A National Stock Exchange That Supports NFTs? Welcome to Switzerland

Never mind security tokens, the newly licensed SIX Digital Exchange is in discussions with NFT funds and central banks. SDX’s chairman discusses the trading venue’s uniquely Swiss ambitions.

AccessTimeIconNov 29, 2021 at 4:45 p.m. UTC
Updated Nov 29, 2021 at 6:52 p.m. UTC

Ian Allison is an award-winning senior reporter at CoinDesk. He holds ETH.

Imagine if the London Stock Exchange or Euroclear said they were going to include non-fungible tokens (NFTs) among the assets they trade and settle.

That’s just one of the things Switzerland’s now-up-and-running crypto trading venue SIX Digital Exchange (SDX) is contemplating, after a seemingly interminable wait for licenses from the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA).

The convergence between the new cryptocurrency world and traditional finance is illustrated in SDX, whose parent company is SIX Group, the operator of the Swiss national stock exchange.

The floodgates are now open, according to SDX Chairman Thomas Zeeb. And it seems a segue into NFTs is a natural progression for SDX, whose plan was always to tokenize non-traditional assets like real estate and art, in addition to existing financial products.

“Expect to see an acceleration of some of the pent-up stuff we’ve been keeping a lid on for a while,” Zeeb said in an interview with CoinDesk. “I see absolutely no reason why SDX wouldn’t be a desirable infrastructure for NFTs.”

SDX eyes global liquidity

In the short term, there’s a pipeline of tokenization products that can be launched relatively quickly, Zeeb said, including some new listings in equities that could be targeted at digital-savvy investors looking to benefit from the liquidity and price discovery associated with assets being on a full exchange.

“We’ve got a lot of private market stuff that wouldn’t have the liquidity,” Zeeb said. “So, it’s promissory notes; it’s art funds, that, as you would expect at the moment, has the whole NFT piece as well.”

It’s a digital asset blueprint with global aspirations.

In December 2020, SDX announced a partnership with Japan’s banking and financial services giant SBI Group to replicate a Swiss-based crypto exchange and central securities depository (CSD) in Singapore. The SBI joint venture, which Zeeb refers to as the Asia Digital Exchange or ADX, is designed to create a regulated, global liquidity pool between Asia and Europe.

“That opens up a lot of opportunities, whether the issuer is in Asia and does it through ADX, or the issuer is in Europe and does it through us,” Zeeb said. “Perhaps at some point, there’ll be a link to the United States. Then you really have a global liquidity pool where it doesn’t matter where you access that network. As an investor, you’re getting the benefit of liquidity, price finding, spreads and volumes across that global pool. And that starts to look quite interesting for the future.”

The SDX/SBI joint venture is set to go live in 2022, subject to regulatory approvals from the Monetary Authority of Singapore.

CBDCs and stablecoins

Another area where SDX had been waiting patiently to break new ground is through its work with the Swiss National Bank on a wholesale central bank digital currency (wCBDC), a kind of ultimate blockchain-based settlement token.

SDX’s work on CBDCs, which includes the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), has also been exported into the digital asset sandbox overseen by the Bank of France to connect with a euro-denominated CBDC settlement token.

“There will be some stuff coming out shortly on where we stand with that,” Zeeb said. “It’s an interesting development given that BIS is involved, and obviously there are links to what they’re doing in Singapore, as well as driving forward the stuff in Europe, both with the Banque de France and with ourselves.”

Meanwhile, an SDX Swiss franc stablecoin serves as a “transitional stage to CBDC,” Zeeb said. The agreement SDX has with the Swiss National Bank (SNB) is that the exchange would block Swiss francs on an account at the central bank and issue the stablecoin.

“It’s not creating money supply, so the central bank was comfortable with that while they went through their analyses around CBDC,” Zeeb said. “I suspect we will either find other applications for the stablecoin and/or move straight to CBDC, as soon as the SNB is ready to pull the trigger on it.”

While Zeeb wishes things could move forward a little quicker, he accepts Swiss time is relatively fast in comparison with other countries’ crypto road maps.

“Probably not many Swiss people would agree with this,” Zeeb said, “but we have the benefit of having a fairly enlightened government that said pretty early on, ‘We need to have a digital strategy.’ And it’s a small country. So, you can define the requirements and then let the commercial guys run with it.”


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Ian Allison is an award-winning senior reporter at CoinDesk. He holds ETH.

CoinDesk - Unknown

Ian Allison is an award-winning senior reporter at CoinDesk. He holds ETH.