Tag Archives: Stablecoins

Readout of the Meeting of the President’s Working Group on Financial Markets to Discuss Stablecoins

Secretary of the Treasury Janet L. Yellen convened the President’s Working Group on Financial Markets (PWG), joined by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, to discuss stablecoins. In the meeting, participants discussed the rapid growth of stablecoins, potential uses of stablecoins as a means of payment, and potential risks to end-users, the financial system, and national security. The Secretary underscored the need to act quickly to ensure there is an appropriate U.S. regulatory framework in place.

The group also heard a presentation from Treasury staff on the preparation of a report on stablecoins, which would discuss their potential benefits and risks, the current U.S. regulatory framework, and the development of recommendations for addressing any regulatory gaps. The PWG expects to issue recommendations in the coming months.

In attendance were:

  • Janet L. Yellen, Secretary of the Treasury
  • Jerome Powell, Chair, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
  • Gary Gensler, Chair, Securities and Exchange Commission
  • Rostin Behnam, Acting Chairman, Commodity Futures Trading Commission
  • Jelena McWilliams, Chairman, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
  • Michael J. Hsu, Acting Comptroller of the Currency
  • Randal Quarles, Vice Chair for Supervision, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
  • J. Nellie Liang, Under Secretary for Domestic Finance, U.S. Department of the Treasury

Tlaib, García and Lynch Introduce Legislation Protecting Consumers from Cryptocurrency-Related Financial Threats

This week, Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (MI-13), along with Congressmen Jesús “Chuy” García (IL-04) and Chairman of Task Force on Financial Technology Rep. Stephen Lynch (MA-08), introduced the Stablecoin Tethering and Bank Licensing Enforcement (STABLE) Act, which would protect consumers from the risks posed by emerging digital payment instruments, such as Facebook’s Libra and other Stablecoins currently offered in the market, by regulating their issuance and related commercial activities. Digital currencies, whose value is permanently pegged to or stabilized against a conventional currency like the dollar, pose new regulatory challenges while also represent a growing source of the market, liquidity, and credit risk.

The STABLE Act would remedy some of those challenges at a time when the COVID-19 Pandemic has exposed numerous barriers to accessing and utilizing mainstream financial institutions, leaving many to look to the financial technology sector to meet the financial servicing needs of low- and moderate-income (LMI) consumers for everything from faster direct payments, access to loans, and even access to bank accounts. LMI consumer vulnerabilities could be exploited and obscured by bad actors looking to issue stablecoins, like other shadow money issuers in the past. For Tlaib, García, and Lynch, that threat coupled with the financial strains posed by the ongoing pandemic requires urgent action, including passage of the STABLE Act that would:

  • Require any prospective issuer of a stablecoin to obtain a banking charter;
  • Require that any company offering stablecoin services must follow the appropriate banking regulations under the existing regulatory jurisdictions;
  • Require that any company or bank issuing a stablecoin to notify and obtain approval from the Fed, the FDIC, and the appropriate banking agency 6 months prior to its issuance and maintain an ongoing analysis of potential systemic impacts and risks;
  • And require that any stablecoin issuers obtain FDIC insurance or otherwise maintain reserves at the Federal Reserve to ensure that all stablecoins can be readily converted into United States dollars, on demand.

“Getting ahead of the curve on preventing cryptocurrency providers from repeating the crimes against low- and moderate-income residents of color that traditional big banks have is—and has been—critically important,” Congresswoman Tlaib said. “From the OCC to the Federal Reserve to those peddling stablecoins, the protections the STABLE Act would make possible are more needed than ever amid a pandemic that will breed riskier financial decisions out of necessity because our federal government continues to fail us all by not providing adequate relief legislation. I thank Congressman García and Chairman Lynch for co-leading this important effort to see these protections made a reality.”

