Building the
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Building the finance
of tomorrow

Building the finance
of tomorrow

From mobile banking to the robo-advisor, countries are positioning themselves in the competitive market of financial technology. Switzerland is one of the hubs of advanced know-how in the financial field. How can the Swiss Confederation become a major fintech platform?

Swiss challenges
to becoming a global fintech hub

Swiss challenges
to becoming a global fintech hub

As promising start-ups multiply, the Federal Council is finally turning its attention to fintech, especially its ​​regulation. An encouraging first step - but a long way still to go, say entrepreneurs.

First, came the awakening; now, the expansion. Swiss fintech, which really emerged in 2015, counts some 200 start-ups active in participatory financing, mobile payment and robo-advisors. Geneva and Zurich offer the best framework conditions, close behind Singapore and ahead of London, according to the IFZ Institute in Zug. Fund-raising, increasing year after year, rose to 160 million francs in 2016, while dedicated programs and associations are multiplying to boost the financial technology sector.

Singapore, Zurich and Geneva: top three FinTech Hubs

Global ranking according to framework conditions offered by each city (based on 68 factors)

“Around the world, financial centers are growing and investing heavily in start-ups,” says Christina Kehl, head of Swiss Finance Startups, an association that defends the interests of Swiss fintech. “Our financial center is one of the key pillars of our economy and we want to continue this success story. That is why fintech and the financial industry can no longer be separated. It is necessary to make our financial center evolve into a strong fintech hub.”

million francs were invested in fintech start-ups in 2016, according to Swisscom’s e-foresight, of which 100 million were in Helvetia’s acquistion of MoneyPark.

“Best framework conditions”
Let us start with entrepreneurial reality, often different from the findings of studies that put Switzerland on the innovation pedestal. In finance as in other fields, start-ups are confronted with such obstacles as the lack of investment once past the “early age” phase and the tax burden, among other things. At the beginning of March, FinanceFox, a promising young insurance company that recently raised $28 million, moved its headquarters to Berlin, because of “better framework conditions than in Zurich.”

start-ups in financial technology are active in Switzerland, according to the association Swiss Finance + Technology. That’s a bit more than the figure given by Swisscom’s think tank, e-foresight.

fintech companies in Switzerland - 28 more than in August 2016.

The banks... but not only
Collaborate or fight? If, at first, they were unsure about fintech companies, traditional banks have now adopted a policy of cooperation. “The situation has changed a lot this past year,” says François Briod, co-founder of Monito, a platform comparing fund-transfer services to determine the least expensive. “Traditional players are increasingly taking the initiative to contact start-ups. But one still needs to know, for example, from which department of a bank a project originates and, if it is not, in the end, just a marketing operation.”

start-ups, among the 192 identified by Swisscom, are active in “investment and asset management”, 44 in “crowdfunding” and 26 in “payments”.

If cooperation from the major banks is growing - UBS and Credit Suisse have invested nearly four million Swiss francs to launch the Kickstart accelerator in Zurich and have formed a large alliance in the blockchain; BNP Paribas (Switzerland) will support the Fusion platform in Geneva; and Julius Bär and Six Group are among the founders of the Zurich F10 accelerator - fintech is also increasingly interested in non-bank players such as Helvetia and PwC. The start-up Advanon recently raised 13.5 million Swiss francs from a consortium that includes Swisscom.

million francs were raised in 2016 by Swiss fintech companies, according to and SECA. Total amount raised last year by Swiss start-ups: 909 million francs.

A pro-active Finma
Finma is “ready for fintech”, as it announced in a statement last September, and recent regulatory initiatives of the Federal Department of Finance and the contracting authority are encouraging, say the entrepreneurs interviewed. Some fintech companies are already benefiting.

For example, in March 2016, Finma authorized video and online identification. “In comparison with Switzerland, US/UK platforms can acquire a customer base much more easily,” explains Jean-Marc Sabet, founder of B-Sharpe, an operator of on-line currency transfers. “In Switzerland, to identify themselves, new clients had to present their ID directly or make the identification to the appropriate institutions, often leading to lost time and additional costs. Because of these authentication constraints, users weren’t completing the process of opening an account.” Now, the process is a lot faster: the customer can register and identify at the same time, even using a mobile device. For B-Sharpe, the customer conversion rate is now “significantly higher”.

Another major turning point is the creation of a less onerous banking license for fintech companies. Requirements: not more than 100 million francs of public deposits and a minimum capital of 5% of these deposits, at least 300,000 francs. It’s a good step forward, according to one entrepreneur interviewed, although, for now, it doesn’t benefit “the majority of start-upers involved, as much as it does the spin-offs of banks, companies already well endowed, or even those involved in cryptocurrrency.”

