Ex-UBS Bankers Raise Funding for a Swiss Cryptocurrency Bank

(Bloomberg) -- Seba Crypto AG, a Swiss financial services company run by ex-UBS Group AG bankers, said it raised money as it seeks to become one of the world’s first regulated banks to let consumers easily swap dollars and euros into cryptocurrency.

The Zug-headquartered company said it secured 100 million Swiss francs ($104 million) from private and institutional investors for the venture, which is dependent on being granted a banking license from Finma, the Swiss financial regulator.

Chief Executive Officer Guido Buehler, who previously worked as a managing director of asset servicing at UBS, said his company has been in talks with Finma since April. A final application for a license will be submitted by the end of October, he said.

Seba’s new chairman Andreas Amschwand, a former UBS global head of foreign exchange, will step down from the board of Julius Baer Group Ltd in 2019.

Switzerland is attempting to embrace cryptocurrency by positioning the lakeside town of Zug -- a canton best known for low corporate tax rates -- as “crypto valley.” Finma issued guidelines earlier this year to companies wishing to raise money by selling their own digital currencies, after shutting down several coin providers for working without a banking license.

A spokesman for Finma said the regulator has seen an increase in license applications from crypto-related companies. "We are looking at every application and pursue a neutral approach to business models and technology," he said.

Black River Asset Management AG and Summer Capital are among the mix of local and international investors backing Seba. Buehler said some of the money will be used to create the new financial entity, while the rest goes toward capitalizing the bank so it can offer investment protection.

The company employs 17 people and plans to more than double this figure by the end of 2019, Buehler said, with plans to expand to Singapore and Europe next at an undetermined time, and to raise additional funding once a banking license is obtained.

Buehler said he intends for Seba customers to be able to hold and trade both fiat and cryptocurrencies, as well as for the bank to offer investment and asset management services. “Our vision is when you log in into your online banking, you’d have access to crypto and fiat within one account,” he said.

The value of digital currencies has plumbed to new depths over the past few months, and has now surpassed the Nasdaq Composite Index’s 78 percent peak-to-trough decline after the dot-com bubble burst in 2000. But Amschwand isn’t overly concerned.

“Market decline isn’t impacting my view," he said. "Short-term volatility does not undermine long-term validity of digital assets."

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.