
report gives examples of the risks associated with bitcoin, stating
that, while there is no risk of it damaging the country’s existing
financial sector, consumers are vulnerable to volatility and security
issues.
It concludes by advising consumer protection organisations within the country to urge people to use caution when using bitcoin.

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Satoshi

Swiss regulators give green light for Bitcoin ATM Network

(CoinDesk) The Swiss financial regulator has given permission for bitcoin ATM operator SBEX to launch a network of machines in the country.
The news comes in the wake of a report indicating that the authority had shut down a different operator just two weeks ago.
inSha

Jumping through regulatory hoops

SBEX,
which currently operates one ATM in Geneva, can now deploy further
machines because it has been accepted as a member of a non-profit
organisation that is regulated by FINMA, the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority.
The non-profit is called ARIF, the Association Romande des Intermédiaires Financiers, and is considered a self-regulatory body (OAR) in Switzerland.
Now,
with membership in hand, SBEX has successfully applied for a money
transmitter licence, fulfilling the regulatory requirements to operate
an ATM network.
CoinDesk has seen a copy of a letter from ARIF to
the operator, dated 17th June, that sets out the regulator’s stance on
bitcoin ATM operators.
According to the letter, operators must
join an OAR, but do not require a banking licence. It also restated that
bitcoin in Switzerland is treated as a means of payment, not a good or a
service.
SBEX co-founder Mathieu Buffenoir said:

“We
finally got clearance from ARIF, who were asking FINMA many questions
about how they should deal with us. [The clarification from ARIF] is
what we were expecting.”

Cancelled ATM launch

Two weeks ago, a competing ATM operator called Bitcoin Suisse AG cancelled the launch
of an ATM in Zurich, claiming that FINMA had requested a delay while
the regulator clarified “legal questions”. This prompted speculation
that Swiss authorities were clamping down on bitcoin ATMs.
However,
according to Buffenoir, who has operated a machine in Geneva since
February, running a single bitcoin ATM poses no special regulatory
difficulties and is not regulated by FINMA.
This does come with
the proviso that the business must stay within certain limits, such as
completing fewer than two million transactions a year, Buffenoir said,
adding:

“I don’t really know why [Bitcoin Suisse AG]
made so much noise [about its ATM]. Maybe they wanted to get themselves
known or they want things to move quicker.”

Bitcoin Association Switzerland president Luzius Meisser
said the clarified rules were in line with the bitcoin community’s
expectations, calling it “the most reasonable” interpretation of Swiss
law.
He explained the confusion over Bitcoin Suisse’s suspended launch:

“I think SBEX fulfilled all the regulatory requirements before Bitcoin Suisse did, so they got the approval first.”

Bitcoin
Suisse chief executive Niklas Nikolasjen said his firm was working on
obtaining the necessary regulatory approvals for their ATM. He said the
media had overstated his firm’s cancelled ATM launch and that it had
been consistently working to obtain regulatory approval.
“It is
now clear to everyone in the industry that the regulatory authorities
require certain steps to be undertaken by companies who professionally
deal with digital finance. BTCS is naturally following these requests as
well,” he said.

Expansion plans

Now that SBEX has cleared
Swiss regulatory hurdles, Buffenoir says the company will carry out its
plan to set up a web brokerage and install nine ATMs before the year is
up.
Buffenoir said SBEX has already placed orders for the machines with the manufacturer, Canadian startup BitAccess.
Additionally,
SBEX has joined a new consortium currently lobbying the Swiss
government to create an OAR dedicated to cryptocurrencies and to obtain a
clearer regulatory framework from FINMA. The consortium already counts
Bitcoin Suisse and Ethereum Switzerland among its members, Buffenoir
said.
Switzerland is being closely watched by the cryptocurrency
community, as its executive body, the Federal Council, is due to release
a comprehensive report on bitcoin’s impact on the country’s financial
system later this year.
Swiss lawmakers also moved, in December, to obtain recognition for bitcoin as a foreign currency.

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Satoshi

Ernst and Young Bitcoin accepted in Switzerland

Ernst and Young Bitcoin:  the Swiss branch of global professional services firm will accept the cryptocurrency-kind of payment next year.

Starting in January, Ernst and Young Switzerland will allow bitcoin for invoice payments, as the company explained in a new press release.

Switzerland, Ernst and Young Bitcoin: a profitable relationship

The Swiss firm will also open a new BTM (or Bitcoin ATM) at its office in Zurich, as well as a wallet option for its employees.

This Ernst and Young project is part of the bigger cultural experiment on bitcoin and the distributed ledger conducted in Switzerland.

