Friday 30 August – the day we became the world’s first Digital Asset Bank
By Sygnum Co-founders Luka Müller-Studer, Manuel Krieger, Mathias Imbach and Gerald Goh
Some of you may have already heard our exciting news.
At 4:31 pm CET last Friday 30 August 2019, FINMA confirmed that Sygnum had fulfilled all their secondary criteria set when they granted us a conditional banking licence earlier in the week. With this, FINMA’s ordinance now had full legal force, and Sygnum had just become the world’s first regulated Digital Asset Bank - a first for Switzerland, the finance industry and indeed the world. It is still sinking in.
It all started as an ambitious idea over dinner among the Sygnum Co-Founders in Singapore in Q4 2017. Since then, Sygnum has grown strongly and has been the work of many hands. It took shape through sage advice from friends and mentors who soon became advisors, then investors, and some now board members, including Peter Wuffli and Chua Kim Leng. It gathered pace through the tireless work of our talented first team member Georgine Roesle, and then became a reality through the passionate team of believers we attracted to our cause that now number over 65 in both Zurich and Singapore.
But the road to becoming the world’s first Digital Asset Bank was not always a straight one. Submitting our banking and securities dealer application to FINMA on October 31st, 2018, the process took 303 days; in retrospect a remarkably short time for creating something so new. We managed to overcome challenges, both anticipated and unexpected, learn from our mistakes and keep moving forward. In the end, we believe it was our unique mix of diverse backgrounds and a fierce belief in our mission, to empower everyone with direct access to ownership and value, that made the difference. Confidence without attitude, taking total ownership and raising up each other to new heights. Pioneering in this new world of digital assets we call Future Finance, but within the strict guardrails of traditional banking regulation, sometimes required that Sygnumers made “seemingly impossible” things possible.
The final stages of securing our licence came upon us very quickly. On Friday 30th August, a date we’ll always remember, our team crisscrossed Switzerland; notaries in Rotkreuz-Risch in the morning (starting at 4 am …), filing documents in Bern at lunch, passing document packs at train stations between colleagues, and filing the licence at the registry in Zurich just before closing time. Many checks were made, and confirmations sought. When the news
came through, the Swiss and Singaporean Co-Founders were together, and at 4:54 pm CET we shared our news on social media with a simple message; “Sygnum is the world’s first Digital Asset Bank”.
As for the significance of this achievement, only time will tell as we believe it is only the start of a broad and deep transformation in finance and banking. But we have now proved, with a regulatory stamp, that digital assets are bankable and can provide the same institutional trust as other asset classes. We have also proved that they can be made simple by having fiat currencies, digital assets like Bitcoin, Ethereum, a Digital CHF token as well as asset tokens all in one account.
On behalf of all our fellow Sygnumers, we want to sincerely thank our board members, advisors, investors and all the partners which supported us on our journey so far; thank you for your faith in us and for your belief in our mission. Much gratitude of course to the whole Sygnum team, for their countless hours of hard work, passion and teamwork. Also, many thanks to our friends at Swisscom, Deutsche Börse Group and the network of companies that have worked closely together with us to make this trusted digital asset ecosystem a reality. Lastly, it would be remiss of us to not recognise and congratulate our Swiss friends at SEBA who are forging this brave new world as well.
We are proud to say that we are the world’s first Digital Asset Bank. We look forward to embarking on this journey with you. Come join us.
Sygnum Co-founders Luka Müller-Studer, Manuel Krieger, Mathias Imbach and Gerald Goh