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Cryptoasset start-up backed by Swiss banking heavyweights

Sygnum's Swiss HQ is situated in the heart of Zurich's banking district. © KEYSTONE / GAETAN BALLY

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.

This content was published on November 8, 2018 - 20:22
swissinfo.ch

The Swiss-Singapore enterprise announced itself suddenly on Thursday after operating in stealth mode for months. It is aiming a broad suite of tokenised assets services for institutional investors. The so-called ‘token economy’ space, which digitises a range of financial assets for faster, more efficient trading, is rapidly gaining momentum around the world.

It is believed that the system can be adapted for any form of asset from company shares to securities, bonds and real estate. Putting such tokens on the blockchain promises either direct transfer between traders or more efficient matching and settlement through third party platforms, such as exchanges.

Swiss stock exchange SIX Group plans to tap into the market with a new digital exchange, while a range of new entrants, such as SEBA, have sprung up in Switzerland with the same intention.

SygnumExternal link, which has offices in Zurich’s Trust Square blockchain centre in the heart of the city’s banking district, is the latest newcomer to enter the scene.

"Printing shares"

According to its website, Sygnum is teaming up with Swiss tech start-up Daura that specialises in creating tokenised shares to enable small companies raise capital. The collaboration will enable small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) to “print their shares” and trade them on the blockchain platform.

Sygnum has also entered into a partnership with state-owned telecoms company Swisscom and Zurich start-up Custodigit to help clients securely store digital assets.

Sygnum’s website also boasts of a liquidity platform to connect tokenised assets with a pool of traditional currencies. The enterprise also says it will provide a “selection of managed digital assets funds…leveraging both manager-specific skills as well as machine learning and artificial intelligence.”

In addition, clients will be offered an anti-money laundering/Know Your Customer (AML/KYC) "module" developed together with Swiss law firm MME.

It is unclear whether Sygnum has obtained any licenses from the Swiss or Singapore financial regulators or how soon the enterprise will be fully operational. Other blockchain financial institutions, such as Crypto Finance and SEBAExternal link, are also looking into establishing a presence in both Switzerland and Singapore.

Singtel Innov8, the venture capital arm of Singapore communications giant Singtel Group, has made an unspecified investment in Syngum.

Hildebrand, who joined investment management giant Blackrock after stepping down from the SNB in 2012, and Wuffli, now vice-chairman of Swiss private equity firm Partners Group, have lent their weight to the project as advisors. Peter Wuffli’s son, Beat, has joined Sygnum as head of tokenization.

The co-founders of the company are former Wegelin banker Manuel Krieger, Mathias Imbach, who was previously part of the RNT Associates fund of Indian business magnate Ratan Tata, and Gerald Goh, formerly of Singapore financial firm CrimsoNox Capital. 

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