This November, The Fintech Times is looking to broaden the understanding of digital currencies, ranging from blockchain’s use outside of crypto to CBDCs, in an attempt to replace the notion that digital currencies are a synonym for crypto.
Rounding out our digital currencies focus, The Fintech Times gathered views and opinions from the fintech industry on both the positives and negatives of Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs), and how they compare to cryptocurrencies.
CBDCs are being adopted across the globe, with the UK developing its Britcoin, China: its digital yuan, and the US in talks about a digital dollar. The president of Peru’s central bank has also indicated that the country will be joining forces with India, Singapore, and Hong Kong (all of which have their own digital currency in place) to develop a CBDC native to Peru.
But is this digitising for the sake of it, or are there worthwhile benefits to a digital currency?
Bhairav Trivedi, CEO of Crown Agents Bank:
“With digital currency, central banks don’t need to print cash or hold physical money. Currently, countries can print as much money as they like, resulting in problems like hyperinflation. Using a controlled digital currency could eliminate this problem. Additionally, governments would be able to track exactly who has what. Unseen wads of cash stashed under mattresses or coins lost behind the couch would be a thing of the past.
“This also leads to the second main advantage: fraud detection and prevention. When currency can be tracked to this level, crimes such as money laundering would be virtually impossible.
“Furthermore, digital currencies make transactions faster and easier for consumers, increasing convenience. There could also be a certain level of anonymity; an individual wouldn’t need to apply their name and address for example, but could instead use an ID number so that their identity wouldn’t be revealed to the other party in the transaction.”
Karan Kapoor, Head of Regulatory Solutions and RegTech at Delta Capita:
“CBDC will be able to scale globally relatively easily. This will allow more and more unbanked people in a certain location to open a bank account directly with the central bank on their smartphones. This is set to increase financial inclusion worldwide. Moreover, CBDC will most likely cause large denomination notes to be removed from the market. Less large notes in circulation will be a hit on tax evasion or more serious crimes.”
Du Jun, co founder of Huobi Group:
“An ideal CBDC should be safe and accessible, should maintain a balance between privacy and preventing from illicit activities, and strengthen the impact of monetary policies. A CBDC that provides the above benefits is difficult to design for most countries. Long-term active management of CBDC is even more challenging than issuing, and is necessary for CBDC to realise its benefits as well as the ultimate goal of promoting economic growth.”
Peter Woeste Christensen, Director at LPA:
“There are serious risks inherited in most CBDC implementations. The most important is the balance between protection of privacy and the ability for the state to create the transparent citizen. Combine the ability to track individual spending, with a social credit system and this has the potential to eventually become the ultimate oppression system.
“Models where the government takes over the role as the payment service provider always raises concerns, and could eventually lead to a lack of confidence in the overall system due to the lack of competition and alternatives. CBDCs done the right way will unlock value across both the local and global economy.”
Anthony Oduwole, Co-Founder of Verto:
“It gives the government more control over personal data, which some individuals may not want, as well as the risk of cybersecurity breaches. CBDCs also significantly impact the traditional banking system, with the worst-case scenario being causing a bank to run solely on deposits. CBDCs also exclude those that don’t have access to a digital device.”
Cryptocurrency or CBDC?
Victor Hogrefe, CBO and co-founder of Eon Labs:
“The rise of cryptocurrency and blockchain is the one counter-trend. It promotes decentralisation, which stops these trends around companies and governments from getting too dangerous.
“I think smaller countries would be more inclined towards adopting crypto since they are the ones that tend to gain more from adopting it since in less-stable countries, blockchain-based alternatives can be a lifesaver. They can transfer internationally without going through the banking system, which is slow and terrible.”
Tristan Roozendaal, Chief Executive Officer, Centralex:
“Some think that CBDCs will eliminate fiat currencies. This is unlikely – currency is never going to go away, what’s more likely is that big players like Visa, Mastercard, and big banks will start building out their own stablecoins and their own blockchains.
“As to whether they’ll eliminate crypto – it’s difficult to see this happening as the technology has such a wide range of use cases. There’s so much more to crypto than just being currency and a value exchange. Just look at NFTs for example – we can tokenise anything, which has huge applications across a number of industries – from Disney creating NFTs of its most beloved characters to gamers being able to tokenise in game video items and take them out of games for the first time.
“What’s more likely is that CBDCs and ‘traditional’ cryptocurrencies will coexist, and meet in the middle with a central secured blockchain that all parties can trust – this could, for example, look like an Ethereum chain which has Visa and Mastercard side chains that can operate with it.”
Julie Copeland, Partner at StoneTurn:
“For smaller or developing countries with larger populations of “unbanked” citizens, CBDCs can promote financial inclusion and reduce costs. These countries, however, will need to weigh those benefits with the potentially high cost of implementation, as well as the ability to safeguard the assets given ever-increasing cybersecurity risks, both of which are high barriers to entry for many smaller countries. The utility of CBDCs heavily relies on the willingness and rate of adoption by a country’s population, which could be hampered in countries with greater distrust or tensions between the government and its citizens.”