Distributed ledger technology 

Distributed ledger technology (DLT), also known as blockchain, offers the financial industry numerous opportunities in the form of promising use cases for developing new business models and increasing the efficiency of their existing activities. 

Greater control over your own data thanks to DLT 

DLT works rather like a network of many digital notaries that check and verify all transactions in a public transaction register. Once verified, identical copies of the transaction records are stored in multiple databases (i.e. “distributed”). DLT thus makes it possible to transfer and manage not only information, but also assets and their ownership directly between different parties via the Internet. The technology promises significant advantages: it functions without intermediaries, and distribution ensures better protection against external attacks. Because the individual records are interconnected, it is very difficult to manipulate them after the fact. 

Taking advantage of opportunities – overcoming challenges 

Using DLT offers new opportunities for both banks and their customers. For example, it reduces the cost of identifying customers. Customer data are available more quickly, which makes authentication more efficient.  

Another opportunity is the tokenisation of assets, a process whereby rights pertaining to an asset are converted into a digital “token”. DLT plays an important role in this process, offering decisive advantages over traditional asset securitisation, such as greater transparency, efficiency and security for all parties in the ecosystem. 

Established intermediaries and their existing business models are facing fundamental challenges as a result of DLT. They must harness their financial expertise, their broad customer base and the significant trust that they enjoy.  

A wide range of issues need to be clarified from the regulatory perspective, including the legal classification of cryptocurrencies, how they are taxed and the technical security and legal requirements for storing keys. 

Position of the Swiss Bankers Association

The SBA remains committed to promoting innovation in DLT while minimising risks through regulatory measures. Only if it has the world’s best operating conditions can Switzerland continue to be a leader in the global competition between financial centres and generate growth and value creation at home. 

We welcome the Federal Council’s proposal in November 2019 to create legal certainty quickly. Developments in DLT are advancing rapidly, so Switzerland should continue to pursue a legislative and regulatory approach that is both principles-based and technology-neutral. We also welcome the fact that adjustments within the existing legal framework are being favoured over the introduction of a new law specifically governing DLT.  

Going forward, the SBA will strive for close and constructive collaboration with the authorities and relevant associations to clarify unresolved issues and contain potential risks.  

Experts

Richard Hess
Head of Digitalisation
+41 58 330 62 51
Andrea Luca Aerni
Research Associate Digitalisation
+41 58 330 62 58