IBM Expects a Central Bank to Issue Digital Currency Within 5 Years

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73% of leading global banks have claimed that central bank digital currencies (CBDC) should be available “under all circumstances” in a new study.

“CBDC will substitute much more easily for cash”

According to a joint report conducted by tech giant IBM and the Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum (OMFIF), global central banks now admit that CBDCs would be a good substitute for cash in some use cases such as point of sale merchants with a network connection.

Released on Oct. 29, the study “Retail CBDCs: The next payments frontier” involves banks from 13 advanced economies and 10 emerging markets and was conducted between July-September 2019. The study concludes:

“Central banks are responding to the reality that digital currencies, either privately or publicly issued, will soon be part of the global monetary system, and that it is in their interest to ensure they are neither left behind nor displaced.”

While 73% of global banks have spoken in favor of CBDCs, as many as 82% of central bank respondents claimed that the greatest financial stability concern from CBDC use is the risk of digital bank operations at a higher speed than before, the report notes. 

In addition, central banks believe that CBDCs should be available offline and function wherever cash is used to date.

First CBDC is expected within five years

Based on the research results, IBM and OMFIF have concluded that the first-ever CBDC is expected to be implemented within the next five years. The report reads:

“The principal conclusion is that we are likely to witness the introduction of a central bank — that is fiat — retail digital currency within the next five years, either as a complement to or as a substitute for notes and coins.”

Specifically, the research says that it is unlikely that the first-ever CBDC will come from a G20 central bank, but rather is likely to be launched in a smaller and less complex economy to address a certain policy objective such as driving resilience of a national payments system or extending financial inclusion.

The results of the new study correspond with a previous and the first CBDC study by IBM and OMFIF that was released in October 2018. While the majority of global financial institutions expressed confidence that central banks should develop CBDCs, 38% said that they were actively exploring and trialing the technology at the time.

In early October, Patrick Harker, President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, declared that central bank digital currencies “are inevitable,” though adding: 

“Frankly I don’t think we should be the first mover as a nation to do this. […] It is inevitable […] I think it is better for us to start getting our hands around it.”