One of the ?Big Four? accounting organizations, EY, recently announced that their Swiss firm will soon begin accepting bitcoin. The firm has also installed a publicly-accessible Bitcoin ATM (BTM) in their main office building, next to the Hardbr?cke train station in Zurich, and has given bitcoin wallets to all of their employees. The overall effort is part of the firm’s global push to ?digitalize itself,? the firm states.
– Ernst & Young
EY operates as a network of member firms across the globe, employing 231,000 people in more than 700 offices in over 150 countries. The accounting giant reported global revenues of US$29.6 billion last year. The swiss firm employs 2,627 employees in 11 offices throughout Switzerland, with total revenue of CHF 661.2 million (US$653 million) last year, up 8.7% on the previous year.
EY Switzerland advises and supports clients in their transformation toward what they call, ?the new digital reality.? Its innovation center, Garage Lab, works with clients to develop digital products based on smart contracts. ?In combination with digital currencies, the benefits of such products, including low transaction costs and automated processing, can be fully realized,? states Daniel Haudenschild, EY Partner Advisory Financial Services.
The firm is also a founding member of digitalswitzerland, a multi-sector initiative promoting global digitalization. Blockchain technology adoption is a reoccurring theme throughout the organization, and their startup accelerator.
Although ?Big Four? competitors Deloitte, PwC, and KPMG are all engaged in exploring blockchain technology, EY is catching up. The organization is co-sponsoring initiatives like the FinTech satellite at the Zurich?s WorldWebForum 2017 in January, where EY will also present their own blockchain solutions. The firm has also set up a research partnership with two universities, St. Gallen and ETH Zurich, to develop innovations for the financial industry.
– Marcel Stalder, EY Switzerland CEO
A big part of the internal EY Swiss digitalization program is a push to use digital currencies. The firm intends to make employees more familiar with the topics of blockchains and cryptocurrencies, according to its announcement.
Employees and passers-by can use the new BTM to exchange Swiss francs for Bitcoins and vice versa. The machine is made by leading Canadian BTM manufacturer BitAccess, and run by Swiss BTM and consulting operator Bity. It charges a very reasonable fee of 0.6 percent, well below the seven percent average.
The independent BTM tracker CoinRadarATM shows that there are 14 other BTMs in Switzerland, and the 886 globally. However, Switzerland also has over 1,000 train-ticket machines scattered throughout the nation that sell bitcoin as well.
EY is also providing all of its employees in Switzerland with a secure digital bitcoin wallet, the EY wallet app, which was developed in-house with the help of blockchain consultancy startup Blockchain Source. The wallet enables EY employees to accept payments for all EY services, and can also be topped up using company smartphones.
To ensure their employees get a good taste of how to use the technology, according to a member of Blockchain Source, the building?s cafeteria now accepts bitcoin with a Point of Sale machine from General Bytes.
While EY has made a major move to adopt bitcoin, competitor Deloitte became the first of the big four firms to install a Bitcoin ATM machine in September. The BTM is in their Toronto office lobby, but the company hasn?t accepted bitcoin for services in any way yet, nor for lunch.
– Marcel Stalder, EY Switzerland CEO
EY Switzerland CEO Marcel Stalder states that it is essential for Switzerland to be a pioneer in the blockchain space, citing the country’s role as an important financial and industrial center and a digital hub.
Another of the Big Four accounting firms, KPMG, recently released a report entitled. ?Shaping Switzerland’s digital future.? The firm claims that the first wave of digitalization is “already redefining our way of life” citing automation, digital labor, and the mobile economy.
“In the age of digitalization, organizations and companies face multifaceted problems that are part of increasingly complex business issues,? states the report. ?These entities need the right mix of creative/innovative thinking, methods and environment to move forward.”
Members of the North American and European Audit Committee Leadership Networks met in Z?rich to discuss digitalization last June. Paul Willmott, Director at McKinsey, asserted that digitalization has ?fundamentally altered customers? expectations,? adding that ?everything needs to be real time, fully electronic and personalized.?
The Swiss canton of Zug already hosts offices from many major digital currency companies like Blockstream, Xapo, Ethereum, Monetas, and Shapeshift. The region has been called the silicon valley of Europe for blockchain and digital currency.
However, the prestigious Swiss research institute and university ?cole polytechnique f?d?rale de Lausanne (EPFL) states that Switzerland lags behind on digitalization, although digitalization will be a key driver of future growth in Switzerland.
The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), a consultative body of the European Union (EU) also points out problems. The EESC Employers’ Group is tasked with bringing together entrepreneurs and representatives of entrepreneur associations in the EU’s 28 Member States. Patrizio Pesci, the president of the EU’s Consultative Commission on Industrial Change (CCMI) said in May last year that while the impact of digitalization and the potential benefits are huge, ?the EU currently lacks a coherent approach.”