Switzerland is one of the world’s leading financial centers, whether it be for asset management, the insurance business or as a trading platform for raw materials.
Swiss neutrality and national sovereignty, long recognized by foreign nations, have fostered a stable environment in which the banking sector was able to develop and thrive.
In 2009, the financial sector comprised 11.6% of Switzerland’s GDP and employed approximately 195,000 people: this represents about 5.6% of the total Swiss workforce.
Given the importance of the banking and financial services sector in Switzerland, it has become crucial for the nation to keep up with the numerous innovations arising. In the field of fintech, progress has been rapid with the number of startups growing from around 25 to 200 over the last two years, according to Christina Kehl, co-founder and managing director of Swiss Finance Startups (SFS), a fintech association.
Yet, fintech still accounts for a very minor part of the overall financial industry, she told Forbes in a recent interview.
Despite a few struggles, fintech is starting to take off with the government beginning to seriously show commitment to become one of the world’s top fintech locations in the world. Today, we give you our highlights of 2016’s key fintech moves in Switzerland.
Moving forward collaboratively
In 2016, Switzerland began seeing the emergence of a real, legit fintech ecosystem with the establishment of numerous associations, accelerators and incubators, all of whom have committed themselves to fintech.
The rise of fintech can largely be attributed to the corporations and banks that have deployed resources to boost fintech development by collaborating with the local startup community.
Notably, UBS and Credit Suisse have partnered with Swisscom, Swiss Life and Ernst & Young to launch a fintech accelerator in Zurich. These have committed to make an investment of SFr3.8m (US$3.9m) to launch Kickstart and help 30 startups from 19 countries. The program, which will run for a minimum of three years, focuses on the strengths of the Swiss, compared to other tech hotspots such as London and Berlin.
Stock exchange operator SIX opened a fintech startup accelerator called F10 Incubator and Accelerator in October. The aim of the association is to promote Switzerland’s fintech ecosystem on a long-term basis, forge global links and strengthen the innovative capacity of the Swiss finance and insurance sectors. The initiative counts two well-known members: Julius Bär and PwC Switzerland.
Swiss insurtech startups gain global recognition
One particular area where Switzerland is poised to become a leader is insurtech, a term applied to the many segments of new technology that are disrupting the insurance space. This year, some local players have gained international recognition, starting with FinanceFox, which has raised US$28 million in Series A funding round in September, the largest insurtech round in Europe to date.
Anivo launched a new online platform making insurance products available to employees and members of clubs and associations. The startup announced in August that it has succeeded in signing a partner of considerable weight in Switzerland: the 35,000 employees of the Swiss state railway company SBB have access to the service.
FinanceFox, which has developed an app that lets users store all their insurance policies in a single place, said it will use the capital to expand its product, marketing, and sales activities in Switzerland and Germany, as well as entering new markets including Austria.
FinanceFox is competing with Swiss insurtech firm Knip in the online brokerage of insurance products. Knip, a mobile-first digital insurance broker and a prominent Swiss insurtech player, closed a US$15.7 million Series B round last year led by US-based Route 66 Ventures.
Switzerland’s crowdfunding scene poised to take off
Switzerland’s crowdfunding space, which experienced significant growth in 2015, rising by 73% from 2014 to reach CHF 27.3 million in money raised, is expected to double in 2016 to an estimated CHF 65 million, according to a report by Hochschule Luzern and Swisscom.
Switzerland’s crowdfunding sector is still very small compared to the likes of the US, and yet, it holds a great future.
Year 2016 saw a number of notable news related to the sector. Geneva-based crowdfunding real estate platform SwissLending has reportedly closed four deals this year, bringing the total capital raised through its crowdfunding platform to more than CHF 2.8 million for 2016. SwissLending has successfully financed four real estate projects from Continental Europe including France, Luxembourg and Switzerland.
2016 also saw the introduction of new players in the field: Lend, a peer-to-peer lender for personal loans, Creditworld, a platform specializing in raising finance for SMEs, and Swisspeers, a financing platform for SMEs, among others.
Investments and acquisitions
Drooms, a provider of virtual data rooms, has agreed to acquire DealMarket with effect from January, 01, 2017. Zurich-based DealMarket has developed a cloud-based software package for private equity investors, family offices and corporate finance experts, allowing them to manage the deal flow and exchange with internal and external parties.
Jan Hoffmeister, co-founder and CEO of Drooms, said that the deal means it is “closing in on our target of managing the entire lifecycle of valuable assets.”
Helvetia, one of the largest insurance companies in Switzerland, has invested in the MoneyPark, taking over 70% of the shares of Switzerland’s biggest mortgage intermediary. MoneyPark, which is headquartered in Wollerau in the canton of Schwyz, combines an online platform with personal consulting services. It also offers an online market place for mortgage refinancing.
In August, Swiss bank Zürcher Kantonalbank led the Series B funding round of crowdfunding platform Investiere.ch, becoming a “significant minority shareholder” in the company. The investment totaled CHF 3.5 million and was described as one the largest fintech investments in Switzerland this year to date.
Featured image: Zurich city, Switzerland, by canadastock, via Shutterstock.com.