Fast response to change
These first concrete measures have been welcomed positively in the fintech ecosystem. The key challenge for competitiveness is to facilitate innovation, while building a regulatory framework that corresponds to the rapid evolution of new digital models. “The authorities are on the right track,” says Sal Matteis, director of the Fusion accelerator in Geneva. “However, it remains more difficult for a start-up to obtain regulatory clearance here than in London or Singapore, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Indeed, we must ensure adequate control to ensure the viability of start-ups that have access to the Swiss market. One negative point: fintech startups often wait months before obtaining a response from Finma and self-regulatory organizations. And, often, they get no feedback on why they were rejected.”

6 fintechs to watch

Ranking in top 100 swiss start-ups in 2016

3. Knip (ZH)
Mobile app comparing insurance policies.

7. Bexio (SG)
Cloud-based management solution for SMEs.

25. Advanon (ZH)
Investment solutions for SMEs.

47. Contovista (ZH)
Management solutions for personal finance.

70. I Believe in you (BE)
Crowdfunding for sports projects.

80. CashSentinel (VD)
Buy a car by mobile phone.

In addition, Switzerland now has many players, often too dispersed. “Building a strong network between government, business, the innovative ecosystem and universities, from Geneva to Zurich, including Crypto Valley in Zug, is essential to competing with the international hubs,” says Sal Matteis, who worked ten years in London as an entrepreneur and investor, then in the fintech ecosystem of Amsterdam, before coming to Geneva. “We must make sure that everyone plays his role and that everything is well coordinated.”

FinTech sector attracts capital


In EUROPE, 100% DIGITAL Banks That Have Raised The Most Funds In 2016

Berlin and Singapore grow, London remains a question. Worldwide overview

Brexit polarizes the opinions of entrepreneurs. For the most optimistic, the London fintech hub is still one of the most powerful. For these optimists, potential future difficulties will push British entrepreneurs to be ever more effective and innovative. For the most negative, however, the UK leaving the European Union marks a real turning point. “In the medium term, Britain will be more an extension than a central business base,” says one entrepreneur active in the sector based in Geneva and London for several years. “Besides Brexit, the London scene relies heavily on the marketing aspect of the start-up and less on technological know-how. That has disappointed a lot of people there.”

Long home to the most coveted start-ups, New York has seen companies such as TransferWise, Venmo or Bond Street Marketplace becoming important challengers to the traditional finance sector.

Berlin is attracting increased interest from investors. In 2016, venture capital in Germany increased by 38% over the previous year to $521 million, while it dropped by 34% in Britain, from 1,180 billion to 783 million.

Singapore’s ecosystem relies heavily on government initiatives. The authorities have committed about US$160 million over five years to growing the industry. By multiplying private-public partnerships, the city-state has made the blockchain one of its priority projects.

Keep an eye on Asia. In 2016, the fintech of China and Hong Kong drove investment in the entire Asia-Pacific region to $11.2 billion ... passing North America’s $9.2 billion, according to CB Insights.

in Switzerland and
in emerging markets

in Switzerland and
in emerging markets

Rocked by new technology, finance offers many innovative opportunities for entrepreneurs in Switzerland and in emerging markets.

At the heart of an acceleration program

From over 300 applications, eight were selected. Eight promising fintech start-ups that were able to enter the program of Geneva’s Fusion accelerator in October 2016. Immersion.

School of Management Fribourg (HEG-FR) connects Swiss fintech to the world

School of Management Fribourg (HEG-FR) has gained a fine international reputation due to the entrepreneurial orientation of its teaching. The school is also one of the world's first pioneers in bringing fintech to the AOM (Academy of Management) for the first time.

With the emergence of fintech, what are the challenges for Switzerland? How can the country meet the challenge of new digital solutions and make the most of local and foreign talent to stay at the top of financial matters? Jean-Marie Ayer, entrepreneur and lecturer at School of Management Fribourg (HEG-FR), explains the challenges in terms of training and regulation.

«Switzerland has a well conceived educational system»

Jean-Marie Ayer, professor at School of Management Fribourg (HEG-FR)

«London and the UK have, very early on, made the alliance between tech and finance a priority»

Nicolas Steiner, mentor at Level 39 accelerator

Who are fintech players? What sectors do they come from? A mix of entrepreneurs from the banking and financial sector and those who disrupt the field by relying on technological innovation. Nicolas Steiner, entrepreneur and member of the start-up accelerator Level 39, analyses the potential of the new players and the role of incubators and accelerators in guiding them towards success.

