Back to the list

BIS Survey Reveals Central Banks’ Shift to Digital Currencies and Stablecoins

source-logo  financemagnates.com 10 July 2024 17:02, UTC

According to a comprehensive survey by the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) in 2023, 86 central banks worldwide are deeply engaged in CBDC development. This burgeoning interest signals a significant move towards integrating digital currencies into the mainstream financial system, aiming to modernize payment mechanisms and enhance financial stability.

The Rising Prominence of CBDCs

Central Bank Digital Currencies represent a fundamental change in how we perceive and utilize money. Unlike traditional cashless payment instruments such as credit transfers and e-money, CBDCs are a direct liability of the central bank, offering a new form of digital money. This distinction is crucial as it underpins the trust and stability associated with central banks. The BIS survey highlights that more than half of the surveyed central banks are actively working on proofs of concept, with a third running pilot programs.

The interest in CBDCs is driven by multiple factors, including the desire to enhance payment systems, support monetary policy, and strengthen financial stability. Retail CBDCs, intended for everyday transactions by households and firms, have been a focal point of many central banks. However, there is a notable shift towards wholesale CBDCs, which are designed for transactions between financial institutions. These wholesale CBDCs promise new functionalities through tokenization, such as composability and programmability, which could revolutionize interbank transactions.

The Role of Stablecoins

Stablecoins have emerged as a significant innovation within the broader category of cryptoassets. Unlike traditional cryptocurrencies, stablecoins aim to maintain a stable value relative to a specified peg, making them more suitable for payments. The BIS survey reveals that stablecoins, despite their small market share, have gained traction among traditional financial institutions. High-profile launches like Société Générale's EUR CoinVertible and PayPal's PYUSD indicate a growing acceptance of stablecoins in mainstream finance.

These developments highlight the potential of stablecoins to bridge the gap between the traditional financial system and the crypto ecosystem. However, the widespread adoption of stablecoins also raises critical regulatory challenges. If not properly designed and regulated, stablecoins could pose risks to the safety and efficiency of payment systems. The BIS survey underscores that two-thirds of respondent jurisdictions are actively working on regulatory frameworks to address these concerns, emphasizing the need for robust oversight to mitigate potential risks.

The Road Ahead

The journey towards integrating CBDCs and stablecoins into the financial system is complex and multifaceted. Central banks are not only experimenting with the technical feasibility of these digital currencies but also engaging with a wide range of stakeholders to shape their design and implementation.

The BIS survey indicates that many central banks are considering features such as interoperability with existing payment systems, offline capabilities, and holding limits for retail CBDCs. For wholesale CBDCs, the focus is on programmability and seamless integration into current financial infrastructures.

Global cooperation is essential in this endeavor. While each jurisdiction has unique economic and social conditions influencing its approach to CBDCs and stablecoins, coordinated efforts are crucial for creating a safe and efficient global payment landscape. The BIS survey advocates for international collaboration to ensure that payment innovations benefit all users while minimizing risks.

As the financial world stands on the brink of this digital transformation, the commitment to collaboration and forward-thinking policies will determine the success of these initiatives. The BIS survey highlights a clear trajectory: embracing digital currencies while safeguarding the integrity and stability of the financial system is the way forward.