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Russia’s biggest bank opens a cryptocurrency exchange in a country notorious for secrecy

What could go wrong?

Bitcoin pieces on a stack of Russian rubles

Bitcoin pieces on a stack of Russian rubles (via Shutterstock).

Russia’s love affair with cryptocurrency is being consummated in Switzerland. Sberbank, the largest bank in Russia, is planning to use Swiss arm Sberbank Switzerland AG to open a formal exchange for trading cryptocurrency.

Despite having no cryptocurrency legislation at present, Russia’s regulatory environment is so far extremely favorable. There is a proposed framework in place for how the country might regulate cryptocurrency trading. But it’s got nothing on Switzerland, notorious for its history of banking secrecy. Where Russia merely hasn’t outlawed crypto, Switzerland has formally legalized it. By operating its exchange in Switzerland, Sberbank gets more money privileges to flex for its soon-to-be crypto-customers.

“We wish to serve our customers’ interests, that’s why we think that we need to have strategic access to all kinds of products and services,” says the bank’s head of global markets, Andrey Shemetov. Sberbank’s crypto-exchange will only do business with other businesses, not individuals or other retail-level fish.

One Sberbank rep issued us a firm “no comment” on cryptocurrency, only saying that the bank is bullish on the blockchain in general. It’s a mellower echo of Sberbank chief Herman Gref’s passionate proclamation a couple weeks ago that the blockchain is one of the “new huge technologies whose power cannot be realized at the moment” and that “in no circumstances should [cryptocurrency] be banned.”

It is good PR for companies to support the blockchain or otherwise demonstrate awareness of the emergent technology. Sberbank clearly wants the world to know it loves crypto, and it’s picked an extremely favorable home base to build a crypto business.

There’s no formal timeline for when this new Swiss-Russian crypto-exchange will see the light of day, but Russia and cryptocurrency are closer than ever before to making things official.

Dylan Love is an editorial consultant, contributing reporter, and fiendishly curious technology enthusiast. He owns no cryptocurrencies.