Traditionally a stronghold of finance and banking, Switzerland is now in the middle of the fintech revolution. How can this small market best cope? Paul Loeffler, entrepreneur in residence at School of Management Fribourg (HEG-FR), advocates cooperation and complementarity: complementarity with the various cantons offering a multitude of ecosystems and solutions, but also cooperation between traditional players and new, as well as with other fintech hubs and emerging markets.

«These different cantons offer to Switzerland a good opportunity with a rich and various environment»

Paul Loeffler, entrepreneur in residence at School of Management Fribourg (HEG-FR)

A Fintech Immersion with School of Management Fribourg

This course will provide the participants with the latest empowering and practical knowledge on fintech enabling them to understand key concepts and ideas, changes influencing the financial services industry today and trends that will impact the industry in the future.
More information.

  • Objectives
  • Understand the historical context that ignited fintech.
  • Understand its current and future impact on global finance, banking and related industries.
  • Understand the opportunities that FinTech brings in the financial services industry.
  • Understand the disruptive potential of FinTech for established players.
  • Understand the fintech ecosystem: start-ups, corporate and ventures.
  • Acquire knowledge and skills to spark their entrepreneurial.
  • Key Infos
  • 6 day course
  • 3 days in class teaching at the HEG in Fribourg
  • 3 days in London at Level39, Europe largest technology accelerator for finance, retail, cyber security and futures cities technology companies
  • The course is offered on a yearly basis.
  • Teaching Language: English

Micro-enterprises will revolutionize finance

In Asia, Africa or Latin America, entrepreneurs propose innovative models, in particular, in financial transactions.

Bitso is emerging as Mexico's first bitcoin exchange platform. The application also performs traditional foreign exchange transactions and financial transfers. With 20,000 customers and transactions worth $2.5 million per week, the company has already raised $4.35 million from investors.

Based in Brazil, QueroQuitar is an online banking application to optimize debt-management. The service answers the needs of a population that makes extensive use of credit to meet expenses. The start-up has been integrated into Wayra, accelerator of the Telefonica group, and backed by InovaBra, the start-up investment fund of Bradesco, Brazil’s first bank.

The Argentinean company Ripio has concluded a round of financing at $1.9 million. The Buenos Aires start-up has the ambition to extend its services for online bitcoin and currency transactions throughout South America.

Nigerian start-up Paystack has raised $1.3 million from heavyweight venture capitalists like the Chinese giant Tencent. A community of 1500+ traders use the start-up’s online payment platform.

South African start-up Nomanini wants to connect a million micro-merchants by 2020. Its platform functions as a point of sale that distributes, in particular, credit for electricity and mobile communication - services previously non-existent to the population.

Launched in 2015 in South Africa, Mama Money is extending its service to Nigeria, Ghana and Tanzania. The platform’s services range from e-wallets to money transfers. In Nigeria, the start-up is connected with the 25 largest banks and Vkash, a widely used mobile payment system.

Founded in Malaysia, MyCash Online provides financial services for that country’s 3.3 million foreign migrant workers. A safe, convenient method for handling money, it already deploys products and services of some 300 stores on its website and mobile app.

Headquartered in Manila, Acudeen helps small businesses overcome cash crunches. In collaboration with banks, the start-up pays invoices on behalf of small businesses so that their suppliers need not wait two months before receiving payment. When payment comes in, the money goes to Acudeen, which, in turn, pays back the bank.

Big banks
and their robots

Big banks
and their robots

Robo-advisors cuts costs for investors - but not for banks, as they must continue to counsel clients.

Since its arrival on the Swiss market about 5 years ago, the robo-advisor, that autopilot of portfolio management, has aroused much enthusiasm and made many promises. The possibilities of the robo-advisor are enormous: programmed to make decisions according to a given number of parameters, it values securities, sectors and markets and sends buy/sell recommendations to the user. In short, the robo-advisor calculates faster than the human brain to find the best assets at the least risk. But what it lacks is intuition, that ability to judge geopolitical risks or other factors outside the given parameters, those “gut feelings” that tell a human to sell before a crash. Quantitative systems par excellence, current prototypes are in a transitional phase of development and will continue to gain in sophistication with time.

Based on their first trials, traditional asset management companies see these solutions as a way of capturing customers of future generations, rather than as a miracle tool to beat the market or cut costs.

«We are giving ourselves two years to conclusively analyze the results.»