Late last month, in fact, Swiss railway service announced that it will sell bitcoin on its nationwide network of ticket kiosks; also the Swiss town called Zug will accept Bitcoin for public services payments, as its major explained back in May.

According to Ernst and Young, this launch fits perfectly with this experimental context created in the Swiss country.

Switzerland’s CEO, Marcel Stalder, commented that the company wants its employees to know digital currencies and the blockchain.  This project is to provide ways to access a hands-on education, he said.

Stalder explained:

“We don’t only want to talk about digitalization, but also actively drive this process together with our employees and our clients. It is important to us that everybody gets on board and prepares themselves for the revolution set to take place in the business world through blockchains, smart contracts and digital currencies.”

Ernst and Young is just one of the “Big Four” accounting firms involved in the blockchain sector at the moment.

Recently, the company also decided to open a blockchain-related contest for startups with the goal of “exploring how blockchain technology can tackle challenges in digital rights management and energy trading.”

Learn more about Switzerland and Ernst and Young involvemet in the bitcoin field, by clicking on the links above.

 

Open your free digital wallet here to store your cryptocurrencies in a safe place.

Amelia Tomasicchio

Switzerland Bitcoin Regulation will arrive next year

Switzerland Bitcoin Regulation might arrive next year.

Recently its national railway service “have jumped on the bitcoin bandwagon”, as explained by Coindesk, so now it’s time for Switzerland to start regulating fintech and digital currency.

A few days after the Swiss railway-related announcement, as SBB decided to sell bitcoin through its network of ticket kiosks – the Federal Department of Finance (FDF) announced its plans to regulate fintech with the goal of introducing a new regulation next year.

Key elements include plans for a new kind of license geared specifically toward fintech companies and a so-called regulatory “sandbox” for experimental firms. Under the proposed regime, the Financial Market Supervisory Authority would become the primary regulator of fintech firms working in Switzerland.

In a press release, the FDF explained that it will guide more researches about bitcoin and other digital currencies and it will study the distributed ledger broader applications .

The company explained:

“The FDF should conduct additional clarifications in cooperation with the interested authorities on reducing further barriers to market entry for fintech firms, also those outside financial market law (e.g. legal treatment of virtual currencies and assets).”

During a recent speech, Ueli Maurer, Swiss Finance Minister, commented that the proposed Switzerland Bitcoin regulation would help to attract more brands – even if the nation positive attitude has already attracted the attention of several blockchain-related startups to make their home in the country.

“We assume that with the steps we have prepared and the commitment we have to the overall financial services industry we can provide a solution that puts us among the top (countries) in the world that regulate this,” he explained.

Read more here about the Switzerland involvement in the fintech sector. 

<img src="/images/SwitzerlandBitcoinRegulation.jpg" alt="Switzerland Bitcoin Regulation" height="264" width="350" />

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Amelia Tomasicchio

Blockchain Insurance: applications for insures

Five major European companies will work on a blockchain insurance project to provide faster and safer services to their clients.

This project, called the Blockchain Insurance Industry Initiative (B3I), has the goal of testing use cases that could help the insurance sector.

To do so, in fact, Allianz, Aegon, Munich Re, Swiss Re and Zurich, or the biggest companies of this field, are working to provide a meeting ground to exchange ideas with this objective: improving the insurance service and creating a new method of doing business.

“We want to be at the heart of these developments and see Blockchain as one of those potential catalysts for change. By actively creating partnerships and making strategic investments we can build smarter solutions together with our clients,” explained Mark Blook, chief technology officer at Aegon.

Allianz – which has already explored smart contracts for catastrophe bonds exchange and has already  worked with fintech startups – belives that the distributed ledger can allow them to help transparency for their users.

“This initiative, enabling alternative operating models based on the Blockchain technology, can help us increase transparency and efficiency and deliver a better experience to our customer,”  commented Allianz Group COO Christof Mascher.

Those 5 companies said they hope that other brands in the insurance and reinsurance industries will join the project with them.

According to a press release, the mai objective is taking advantage use cases “across the entire insurance value chain”.

<img src="/images/blockchaininsurance.jpg" alt="Blockchain Insurance" height="264" width="350" />

Open your free digital wallet here to store your cryptocurrencies in a safe place.

Amelia Tomasicchio

US Government awards Blockchain projects

<img src="/images/usgovernmentawardsblockchain.jpg" alt="US Government awards Blockchain" height="264" width="350" />

Blockchain Award

The US government awards Blockchain projects: $600,000 in grants to six companies that work on blockchain applications.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) decided to destinate $3.1m to 29 businesses based in the American area and focused on data analytics, connected devices and blockchain.
Each awarded business will receive $100,000, according to the official press release.
This money came from the so-called program Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) that started back in December 2015.