“Working class communities like mine in Chicago already face tremendous barriers to accessing financial services and credit. The Trump administration’s deregulation of our financial system has opened the door for tech companies to consolidate their power by preying on people of color with products that promise inclusion but only undermine our banking system,” said Congressman Jesús “Chuy” García. “That’s why I’m proud to introduce the STABLE Act with Reps. Tlaib and Lynch to ensure that new financial tools like stablecoins have proper oversight and protections. Congress must ensure that new financial technologies and payment tools do not prey on vulnerable users. The STABLE Act does just that–it embraces innovation while also protecting consumers.”

“The STABLE Act is a concrete step toward protecting Americans’ finances and ensuring safety and soundness in financial institutions,” Rep. Lynch said. “Stablecoins present a new and innovative way for consumers to use their money and I believe this technology can be used to make financial transactions more efficient while potentially increasing financial inclusion. However, adopting new technology has its risks and I give great credit to my colleague, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, for recognizing and addressing the need for appropriate consumer protections. In the STABLE Act Rep. Tlaib ensures that our financial regulators have the necessary tools to protect consumers. We cannot outsource the issuance of American currency to private entities and the STABLE Act guarantees that our regulators will be able to effectively oversee the application of this new technology.”

Facebook has attempted to take advantage of the financial exclusion and gap in the market—just one of the actors that have pursued issuing stablecoins by pegging them to a basket of major conventional currencies. JP Morgan, Apple, and Paypal/Venmo have also considered issue their own stablecoin variants that also have the potential to take advantage of unbanked and underbanked communities. Many of these stablecoins inherently represent a promise that, without regulations, there is potential for disparate impact, “predatory inclusion,” “digital redlining,” and the “color of surveillance,” as consumer advocates have warned.  

Some of the foremost consumer advocacy organizations, including The Public Money Action, The Law and Political Economy (LPE) Project, Consumer Reports and Americans for Financial Reform, have endorsed the STABLE Act.

“The STABLE Act is a forward-looking bill that embraces digital payments innovation, while simultaneously ensuring that the our money remains safe, secure, and properly regulated,” Willamette University College of Law Assistant Professor Rohan Grey said.

“By extending federal banking regulation and consumer protections to cover new forms of ‘deposits’, the STABLE Act addresses the growth of ‘shadow payments’ and ‘shadow banking’—forms of financial activity that merit robust, preventative, and comprehensive regulation regardless of their specific legal and technological design,” Public Money Action Director and Yale Law School Associate Research Scholar Raúl Carrillo said. “Even more importantly, the STABLE Act shuts the door on Big Tech companies like Facebook that are trying to enter the banking space without following the appropriate rules or conducting business on a level playing field.”

“The STABLE Act establishes appropriate oversight of issuers of stable coins,” said Consumer Reports Manager of Financial Policy Christina Tetreault said.  “It’s an important step in establishing coherent federal oversight, supervision and regulation of digital financial instruments.”  

“Tech companies are promoting unregulated ‘stablecoins’ that compete with the U.S. dollar and regulated banks by promising customers they can’t lose money on their investments,” Americans for Financial Reform Policy Director Marcus Stanley said. “These stablecoins are insured deposits in all but name. The STABLE Act would bring an end to this evasion by ensuring that companies that guarantee customer deposits are properly regulated as insured depository banks.”

“This is the first comprehensive attempt to offer regulatory clarity for the defense of the U.S. dollar in digital form, and places America among other world countries as a leader in digital assets.” said Value Technology Foundation President and CEO Jason Brett.

Tlaib and Lynch previously led a letter cosigned by García to the Acting Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) Brian Brooks blasting the bureau’s unilateral actions in the digital financial activities space, including interpretive letters on cryptocurrency custody, stablecoins, and its announced plans to start offering special purpose ‘payments’ charters, without protecting the financial system and consumers from the related increase in systemic risk.

