Blockchain was the subject most enquired about in 2017, according to the leading Swiss financial regulator, reflecting the strong interest in Switzerland and beyond over the last 12 months.
The technology, which underpins cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and ether, as well as supporting a range of smart contract applications and countless other use cases, was highlighted as the most prominent topic for enquiries to the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority over the period.
Of the total 453 fintech enquiries to be submitted to the regulator in 2017, over 60% concerned blockchain or blockchain developments, including cryptocurrencies and ICOs. The figures represent a growth of almost 300% in enquiries from the previous year, where 60 out of 271 enquiries related to the topic.
2017 was a strong year for cryptocurrencies, with prices rocketing to new highs in the case of bitcoin and ether, amongst others. Similarly, the number of companies developing technology for blockchain applications has skyrocketed, alongside equally strong interest in initial coin offerings.
The figures reflect the increasing profile of blockchain technologies, and come at a time when the underlying tech and its implications are becoming better understood by companies across the world.
The rise in the number of enquiries to the Swiss regulator coincides with their decision to place a more direct emphasis on supervising blockchain developments, and in particular, initial coin offerings.
ICOs have driven much of the growth in enquiries, according to the regulator: “”Especially in the second half of the year (2017), there was a sharp increase in enquiries about raising capital via ICOs.”
However, the agency remains alert to the potential for fraud from unregulated ICOs, and has already taken significant action to clamp down against illicit providers. Most recently, the agency ordered the shutdown of three separate businesses linked to the E-coin ICO, which the agency has labelled a scam.
The Swiss position is reflective of the experience of regulators across the world, who are increasingly tasked with the challenge regulating cryptocurrencies, as well as clearing up the rules around ICOs.
With no sign of interest slowing, and an increasing number of enquiries reaching regulators like the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority, it looks like regulators internationally could be in for an even busier year in 2018.