Gazprombank (Switzerland) is preparing to launch a cryptocurrency service that will include custody of digital assets for its corporate clients, and providing banking services to blockchain companies.
Christian Behek, CTO, told DigFinthe impetus came from demand from its corporate clients. “We’re a niche bank, and this gives us the opportunity to build a new kind of business,” he said.
Gazprombank Switzerland is a subsidiary of state-owned Gazprombank, Russia’s third-largest lender by assets. The company decided to create a digital-assets business in Switzerland because of its favorable regulation. Gazprombank also owns a bank in Belarus, and has branches in China, Mongolia and India.
Corporate customers, many of which come from the energy sector, could deposit both fiat and digital assets in their account.
Once the service is live, Gazprombank would like to attract businesses from blockchain companies, provided they meet KYC and other rules under Swiss law.
The bank has hired Avaloq to build the core banking system to handle cryptocurrencies along with fiat currencies.
Gazprombank is already an Avaloq customer, using them on a Business Processing as a Service basis (that is, outsourcing processes via cloud computing).
“It’s been a co-innovation,” Behek said. “We put forward our requirements and they built the architecture,” which is now in testing mode. He added that Avaloq will then roll this out to other banks. “We don’t want to be the only client of theirs using this.”
Gazprombank is also using a Swiss fintech, Metaco, to provide asset management solutions for digital assets. Metaco provides security around passwords, private keys and other access points to hot wallets or cold storage, as well as liquidity services to connect the bank to brokers and digital exchanges.
This gives us the opportunity to build a new kind of business
Christian Behek, Gazprombank
Behek says Gazprombank has signed up three brokers to transact and provide liquidity in digital currencies, but he declined to name them.
It is still in discussions with Swiss financial regulators, which need to conclude before it goes live.
One aspect of the business that Behek says has yet to decide is what Gazprombank will do with digital assets deposited in its accounts. Deposits in fiat currencies are important sources of funding to banks, enabling them to package these as short-term securities for interbank trading, or to support lending activities. Will digital assets be used in the same way? “To be determined,” Behek said.