The future of money – innovating while retaining trust

Article by Christine Lagarde, President of the ECB, in L’ENA hors les murs magazine

Paris, 30 November 2020

Important lessons can be drawn from the past to understand the factors influencing the journey towards the future of money, including the possible introduction of a digital euro. Ensuring the euro meets the needs of European citizens is at the core of the ECB’s mandate.

Throughout history, the nature of money has evolved in response to socioeconomic changes. But the functions of money – as a means of exchange, a unit of account and a store of value – have remained the same for centuries.

One reason why money first emerged was to overcome the limitations and inefficiencies of bartering. As economies became more specialised, trade became all the more essential, and a universal medium of exchange was needed to facilitate it. Coins made from (precious) metals fulfilled that purpose for centuries.

But with the development of international trade, coins became increasingly impractical because they are difficult to store and transport in large volumes.

This led to the next phase in the evolution of money through medieval times into the late middle ages and early modern times. Developments included the advent of Templar’s credit notes in France, private giro banking in Italy, bills of exchange and promissory notes, and the first predecessors of paper money.

Role of the public sector

All of these instruments foresaw convertibility into precious metal coins. The acceptance of these forms of dematerialised and easy-to-carry money depended on the reputation of the issuer, and credit risk became relevant.

This led to the public sector playing an increasingly important role in issuing money and ensuring its value remained stable. Examples include the emergence of early public giro banks at the beginning of the 15th century and the first attempts to issue modern banknotes in the second half of the 17th century.[1]

In today’s modern economies, including in the euro area, money is no longer convertible into, or backed by, any commodity. Fiat money, as it is known, serves as legal tender by decree of the government or even constitutional legislation (such as the EU Treaty[2]). The value of money is based on citizens’ trust in it being generally accepted for all forms of economic exchange and in the ability of central banks to maintain its purchasing power through monetary policy. Central banks’ institutional independence also bolsters their ability to maintain trust in money.

Since early modern times central banks have gradually been assuming an increasingly pivotal role in ensuring that money delivers on the three functions I outlined. They must be fully aware of and adapt to changing realities.

Technological progress

As we enter the digital age, the nature of money, but also of goods and services, is changing quickly. Digitalisation and technological advances are transforming all areas of society, accelerating the process of dematerialisation.

Non-cash payments continue to increase. In the euro area, over the last year the total number increased by 8.1% to 98 billion. Nearly half of these transactions were made by card, followed by credit transfers and direct debits.[3]

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has accelerated this trend towards digitalisation, with a surge in online payments and a shift towards contactless payments in shops.[4] Market participants expect payments to be the financial service that will be most affected by technological innovation and competition over the next five years, according to a survey conducted in 2019.[5]

To meet the demand for digital means of payment, new forms of private money (i.e. a liability of private entities) have emerged. They are available as commercial bank deposits which can be used for transfers and direct debits, and as electronic money through credit cards and mobile payment apps.

In the euro area, the Eurosystem’s supervision mechanisms ensure commercial banks and payment service providers are effective and safe. This enables people to continue to have confidence in private money, which remains an integral part of our financial system.

But central bank money in digital form is still not available for retail payments.

Digital euro

The ECB wants to ensure the euro remains fit for the digital era. Early this year, the Governing Council decided to explore the possibility of issuing of a digital euro – digital central bank money for retail payments, in other words.

The Eurosystem is assessing the implications of the potential introduction of a digital euro, which in legal terms would be a liability of the central bank. In October the ECB published the Report on a digital euro[6] and launched a public consultation[7].

But why issue a digital euro, if other forms of (private) digital money are already available?

Central bank money is unique. It provides people with unrestricted access to a simple, essentially risk-free and trusted means of payment they can use for any basic transaction. But for retail use it is currently only offered physically in the form of cash.

A digital euro would complement cash and ensure that consumers continue to have unrestricted access to central bank money in a form that meets their evolving digital payment needs.