Governments Interested in Bitcoin

In April the European Parliament defined the blockchain as the“perfect technology” and aimed at realizing new rules related to the distributed ledger.
Also, several European countries started to accept Bitcoin for public services. Among these there is Switzerland. In fact, Zug was probably chosen because it is the Swiss financial centre that has a good reputation for its low taxes. 
Another important news came in May, when Japan decided to officially recognize Bitcoin.


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Amelia Tomasicchio

US Postal Service to create its Digital Currency

us_postal_service_blockchain
Recently the US Postal Service (USPS) published a new document about how the company could create its own digital currency.
This press release written by the Postal Service’s Office of the Inspector General said that the postal company have to consider to use the blockchain for its own purpouses, creating a network where devices can be connected together. 
Released today, this report stated that the Postal Service should study how to develop these applications.
“The Postal Service could benefit from blockchain technology in the short term by studying the technology and possibly experimenting with blockchain-based solutions for financial services. The Postal Service already offers some financial services, including money orders and international money transfers, where blockchain could be an enabling tool, allowing the Postal Service to offer these services more efficiently.”


Australian Postal Service has already started to study Bitcoin

In March the Australia Post announced its researches about how to implement the distributed ledger for its own applications.
Postal Service chief information security officer and VP of digital solutions Randy Miskanic explained:
“As highlighted in the report, we will need to be cautious in specific implementations to account for technology barriers, security concerns and regulatory uncertainty. We will evaluate the use of blockchain for each of the use cases and further review the available opportunities while considering the impact of the technology and financial restrictions.”

Postcoin

One of the most important ideas in the report is the creation of a cryptocurrency for the Postal Service, called “Postcoin”.
That was initially suggested back in 2015 by Swiss Economics. 
Postcoin would allow the Postal service to solve money transfer problems worldwide. Also, this cryptocurrency could help the connection of postal offices to transact each other:

“…the Postal Service currently offers international money transfers. However, these services are currently only cashable in a limited number of countries. The flexibility and convenience associated with the Postcoin could potentially allow the expansion of electronic money transfer services to anyone in the world.”

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Amelia Tomasicchio

Switzerland to accept Bitcoin for Public Services

Zug to accept Bitcoin

Zug, city ubicated in Switzerland, announced it will accept bitcoin payments for public services. 
This is a pilot project to test the efficiency of the digital currency. This test will start on July 1st and will continue for the whole year.
Zug was probably chosen because it is the Swiss financial centre that has a good reputation for its low taxes. 
This project appeared on the official website of Zug. Here the initiative is described as a way to test the bitcoin use for public obligations that cost 200 francs, or almost 0.44 BTC at the moment. 
An official press release of this Switzerland city comments:
“The pilot project of the city government is initially limited to 200 francs on chargeable services the residents of the city train. The end of 2016 we will conduct an analysis of lessons learned. Then…the city council will decide if bitcoins and most other digital currencies are to be accepted as payment for other urban services in the future.”

Will this idea succeed?

This idea is not so new, as several cities and states have tested this method of payment during the last years, but it didn’t succeed. 
Also, it is important to remember that Switzerland has lots of startups in its country: for example Xapo, ShapeShift and Monetas are located in Zug. 

The city mayor is very upbeat 

The city mayor Dolfi Müller commented in a post:
“We want to express our openness to new technologies and expressed early on your own experiences. And we will invite to exchange ideas with the City Council FinTech companies in the region train. Our goal is to meet their needs for optimal development in our living and economic environment in more detail.”

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Amelia Tomasicchio
bitcoin etf

How the Bitcoin landscape is evolving in 2014

The bitcoin landscape is evolving so rapidly that it’s hard to believe we’re already halfway through the year.
bitcoin trends 2014

(CoinDesk) Like any new industry, there are so many areas to explore in the bitcoin space that sometimes make a week’s worth of developmentsit feel like a month or two have gone by.

