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What Does The IMF’s Report On Digital Money Really Mean?

Denis Goncharenko

The great authorities of the world are getting more serious about the potential of the digital economy year by year, month by month. The criticism is still here but is getting weaker as the results and intentions of big market players show a major success.

As a result, on July 15, the IMF published a report called ‘The Rise of Digital Money’ outlining the potential effects cryptocurrencies will possibly have on the current financial system and regulatory environment.

27-02-2019 14:38:54  |   Investments
The report stated that the two most common forms of money today, cash and deposits, will face tough competition and could even be surpassed. There are several scenarios that could play out in the future, from coexistence between digital currencies and traditional money to a possible total digital takeover. The IMF also stressed that policymakers should be prepared for disruption from big tech companies and FinTech startups. This summary couldn’t have passed unnoticed by companies and experts working in the field, as well as by media.

The concept of digital currency is now firmly embedded in the mainstream, a trend that is set to gain increasing traction, stated Nick COWAN, CEO of the Gibraltar Stock Exchange (GSX) Group, and also added:

“It is important to remember that the rise of bitcoin and digital assets has been fueled, in part, due to growing dissatisfaction with the status quo of traditional finance and the associated problems such as transaction delays, unnecessarily protracted processes, and frustrating intermediary fees. As long as these issues are prevalent, the allure of digital currency will be strong.”

There is some harsh truth in IMF realising that across the globe countries are tackling inflation, expensive remittances, and financial exclusion. Digital currencies, in particular, stablecoins, are being explored by private sector firms with the aim of solving these issues, says Christophe De COURSON, CEO of Olymp Capital, one of the earliest investment fund managers dedicated to the blockchain and digital asset class in Europe:

“It’s becoming increasingly evident that they may succeed, as the report correctly points out — big tech firms and fintech start-ups are experts at delivering convenient, attractive, low-cost and trusted services to a large network of customers.”

Dave HODGSON, Director and Co-founder of NEM Ventures, the venture capital and investments arm of the NEM blockchain ecosystem, said:

“Digital currencies allow for the efficient and cost-effective transfer of value between two parties and aren’t reliant on national borders. This makes them largely resilient to attempts at national control and manipulation, while also removing systemic inefficiencies within the current financial systems, namely with layers of intermediaries. I can receive an Amazon parcel from the USA to Europe, faster than I can remit funds via Swift to pay for them; that's not good enough.”

The barriers are still here but not for long

The hottest topic on the everyday digital economy agenda is regulation and the authorities which oppose the developments. The IMF report notes that regulation of e-money issuers must be prioritised in order to protect customers and avoid risks to financial stability.

Not only is this growth of digital money causing disruption for traditional financial players but it is also forcing them to take heed of the space, stressed Christophe De COURSON. Meanwhile, Governor of the Bank of France, Francois Villeroy De GALHAU, said that the bank is observing ‘with great interest’ initiatives in the private sector which aim at developing networks within which stablecoins would be used in transactions involving ‘tokenized’ securities or goods and services. The IMF report highlights both the looming reality for legacy institutions and the potential for major disruption from FinTech.

The mainstream adoption is imminent of both digital and cryptocurrencies: thousands of young retail consumers selecting challenger banks, largely e-money. Dave HODGSON is sure that this is a direct result of improved service offerings, customer service and price points:

“Several cryptocurrency companies are now starting to cross over into traditional digital money by offering banking (IBAN, Debit card etc) services such as Wirex, Coinbase and Crypterium. It’s also worth noting that in Asia the concept of digital money is well established with services such as Alipay and Wechat.”

Sebastian HIGGS, Director at Vo1t, states that for companies and businesses who make numerous international payments or operate in economies with weak domestic currencies, it may make sense to hold digital currencies, and adds:

“With cryptocurrencies, the friction of moving between assets is already low, and I believe this will disappear almost entirely with the development of interoperability. Depending on whether you need to prioritise cost, privacy, smart contract execution, or even adhering to restrictions imposed by the merchant, digital currencies offer more flexibility to the user and will continue to rival traditional finance.”

So, the IMF acknowledged that digital money has shrugged and ready to conquer the world. Despite all the possible barriers, soon it will be the standard — and for legacy players, it’s better to accept it than oppose it.

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