It could be important in a range of future scenarios, from a decline in the use of cash to pre-empting the uptake of foreign digital currencies in the euro area. Issuing a digital euro might become necessary to ensure both continued access to central bank money and monetary sovereignty.

A properly designed digital euro would create synergies with the payments industry and enable the private sector to build new businesses based on digital euro-related services.

A digital euro would also be an emblem of the ongoing process of European integration and ultimately help to unify Europe’s digital economies.

Crypto-assets pose risks

But what about bitcoin or other crypto-assets that have been trying to gain a foothold in the digital payments space and to anchor trust in their technology?

Innovations like distributed ledger technology (DLT), in particular blockchain (which is at the core of crypto-assets such as bitcoin), bring both new opportunities and new risks.

Transactions between peers occur directly, with no need for a trusted third-party intermediary. The trust that is usually inherent in a transaction is replaced by cryptographic proofs and the security and integrity of records is ensured by DLT, which avoids the “double-spending” problem. Nevertheless, trust is not entirely dispensable.

The main risk lies in relying purely on technology and the flawed concept of there being no identifiable issuer or claim. This also means that users cannot rely on crypto-assets maintaining a stable value: they are highly volatile, illiquid and speculative, and so do not fulfil all the functions of money.[8]

Recently, we have seen the emergence of stablecoins, which try to solve crypto-assets’ problem of a lack of stability and trust by pegging their assets to stable and trusted fiat money issued by States.[9] And the issuers of “global” stablecoins, which target a global footprint, further aim to introduce their own payment schemes and clearing and settlement arrangements.[10]

Although stablecoins could drive additional innovation in payments and be well integrated into social media, trade and other platforms, they pose serious risks.

If widely adopted, they could threaten financial stability and monetary sovereignty. For instance, if the issuer cannot guarantee a fixed value or if they are perceived as being incapable of absorbing losses, a run could occur. Additionally, using stablecoins as a store of value could trigger a large shift of bank deposits to stablecoins, which may have an impact on banks’ operations and the transmission of monetary policy.[11]

Stablecoins, particularly those backed by global technology firms (the “big techs”), could also present risks to competitiveness and technological autonomy in Europe, as they would attempt to leverage their competitive advantage and control of large platforms. Their dominant positions may harm competition and consumer choice, and raise concerns over data privacy and the misuse of personal information.[12]

“Money is memory”

In general, end users prioritise ease of use and smooth integration with other apps or services, and therefore welcome new solutions in exchange for providing their personal data. Public authorities are open to innovation and are prepared to act as catalysts for change, while implementing appropriate policy measures to ensure this innovation helps consumers rather than hindering them.

Payment providers and their payment solutions must be subject to appropriate regulation and oversight – in accordance with the principle of “same business, same risks, same rules” – to protect users and safeguard the stability of the economy against new risks that even go beyond financial ones.

Some say that “money is memory”[13], and it seems that this memory is becoming increasingly digital. But consumers’ digital data and records must not be misused. The abuse of personal information for commercial or other purposes could endanger privacy and harm competition. These and other potential risks are being assessed by the Eurosystem and European institutions.

At the same time, public authorities must balance the benefits and risks of innovation in payments and be prepared to take a leading role in ensuring that payments remain efficient, safe and inclusive in the digital age.

As the economy continues to evolve and new expectations about the nature of money emerge, the Eurosystem must be ready to respond and ensure that European payments adapt to changing consumer preferences and remain inclusive and efficient.

