Swiss Regulator: Cryptoasset Risk Coverage to Be Estimated At 800% Of Market Value

  • Switzerland's financial regulator, FINMA, has instructed local financial institutions to estimate risk coverage for cryptoassets at 800% of their market value.
  • FINMA considers cryptoassets to be a highly volatile and risky asset class.

Switzerland’s financial regulator, the Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA), has  reportedly recommended that cryptoassets should be “assigned a flat risk weight of 800% to cover market and credit risks.”

FINMA also advised local banks and other financial institutions to estimate risk coverage for all digital assets at 800% - “regardless of whether the positions are held in the banking or trading book.”

The high risk coverage for cryptoassets indicates that FINMA considers them to be highly volatile, and classifies their trading “at the same level as hedge fund activity.”

"Increasing Number Of Enquiries" From Cryptoasset Holders

Although the Swiss financial regulator acknowledges that cryptocurrency prices have stabilized in the last few months - with bitcoin’s (BTC) volatility index being at its lowest since December 2016, it still thinks that the “spectre of volatility stills hangs over the asset class.”

According to a confidential letter FINMA recently sent to EXPERTSuisse (an association for Switzerland’s accountants and trustees), the Swiss regulator has “received an increasing number of enquiries from banks and securities dealers holding positions in cryptoassets.”

In response, FINMA said that anyone who owns cryptoassets is “subject to capital adequacy requirements, risk distribution regulations and regulations for the calculation of short-term liquidity ratios.”

Must "Assume Value Of $50,000" Per Bitcoin

Bitcoin (BTC) is currently trading at around $6,400 according to data from CryptoCompare, however, a financial institution has to “assume a value of around $50,000” per bitcoin when determining the “risk-weighted” value of the cryptocurrency.

Because of this, banks and other financial service organizations must “put aside a larger chunk of capital to cover potential losses of cryptocurrency positions than most other assets,” local news outlet, SwissInfo.ch explained.

FINMA has also instructed Swiss financial institutions to limit their digital currency trading activity to 4% of their total capital. When this limit has been reached, the institutions must report to the nation’s regulatory authorities.

Positive Feedback From Switzerland Bitcoin Association

Notably, these guidelines are only applicable to cryptoassets that institutions are holding on their balance sheets, and do not apply to customer funds held separately.

Responding to the new crypto regulatory requirements, the Bitcoin Switzerland Association (an “active community” of crypto enthusiasts that aim to increase awareness of digital assets), said: 

It’s encouraging to see banks no longer turning down the increasing number of client requests for crypto services but asking for guidance and providing their input along the way. This is the Swiss financial centre’s first step towards moving into the next decade where assets are no longer held in a single, central custody but instead are held on the blockchain.

Bitcoin Switzerland Association

 

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BitMEX Slammed as Roubini Raises the Stakes in War Against Crypto

Neil Dennis

Every new concept has its critics and there's none so vehemently opposed to cryptocurrencies as New York University academic Nouriel Roubini, who has just taken his most vicious swipe yet at the emerging asset class.

In an essay entitled "The Great Crypto Heist", published this week on the website Project Syndicate, the NYU Stern Business School professor accuses financial regulators of "being asleep at the wheel" while an army of unregulated exchanges, propagandists and scammers commit "rampant fraud and abuse".

He singles out crypto-derivatives exchange BitMEX as being a particular threat to retail investors. Roubini clashed earlier this month with Arthur Hayes, the chief executive of BitMEX.

Regulation

But first, the professor explains why the sector needs to be more closely monitored. The broader financial sector came under increased regulatory scrutiny following the 2008 financial crisis, to protect investors and society. 

The regulatory regime does not capture cryptocurrencies, however, which are launched and traded outside the domain of official financial oversight, he says.

The result is that crypto land has become an unregulated casino, where unchecked criminality runs riot.

BitMEX

He rounds on BitMEX, registered in the Seychelles, which offers highly-leveraged bets on the rises and falls of cryptoassets: products more broadly known as derivatives.

These investment products have come under the microscope of regulators in many countries. The UK's Financial Conduct Authority would like to ban the sale of cryptoasset derivatives and exchange-traded notes to retail customers, saying they are too difficult to value and are prone to extreme price movements due to the volatile moves of the underlying cryptoassets.

Other global regulators have made moves to reduce the amount of leverage offered by crypto-derivatives exchanges. Roubini points out that with a 100-1 leverage, even a 1% price move in the underlying assets could trigger a margin call that wipes out the investor's entire account and leave them owing the exchange.

Hayes, boasted openly that the BitMEX business model involves peddling to 'degenerate gamblers' (meaning clueless retail investors) crypto derivatives with 100-to-one leverage.

BitMEX aslo runs a proprietary trading desk - an internal, for-profit desk that trades cryptocurrencies with its own money - that has been accused of front-running its own clients, Roubini asserts. He adds:

Hayes has denied this, but because BitMEX is totally unregulated, there are no independent audits of its accounts, and thus no way of knowing what happens behind the scenes.

Perhaps his most grand accusation in the essay, however, is that exchange is being used for criminal activity:

BitMEX insiders revealed to me that this exchange is also used daily for money laundering on a massive scale by terrorists and other criminals from Russia, Iran, and elsewhere; the exchange does nothing to stop this, as it profits from these transactions.

Tiff in Taipei

Roubini accused Hayes this month of holding back the broadcast of a video recorded of their clash at conference in Taipei - to which Hayes had secured exclusive right to.

In the essay, he continues this accusation, saying:

I suppose this is par for the course among crypto scammers, but it is ironic that someone who claims to represent the 'resistance' against censorship has become the father of all censors now that his con has been exposed.

Crypto Cancer Metastasized

In his final dig at the industry, Roubini says crypto trading has created a multi-billion dollar industry that does not just include the exchanges, but also "propagandists posing as journalists, opportunists talking up their own books and lobbyists seeking regulatory exemptions.

It is time global regulatory bodies stepped in, he concludes:

So far, regulators have been asleep at the wheel as the crypto cancer has metastasized. At a minimum, Hayes and all the others overseeing similar rackets from offshore safe havens should be investigated, before millions more retail investors get scammed into financial ruin.

So far, Hayes appears to have remained silent following the article's publication. No activity on his Twitter account. But the ball is now firmly in his court as the war of words heats up.