Switzerland has made impressive strides towards accommodating innovation - both domestic and foreign - in the fields of fintech, blockchain and cryptocurrencies in the last few years. Thanks to some impressive recent research, it has now become easier to visualize this progress.
Let’s start with the new cryptovalley.directoryexternal link, an interactive map of 350 blockchain companies, educational institutes, legal, consulting and other services spread around Switzerland. Most of them are based in the Zug/Zurich region (the centre of the Crypto Valley universe), but the southern (Italian-speaking) and western (French-speaking) regions also feature entrants.
When Swiss Economics Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann recently proclaimed that the world would soon be talking about “Crypto Nation Switzerlandexternal link”, perhaps he had this picture in mind.
And there’s more to life than ‘just’ blockchain and crypto. Plenty of Swiss fintech players combine elements of these new technologies, but others can make an impact with other means of digital innovation (roboadvisory, software as a service, digital payments etc).
According to a mammoth 143-page report recently published by the Institute for Financial Services Zug (IFZ)external link - a department at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts - by the end of last year there were 220 pure-play fintech firms in Switzerland (up from 190 in 2016).
The authors are strict on how they classify fintech, meaning that some insurtech, proptech and regtech companies don’t even make the list.
Perhaps the most startling data to come out of the IFZ report is the huge increase in funding for Swiss fintechs last year. The modest venture capital allocated to the sector in 2016 (well under CHF50 million) had swollen to CHF400 million at the end of last year.
A large chunk of this could be put down to the initial coin offering (ICO) craze that swept the world last year. Some CHF850 million ICO capital was generated in Switzerland, with CHF276 being raised by fintechs (as defined by IFZ).
The global fintech hub ranking is sure to inspire some debate, though. IFZ rates Zurich and Geneva in second and third spots respectively, just behind Singapore. Other surveys are not so generous to Switzerland. I guess it depends on what comparative criteria you use.