Despite all the changes I have mentioned, the foundations of money remain intact. People accept money only if it is highly trusted, maintains its value and respects privacy – an aspect that is becoming increasingly important in the digital age. These foundations have been and will continue to be found in central bank money, irrespective of the form it takes in the future.[1]Bindseil, U. (2019), Central Banking before 1800: A Rehabilitation, Oxford University Press; Le Goff, J. (2010), Le Moyen Age et l’argent, Perrin.[2]Article 128(1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.[3]ECB (2020), “Payments statistics: 2019”, 11 September.[4]ECB (2020), “Impact of the pandemic on cash trends (IMPACT)”, forthcoming.[5]Petralia, K., Philippon, T., Rice, T. and Véron, N. (2019), “Banking Disrupted? Financial Intermediation in an Era of Transformational Technology”, Geneva Reports on the World Economy, No 22, International Center for Monetary and Banking Studies and Centre for Economic Policy Research, 24 September.[6]ECB (2020), “Report on a digital euro”, October.[7]ECB (2020), “Public consultation on a digital euro: public consultation (questionnaire)”, October.[8]ECB Crypto Assets Task Force (2019), “Crypto-Assets: Implications for financial stability, monetary policy, and payments and market infrastructures”, Occasional Paper Series, No 223, ECB, May.[9]ECB Crypto Assets Task Force (2020), “Stablecoins: Implications for monetary policy, financial stability, market infrastructure and payments, and banking supervision in the euro area”, Occasional Paper Series, No 247, ECB, September.[10]G7 Working Group on Stablecoins (2019), “Investigating the impact of global stablecoins”, October.[11]See footnote 9 and Panetta, F. (2020), “The two sides of the (stable)coin”, speech at Il Salone dei Pagamenti 2020, 4 November.[12]G7 Working Group on Stablecoins (2019), “Investigating the impact of global stablecoins”, October; Panetta, F. (2020), ibid.[13]Kocherlakota, N. (1998), “Money Is Memory”, Journal of Economic Theory, Vol. 81, No 2, pp. 232-251.

From the payments revolution to the reinvention of money

Speech by Fabio Panetta, Member of the Executive Board of the ECB, at the Deutsche Bundesbank conference on the “Future of Payments in Europe”

Frankfurt am Main, 27 November 2020

Retail payments play a fundamental role in our daily lives and for the economy. Last year, adults in the euro area made two payments per day on average.[1] The universe of retail transactions[2] amounted to 213 billion payments – two million every five minutes – with an estimated total value of €164 trillion.[3]

As part of its mission to promote the smooth operation of the payment system, the Eurosystem has two main objectives in the area of retail payments. The first is to guarantee that people have access to efficient payment solutions that meet their preferences. The second is to ensure that transactions remain safe, underpinning confidence in our currency and the functioning of our economy.

Technological innovation means that the policy implications of these objectives are changing, and new opportunities and risks are emerging. Today I will present the Eurosystem’s response: a strategy for empowering Europeans with efficient, inclusive and secure payments in the digital age. And I will argue that the impending revolution in payments requires us to stand ready to reinvent sovereign money.

Convenience and safety in the digital age – Payments

Payments have evolved substantially over time, but the key determinants of their success have remained fundamentally unchanged. People want payments that offer convenience and safety at a low cost. Convenience requires payments to be easy to use, fast and widely accepted, while safety requires low risk from an economic, financial and societal perspective.

The digital transformation is raising the bar for convenience and safety. With the growth of e-commerce and connected lifestyles, people are increasingly demanding immediacy and seamless integration between payments and digital services. At the same time, they are increasingly concerned about privacy, cybersecurity and reliability.

This wide range of desirable features creates scope for innovative payment solutions. Currently, none of the existing solutions – cash, cards, credit transfers, direct debits and e-money – meet all the required features at once. People are forced to use several instruments at the same time. In-person transactions[4] are mostly conducted with cash and cards.[5] Remote purchases are dominated by cards and e-payments.[6] And bills are generally paid using direct debits and credit transfers.[7]

The coronavirus (COVID-19) shock has accelerated the trend towards digitalisation, leading to a surge in online transactions and contactless payments in shops. This trend is likely to persist once the pandemic is over.[8] So we must ask ourselves whether the available means of payment adequately meet the needs of consumers in the digital age.

