GENEVA As a crypto-currency bypassing banking regulations, bitcoin’s merit as an alternative to traditional transactions is compounded by a versatility second to none. By facilitating virtual payment for goods and services, bitcoins enable decentralized exchanges by avoiding third-party involvement. The 2007-08 financial crisis prompted bitcoin’s introduction in 2009. Though not illegal in Switzerland, the judicial confusion about its real value impairs effective oversight by financial bodies which particularly fear its potential for money laundering, online vulnerability and endemic volatility. The recent collapse of Japanese currency-exchanger Mt. Gox is a case in point: an estimated CHF 424 million vanished, affecting bitcoin value and user confidence.
Geneva’s first distributor, installed by BitAccess Inc, has been hailed as a novelty and a success. Bitcoin Suisse’s plans to introduce seven bitcoin “cash machines”, where users can convert real currencies to bitcoins, mirrors the virtual currency’s tangibility. To encourage trust and usability, the company says it wants to join the Financial Services Standards Association. Bitcoin is valued at over CHF 520 per unit, but financial advisors warn not to invest heavily given its high-risk speculative nature.