François Siegwart, EMC Wealth management partner

For the past year, EMC Wealth Management, based in Geneva, has been using Swissquote’s robo-advisor for investments over 30,000 francs. “The system makes it possible to carry out an algorithmic allocation of a portfolio on the Swiss stock market,” explains EMC partner François Siegwart. Its main interest is that “it offers a methodology for diversifying a portfolio, including for rookies whose risks often focus on a few securities.” Although it is too early to reach a verdict at EMC, the comparison of performance over one year indicates that the robot's performance is similar to EMC's active portfolio management within the same securities universe. “We are giving ourselves two years to conclusively analyze the results,” says François Siegwart. His partner, Michel Augsburger, who founded EMC in 1982, notes that the Swiss equity fund managed by Swissquote's robo-advisor has posted a 5-year performance above the benchmark.

«In a scenario like 2008, a robo-advisor based on quantitative models is insufficient.»

Alessandro Mauceri, director of Memento SA

For Alessandro Mauceri, director of memento SA, a single-family office in Geneva, the robo- advisor offers an obvious cost advantage for the client, being much less expensive than a management mandate. “UBS offers this service to its clients in the UK for two to three times less than a mandate and the allocation is the same even though it is not expressed in the same way because it includes many ETFs.” For a client with 500,000-1 million francs, “whether it is managed by a discretionary team or by a robo-advisor, in the end, the difference will not be very big,” says Alessandro Mauceri. But he adds that there should always be the possibility of human intervention for specific and complicated cases. “In a scenario like 2008, a robo-advisor based on quantitative models is insufficient. A human team can reduce or significantly increase the risk at any given time. Today's machines do not have that capability.”

«Banks that want to use robo-advisors to accompany clients must accept sacrificing part of their income.»

Daniel Dallinger, co-founder of Financial Technologies

While robo-advisors allow clients to reduce their costs, legal implications force banks to forego their own potential savings. “How should the client’s share of the risk be managed? If a client loses money, could he argue that bad returns are due to the bank and not his own choices?” asks Daniel Dallinger, co-founder of Financial Technologies, who for two years has advised banks on integrating robo-advisors into their business. “Banks that want to use robo-advisors to accompany clients must accept sacrificing part of their income. Otherwise the risk of losses could induce FINMA to enact rigid regulations,” says Mr. Dallinger. “To avoid regulation, then, banks must accept that the robo-advisor does not replace advice, at least not for the moment.” But Swiss banks cannot opt out of robo-advisors, he adds. “Otherwise, foreign banks will integrate them more quickly and will take part of the Swiss market.”

«Robo-advisors are going to take off in Switzerland because local banks will offer them to keep their clients.»

Thomas Veillet, stock reporter and founder of the website

“Robo-advisors are going to take off in Switzerland because local banks will offer them to keep their clients and to bar the way to competitors,” says Thomas Veillet, stock reporter and founder of the website But for the sophisticated investor, he says, their interest is limited: for now, the questions posed by the robot lack granularity and do not allow refinement of the client's risk appetite. Thus, the tool must be semi-assisted. In addition, “even with reduced fees, it is not certain that the client will prefer a robot to his portfolio manager,” says Thomas Veillet. “No robot is yet capable of buying at the lowest and selling at the highest. Whatever tool is used, only the long term allows you to beat the market. Short-term trading is always speculation.”

Be your own wealth manager!

Fintech start-up Strip your Banker develops a tool that enables the user to create a portfolio adapted to his wealth situation. Test it!

Investment is about risk and return. But how much risk can you afford to take, and for which return? Our asset and liability management tool helps you answer this question with a simple assumption: you can afford to lose the money you are not going to need in the future. Input your current and expected future wealth, match it with your planned expenses or just a reserve in capital, add some annuities for your retirement and see if you can afford your lifestyle.
If not, try to reduce or postpone expenses, or review your income growth forecast. The more leeway you have, the more risk you can take in order to increase your capital. Then go one step further and screen the funds universe to select those funds that match your own criteria. We take care of the rest (cheapest available share class, minimum execution fees...).

How to use the tool?
The tool enables the user to create a portfolio of funds adapted to his personal preferences and wealth situation.

The user enters his personal data (current assets, income, recurring expenses, expected growth, years until retirement) to see his wealth projection (with and without investing the accumulated cash). He then adds foreseeable exceptional expenses (buying a car, a house, paying for tuition...) by clicking on +.

He may also opt for converting part of the capital into annuities at the time of retirement. He adjusts those parameters until the situation is affordable, then clicks on "SELECT FUNDS" to create an actual portfolio by screening our universe of funds with his personal preferences.

Under the supervision of Dino Auciello, deputy chief editor of Bilan

Dino Auciello
Fabrice Delaye
Matthieu Hoffstetter
Mary Vakaridis
Myret Zaki

Charlène Martin
Pierre Broquet

Pictures editor
David Huc

Inès Girod

Sarah Meyer de Stadelhofen


Geoffrey Raposo

Myret Zaki, chief editor of Bilan
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