Cash offers a secure and inclusive way of making in-person payments, but it is not well suited for payments in a digital context, such as in e-commerce. So it is no surprise that it is being used less.[9] Payment cards, on the other hand,facilitate digital, contactless payments. But they are not accepted everywhere. And the Europe-wide acceptance of cards issued under national card schemes currently relies on agreements with international card schemes. As a result, people mostly use international schemes for cross-border card payments, and the European market for card payments is dominated by non-European schemes.

Generally, Europe is increasingly relying on foreign providers, with a high degree of market concentration in some segments, such as card transactions and online payments.[10]

We should not let this reliance turn into dependence. Dependence on foreign providers and excessive market concentration would harm competition, limiting the choice for consumers and exposing them to non-competitive pricing. It could reduce the resilience of the payment system and weaken the ability of European authorities to exercise controls.

We must ensure that the payment market remains open to competition, including from European suppliers and technology.

The influx of technology firms

Fintech companies have sparked the latest wave of innovation, accelerating the evolution of the payment system.[11] Many of them have adopted data-driven business models, where payment services are provided free of charge in exchange for personal data. Numerous banks are expanding their range of digital services by entering into agreements with fintechs; in some cases, integration is achieved when a bank acquires a fintech firm.

The global tech giants – the so-called big techs – are aiming for a revolution in the payments landscape, and represent a threat to traditional intermediation.[12] These firms can use data-driven models on an entirely new scale by leveraging their large customer base, real-time data and control of crucial infrastructures for commerce and economic activity – from online marketplaces to social media and mobile technologies. They can use these advantages, their financial strength and their global footprint to provide new payment solutions and expand in both domestic and cross-border transactions. This would offer them an even stronger base to further expand the range of their financial activities, including lending, as their superior ability to collect and analyse large volumes of data gives them an information advantage.

If not properly regulated, big techs may pose considerable risks from an economic and social perspective and they may restrict, rather than expand, consumer choice. They can aggravate the risk of personal information being misused for commercial or other purposes, jeopardising privacy and competition. And they can make the European payment market dependent on technologies designed and governed elsewhere, exacerbating its vulnerability to external disruption such as cyberattacks.

The big techs may also contribute to a rapid take-up, both domestically and across borders, of so-called stablecoins.[13] As I have argued previously[14], stablecoins raise concerns with regard to consumer protection and financial stability. In fact, the issuer of a stablecoin cannot guarantee the certainty of the value of the payment instrument it offers to consumers. Such a guarantee can only be provided by the central bank.

Moreover, unlike bank deposits, stablecoins do not benefit from deposit guarantee schemes, their holders cannot rely on the degree of scrutiny that is now the norm in banking supervision, and the issuers do not have access to central bank standing facilities. As a result, stablecoin users are likely to bear higher credit, market and liquidity risks, and the stablecoins themselves are vulnerable to runs[15], with potentially systemic implications[16].

These risks could be mitigated if the stablecoin issuer were able to invest its reserve assets[17] in the form of risk-free deposits at the central bank, as this would eliminate the investment risks that ultimately fall on the shoulders of stablecoin holders.[18]

This would not be acceptable, however, as it would be tantamount to outsourcing the provision of central bank money. It could endanger monetary sovereignty if, as a result, private money – the stablecoin – were to largely displace sovereign money as a means of payment. Money would then be reduced to a “club good” offered in return for the payment of a fee or membership of a platform.[19]

We should safeguard the role of sovereign money, a public good that central banks have been managing for centuries in the public interest and that should be available to all citizens to satisfy their need for safety.

Monetary sovereignty could also be threatened if foreign central bank digital currencies became widely used in the euro area, with implications for international monetary spillovers.[20]

These risks are not imminent. We must nonetheless be alert to possible non-linear developments that could endanger financial stability and monetary and economic sovereignty. As we aim to enhance the efficiency of European payments, we therefore need to be prepared to rethink the nature and the role of sovereign money.

