Home Policy & Governance Switzerland government backs ‘SwissHacks’ hackathon focused on fintech innovation

Switzerland government backs ‘SwissHacks’ hackathon focused on fintech innovation

Zurich: the government-backed hackathon will take place from 28-30 June 2024 in the lakeside city, with the winning teams to be invited on stage at this year’s edition of the ‘Point Zero Forum’ on 3 July | Credit: Angela (Pixabay – Zurich picture) and © Elevandi (Point Zero Forum 2023 picture)

A ‘government-driven’ hackathon focused on financial innovation is to take place in Switzerland as the European country looks to encourage private-sector fintech initiatives.  

‘SwissHacks’ is a new ‘flagship event’ launched by the Swiss Financial Innovation Desk (‘FIND’), an independent unit – launched as a ‘central public hub to foster financial innovation’ in September last year – within the State Secretariat for International Finance (SIF) in the Federal Department of Finance

In launching the competition, FIND is ‘aiming to concierge and hatch financial innovation and consolidate Switzerland’s leadership in the global financial arena by having the smartest minds solve real-world issues within 48 hours and link prototype solutions with corporates and investors’, according to a SIF announcement.

FIND is inviting ‘students, developers, designers, entrepreneurs and finance professionals’ to get involved with SwissHacks, which is looking for solutions in five specific challenge areas: ‘sustainability tools’ for listed companies; financial innovation with artificial intelligence (AI); ‘revolutionising’ application programming interface (API) testing in banking with generative AI (‘GenAI’ – AI that generates text, images or other data using generative models); using AI ‘to enhance wealth management’; and blockchain in finance.

The hackathon will take place from 28-30 June 2024 in Zurich, the weekend prior to the ‘Point Zero Forum’ – an international fintech conference co-organised by SIF and Elevandi (a non-profit organisation set up by the Monetary Authority of Singapore).

RELATED ARTICLE Swiss government sets up unit to ‘foster financial innovation’ – a news story (6 July 2023) on plans for FIND

Public-private engagement

‘Hackathons and similar government-initiated formats like tech sprints have previously seen significant success in places like New York or London and represent a novelty for the Swiss Federal Department of Finance,’ the announcement notes.

‘FIND intends to stimulate the Swiss innovation scene and simultaneously create connections with the PZF [Point Zero Forum] community,’ it continues, saying that the hackathon ‘presents a priceless opportunity to build a bridge between regulators (policymakers) and the financial market ecosystem, fostering a collaborative environment that could catalyse transformative developments in finance.’

The announcement describes the inaugural SwissHacks as a ‘public-private partnership’. Switzerland-headquartered wealth management firm Julius Baer and Microsoft are main partners. The hackathon itself will be ‘powered and operationalised’, the announcement states, by a Zurich-headquartered company called Tenity.

The winning teams are due to be honoured by state secretary for international finance, Daniela Stoffel.

Prizes include the opportunity to present solutions in front of selected business angels and venture capital firms on 2 July during an event titled ‘From Idea to Impact – a VC’s [venture capitalist’s] perspective’. In addition, the winning teams will be invited on stage at the Point Zero Forum on 3 July.

RELATED ARTICLE Brazil G20 global fintech competition focuses on sustainable finance innovation – an article (30 April 2024) on the fifth G20 TechSprint

FIND-ing its way

“Never before has there been a Swiss government driven hackathon with an exclusive focus on financial innovation,” said FIND head Eva Selamlar.

“Switzerland is the cradle of finance, education and entrepreneurial spirit,” she continued. “All we need to do is to unleash this DNA by putting the cleverest to work on five distinct problems. Best case is we see visionary and scalable solutions that address pressing societal challenges; worst case is we are smarter than 48 hours before and have substantially expanded our professional network”.

Since FIND formally came into being in September last year, three further recruits have come on board, to complete a four-strong team (alongside Selamlar): economic analyst Justin Friedrich; community and events lead Venusia Bertin; and IT and project lead André Lergier.

In addition, it was announced just over a couple of months ago that an ‘innovation sounding board’ has been established by FIND to ‘integrate [its] initiatives with external expertise and market insights’.

The first meeting of the seven-member group was held in February in capital city Berne. Three of the sevenwill be among the SwissHacks jury members.

Applications for participating in SwissHacks 2024 close on 31 May.