Bitcoin has certainly seen a lot of action in 2014. The collapse of Mt. Gox, hefty venture capital investments in bitcoin startups and the US government auction of 30,000 bitcoins seized from the Silk Road all generated buzz in the mainstream media.
CoinDesk’s recent State of Bitcoin Q2 2014 report highlights some of the key developments that have influenced bitcoin’s journey over the past few months, providing context for the digital currency’s ever-changing position in society.
While only time will tell what’s in store for bitcoin’s future, a number of trends have emerged in the industry this year that could shape the direction and velocity of bitcoin’s growth.
Here are five bitcoin trends that have emerged in the first half of 2014:

1. Big-name retailers jumping on board

The year started with a bang when Overstock became the first major retailer to accept bitcoin. News of Overstock’s success with the digital currency served as a signal for other large companies to follow suit.
Electronics retailer TigerDirect integrated bitcoin as a payment option by the end of January, and other household names like the Sacremento Kings, Lord & Taylor and REEDS Jewelers got on board soon after.
By the end of June, three companies with at least $2b in annual revenue had begun accepting bitcoin: DISHExpedia and Newegg.
With smaller businesses also continuing to accept bitcoin at a fervent pace, we estimate that around 100,000 merchants will accept bitcoin by the end of 2014:
Figure 6: Bitcoin Accepting Merchants - Total Current and Forecasted 2014 Year End

State of Bitcoin Q2 2014

2. A warming regulatory climate

While it certainly hasn’t been all smooth sailing between governments and bitcointhis year, it seems like tides are changing and regulators around the world are starting to take a more open-minded approach to the digital currency.
In the beginning of 2014, China’s stance on bitcoin was ambiguous at best. By April, China’s Central Bank Governor said that banning bitcoin was “out of the question,” referring to it as more of an asset than a currency.
Russia, after releasing stern warnings about bitcoin early this year, recently reconsidered its stance on the digital currency.
Gerogy Luntovsky, the deputy chairman of Bank of Russia, explained that his agency is going to take time to examine bitcoin as the industry continues to evolve:
“At this stage, we need to watch how the situation develops with these kinds of currencies. These instruments should not be rejected.”
Progress has also been made in places like California, where Governor Jerry Brown has granted bitcoin ‘legal money’ status, and Switzerland, where similar ‘legal money’ regulations are being considered.
Regulators seem increasingly willing to hold off on impulsive legislation in favor of working with the bitcoin community to find the best resolutions to prevent money laundering and fraud without stifling innovation.

3. VC firms keep betting big

Not everybody is as slow as governments to embrace bitcoin.
Serious venture capital investments in bitcoin companies were already taking place in 2013, but VCs have certainly kicked it up this year, with a total of $150m having already been invested in 2014.
With 2014′s Q2 VC investments reaching $73m (up from $57m in Q1), CoinDesk estimates that by the year’s end, 2014 VC investments in bitcoin companies will have surpassed 1995 VC investments in Internet companies:
Bitcoin VC Investment Compared to the Early Internet

State of Bitcoin Q2 2014

The venture capital flowing into the bitcoin space supports the industry’s infrastructure both explicitly and implicitly: startups gain access to resources that allow them to build much-needed products and services around the Bitcoin protocol, and the investors’ confidence in the digital currency brings legitimacy to bitcoin’s reputation.

4. Building on the block chain

Most people who take the time to really learn about bitcoin realize that the true genius in Satoshi Nakamoto’s invention is not the coins themselves, but rather the block chain.
The term ‘Bitcoin 2.0′ is often used to describe applications that use the technology of the block chain to address issues like smart contracts and identity verification that were once impossible to solve in a decentralized way on the Internet.
Jeff Garzik, one of the bitcoin protocol’s core developers, described the significance of the block chain beyond the scope of digital currencies:
“As a computer scientist, and in computer science in general, when you talked about building distributed systems, there tended to be a purely theoretical view about how computers would talk to each other, how to keep them coordinated. Satoshi and the blockchain really solved that problem in an elegant and unexpected way.”
Block chain-focused startups like BlockScore and BlockCypher have already secured funding this year from investors. As 2014 rolls on, expect to see new uses of the block chain technology solving problems in a uniquely decentralized manner.

5. New emphasis on transparency

The collapse of Mt. Gox, once the biggest bitcoin exchange in the market, was a wake-up call to many in the community.
The former exchange’s CEO Mark Karpeles was notoriously opaque in the months leading to its bankruptcy, causing confusion among users who held bitcoins on Gox.
Ultimately many people lost BTC through the course of Mt. Gox’s downfall. Outcries from the community started pouring in, demanding other big exchanges prove their solvency with professional audits.
Exchanges like BitstampKraken and Coinbase all agreed to be audited in the aftermath of Mt. Gox’s liquidation.
The demand for more transparency in the industry doesn’t stop at exchange audits, though. Revered bitcoin evangelist Andreas Antonopoulos recently took to Twitter to announce his departure from the Bitcoin Foundation, citing a lack of transparency as a primary concern:
If the first half of 2014 proves anything, it’s that the technology underlying bitcoin is resilient even under catastrophic circumstances (Mt. Gox), and that the community is willing to rally together in bringing bitcoin to mass adoption.
There’s a reason people call it the “honey badger of money.”

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Satoshi