The Eurosystem policy response

The Eurosystem is implementing a comprehensive policy to ensure that citizens’ payment needs are met, while safeguarding the integrity of the payment system and financial stability. Our policy is based on interconnected elements addressing the entire payment value chain.

First, we have enhanced our retail payments strategy, in order to foster competitive and innovative payments with a strong European presence. We are actively promoting pan-European initiatives that offer secure, cheap and widely accepted payment solutions.[21]

We are supporting access to bank accounts by non-bank providers, so that they can expand the range of payment initiation services they offer. Yesterday the Euro Retail Payments Board, chaired by the ECB, launched a work stream to facilitate this access. We are working to make the European e-identity and e-signature frameworks better suited for payments and the financial sector more broadly.

Our retail payments strategy also builds on the promotion of instant payments, which make funds immediately available to recipients. We have created a solid basis for instant payments, with commonly agreed rules and powerful infrastructures, including the TARGET Instant Payment Settlement (TIPS) service, operated by the Eurosystem. Thanks to the measures we have taken in recent months, all euro instant payment providers and infrastructures will have access to TIPS by the end of 2021.

Second, we are adapting our regulatory and oversight framework to the fast pace of financial and technological innovation. We have reviewed our Regulation on oversight requirements for systemically important payment systems[22], introducing a more forward-looking approach to identify payment systems that are systemically important. And today we are launching a public consultation on the new regulation, which will then become operational by mid-2021.

We are also completing the public consultation on our new framework for electronic payment instruments, schemes and arrangements, the so-called PISA framework. PISA extends our oversight[23] to digital payment tokens[24], including stablecoins, and to payment arrangements providing functionalities to end users of electronic payment instruments[25]. As a result, technology providers can become subject to oversight.

As part of our comprehensive policy, we are working to safeguard the role of sovereign money in the digital era: we want to be ready to introduce a digital euro, if needed.

A digital euro would combine the efficiency of a digital payment instrument with the safety of central bank money. It would complement cash, not replace it. Together, these two types of money would be available to all, offering greater choice and access to simple, costless ways of paying.

We have started a public consultation to seek feedback from people across Europe and gain a better understanding of their needs. It will be completed in January, and the results will be published once they have been analysed.

A digital euro would need to be carefully designed, in order to enhance privacy in digital payments[26], respect the rules on countering illegal activities and avoid interference with central bank policies, first and foremost monetary policy and financial stability.

In particular, a digital euro should be a means of payment, not a form of investment that competes with other financial instruments. This would require limiting the holdings of individual users[27] and mean that, unlike stablecoin issuers, the issuer of the digital euro – the ECB – would not aim to acquire deposits.

A digital euro would support the modernisation of the financial sector and the broader economy. It would be designed to be interoperable with private payment solutions and would thus represent the “raw material” that supervised intermediaries could use to offer pan-European, front-end payment solutions.

A digital euro would also generate synergies with other elements of our strategy, facilitating the digitalisation of information exchange in payments through e-invoices, e-receipts, e-identity and e-signature. And in making it easier for intermediaries to provide added value and advanced technological features at lower cost, it would give rise to products that could compete with those of the big techs, thereby benefiting end users.

The ECB and the national central banks have started preliminary experimentation through four work streams. First, we will test the compatibility between a digital euro and existing central bank settlement services (such as TIPS).[28] Second, we will explore the interconnection between decentralised technologies, such as distributed ledgers, and centralised systems. Third, we will investigate the use of payment-dedicated blockchains with electronic identity. And fourth, we will assess the functionalities of hardware devices that could enable offline transactions, guaranteeing privacy.[29]

We will take the necessary time to explore all aspects of different options: whether they are technically feasible, whether they comply with the principles and policy objectives of the Eurosystem, and whether they satisfy the needs of prospective users.

