Interviewed by Ian Simpson
Ian Simpson: What is it about cryptocurrencies, digital assets and blockchain that appeals to a former investment banker like yourself?
Roger Studer: It is freedom, purpose, global collaboration and a growth market with enormous opportunities. In contrast, the traditional financial industry is growing at a slow pace and is under massive pressure from tech companies. I want to be part of this innovative growth industry. With Bitcoin Suisse AG, I am with a company that will shape the future of the digital financial service industry and create real value for our clients.
IS: How did you personally first hear about cryptocurrencies?
RS: The first time I heard about cryptocurrencies was the pizza transaction in 2010 when the whole idea was still in its early days. Personally, I was actively involved for the first time in 2013 as a bank colleague had the idea of issuing financial products with Bitcoin as the underlying.
IS: When did you first buy crypto?
RS: My first investment in Bitcoin was in 2015. Our clients wanted to invest in Bitcoin with a bankable product. We invented the first stock exchange listed Bitcoin Certificate, which I also bought for myself. It is still a tremendous success.
IS: As the lead investor in Bitcoin Suisse’s very successful Series A funding round, you obviously see great potential, both in the company and the industry. What kind of potential is this?
RS: The disintermediation of the economy will continue. Not only for the financial service industry, from payments to asset and money transactions and custody services, but also to each and every industry globally. DLT will be a key driver and an enabler of this shift, with Bitcoin Suisse I’m part of the leading experts of the industry and we already have a scalable and profitable business model.
IS: What do you think people say to themselves when they hear “Former investment banker at Vontobel, now Director and lead investor at Bitcoin Suisse”?
RS: I received numerous positive feedbacks – most people understand the great opportunities of the technology and of our company. It’s not just about cryptocurrencies but also about the creation of new business models for the financial industry. Bitcoin Suisse is very well positioned, we are a technological leader, we are innovative, we have a great corporate culture and management, an active community and we are highly profitable. This combination is unique.
IS: You have a strong background in structured products and there is clearly potential for such products for crypto and digital assets. How easy (or hard) will it be to bring together the “technical” aspects of structured financial products with the tech behind cryptocurrencies and digital assets?
RS: With the upcoming DLT-Regulation in Switzerland and the DLT exchange license, the community can start to work on the one missing piece, the trading infrastructure for digital assets. The tokenization of assets is already solved and there are very solid custody solutions on the market. I’m convinced by the end of next year we will see a broad investment universe available a STO’s.
IS: There is a lot of talk about tokenizing assets that have been previously unbankable – art, collectibles, even cattle farms. What will it take for these assets to really “take off” – what kind of market infrastructure, societal shift or other factor will be the catalyst?
RS: I would expect a first wave in the tokenization of existing securities, small and mid-size companies have a great chance now, even without a stock exchange listing, being tradable. A second wave, which might go hand in hand with the first one, for asset classes like real estate, art and so on, which up until now have not been securitized and which can now benefit from a digital marketplace.
IS: Of all the assets out there, which do you think lend themselves best to tokenization…equities, bonds, real estate investments, wine collections?
RS: All of the above – and many more. I am convinced that all assets can be tokenized in some way, at some point. It will probably take some time before that happens. What is certain, is that Bitcoin Suisse will be one of the leading service providers within the industry.
IS: With the Swiss parliament recently voting unanimously to pass new DLT-focused regulation, do you feel that Switzerland has an advantage over other markets for crypto-financial services?
RS: I can feel the willingness of all of the stakeholders, but Switzerland needs to cooperate with other countries to ensure global standards. The more unified the standards, the higher the benefits of the society of the disintermediation and the more new services.
IS: For Bitcoin Suisse to take full advantage of the potential in the crypto and digital asset market, what will be the key factors?
RS: Continue and work as hard as you did in the past. Be close to our clients and to the technology. Bring to life our vision of the digital financial services industry.
IS: You were recently quoted as saying, “If you run a traditional business model, you need to find the balance between managing new technologies, investing in new business models and harvesting old business models.” How much of an appetite do you think there is among institutions like Vontobel and others, large and small, for new technologies like blockchain?
RS: I have experienced a great interest in blockchain technology within the financial industry but also from the economy in general. Most of the traditional companies face a dilemma. Put yourself in the shoes of the owner of a horse-drawn carriage transport company at the beginning of the 20th century. Any investment in motorized trucks challenges and cannibalizes your existing business. It takes courage, foresight and above all independence to implement and execute the business models of the future.
IS: Where do you see the greatest challenges for further development in crypto-financial services?
RS: I see three elements that are needed for the digitization of the financial service industry, based on blockchain technology.
The tokenization of assets, is technically manageable and solved. The exchange of digital currencies or trading digital assets is or will be available soon. The most challenges I see, are tied to having reliable storage and custody services for the trillions of USD of money and assets from institutional investors.
IS: Much of the very recent growth in US equity markets has been fueled by retail investors – using new platforms like Robinhood. Do you think this trend may translate into crypto and digital asset markets as well? Or is the real potential mostly from institutional investors such as pension funds and external asset managers?
RS: The vast majority of volumes on the stock exchanges are still from institutional investors. But yes, retail investors are important and early adapters of new technologies and are key for the further development of the digitization of the financial service industry.