Little by little, the finance sector is being led to position itself on cryptocurrencies. There are those who approve of them and announce it to their shareholders, like the giant BlackRock. There are others who will ostensibly refuse to take part in this “casino”. Switzerland, famous for its banking sector, is thus like the rest of the world: divided on the subject. Some historical banks refuse to expose their clients to its assets considered too “speculative”, while others take the crypto turn with enthusiasm. Let’s go to Zurich, on the banks of the eponymous lake, to discover the Julius Baer Group, which belongs to the second category!
A Swiss asset manager switches to crypto
A few figures about the Julius Baer Group before we get into the nitty gritty. It’s a Zurich-based wealth manager with 135 years of experience and a presence in 25 countries. It has – according to its figures – more than 400 billion euros in assets under management. In addition, it is one of the top 15 private banks in the world. Philipp Rickenbacher is currently the head of the bank.
In the course of last week, he gave a presentation on the bank’s strategies for investors. Crypto-currencies were the focus. The CEO recalled that the bank had already taken a stake in the company SEBA Crypto AG in 2019. Indeed, he was already “convinced” that digital assets would become “a sustainable and legitimate asset class of an investor’s portfolio.” For the record, SEBA Crypto is one of two regulated crypto platforms in Switzerland.
Bitcoin and cryptos divide the banking industry
So Philipp Rickenbacher announced that his group wants to position itself at the intersection of “digital assets and the fiat world”. To do this, they will therefore develop, for their customers, consulting, investment and trading projects around cryptocurrencies. They are even considering, in the medium term, a crypto portfolio and projects around the blockchain. There is even talk of exploring DeFi.
To justify this acceleration in strategy, the CEO talks about “a defining moment for the sector”:
“It could well be that right now we are witnessing the bursting of the cryptocurrency industry bubble. And we all know what happened after the dot-com bubble burst 30 years ago. That paved the way for a new industry to emerge, which really transformed our lives. I think digital assets and decentralized finance have the same potential.”
These words contrast with the official stance of other prestigious institutions like UBS – the world’s leading private bank. Far from being so positive, its CEO, Ralph Hamers, said last year that his firm “would not offer its clients the opportunity to invest or trade in cryptocurrency, as these are untested and speculative assets” and that they “do not advise speculation.” In this, he joins JP Morgan Chase, which is waiting for a change in regulation to get started, for its part.
In the financial and banking sector, there are currently 2 rooms, 2 atmospheres. On the one hand, people have decided to ride the crypto wave and embrace the future of the currency in a joyful and good mood. On the other hand, we are stalling and we are casting opprobrium on an entire sector to “protect” consumers and especially its own turf. We, of course, have made our choice. And what about you?