Conclusion

Let me conclude. The digital transformation is triggering a revolution in the financial sector, which will bring innovation but also risks. In particular, big techs and stablecoins could disrupt the European financial system. And while they could offer convenient and efficient payment solutions, they also risk endangering competition, privacy, financial stability and even monetary sovereignty.

Our policies provide a forceful policy reaction to the digital shock. We want to create the conditions for a resilient, innovative, diverse and competitive payments landscape that can better serve the evolving needs of European people and businesses. We are promoting safe, pan-European instant payments.

What is at stake is nothing short of the future of money. As private money goes digital, sovereign money also needs to be reinvented. This requires central bank money to remain available under all circumstances – in the form of cash, of course, but also potentially as a digital euro.

We want to enable people to choose their preferred way of paying without having to compromise on their expectations of fast, secure, inclusive and seamless payments. This is our aim today, and it will remain our aim in the future.

Blockchain, Stablecoins and Gold

Blockchain Technology in the last years aims, among others, to create a new and safe payments system for global transactions that will be fast, secure, cheap, transparent, and decentralized. For that, it’s going to use cryptocurrencies.

The value of most cryptocurrencies, like Litecoin and Bitcoin, fluctuates daily, and while the digital currencies aim to facilitate safer transactions, their values depends increasingly on speculation.

The first wave of crypto assets has failed to provide a reliable and attractive medium of exchangeand/or store of value. Crypto coins suffer from high volatility, limits to scalability, complicated user interfaces and issues in accounting, governance and regulation. Crypto assets have served more as a speculative asset class for traders-speculators and those engaged in illegal activities rather than as a means to facilitate global transactions and payments. Today, new stablecoins have many of the features of more traditional cryptocurrencies but aim to stabilise the price of the crypto coin by linking its value to that of an underlying asset or a commodity.

Stablecoins are increasingly gaining traction as their values are pegged to other assets such as the USD, gold, oil or silver. Stablecoins aim to mimic the same functionality of fiat currencies. A stablecoin is a crypto currency that is pegged to and/or backed by an underlying asset.

Stablecoins enjoy the benefits of a cryptocurrency (security, transparency, privacy, etc.) without the extreme volatility that comes with most of them.

In the last months there has been a “stablecoin invasion.” Numerous stablecoins have been released or are in development all over the world.

Most of the stablecoins are pegged at a 1:1 ratio with fiat currencies, such as the USD or the Euro, which can be traded on forex. Other stablecoins can be backed to other kinds of assets, such as commodities like gold, or even by other cryptocurrencies like bitcoin.

Commodity-backed stablecoins are backed by other kinds of assets, among others gold, silver or other precious metals. Gold is the most common commodity to be collateralized.  Investors and users of precious metals-backed stablecoins essentially hold a tangible asset that has real tangible value. Precious metals have the potential to appreciate in value over time, which gives increased incentive for investors to hold and use these stablecoins.

Blockchain technology now has established itself as a secure accounting method, and with BTC becoming well known to global investors, a new era of gold-backed cryptocurrency is emerging, even countries are looking to issue their own gold-based cryptocurrency.

A coin is issued that represents a certain quantity of gold (e.g. 1 gram of gold equals 1 coin)so that at a minimum the price of the stablecoin will always equal the current gold price. The gold is stored in a safe location by a trusted custodian, and can be traded on exchanges with other cryptocurrencies.

An example of stablecoins backed by precious metals are KAU (Gold Currency) and KAG (Silver Currency) which are the primary currencies of Kinesis. On Kinesis Gold Stablecoins you can find a presentation of Kinesis, a list of articles and other materials about this project, which is evolving into a whole monetary system.

When evaluating gold-backed stablecoins look atthe legal framework concerning ownership and storage of the gold: it is important to make sure that you own the physical gold.

There are also stablecoins backed by other cryptocurrencies. This allows the stablecoins to be much more decentralized than their fiat-backed counterparts, since everything is conducted on the blockchain.

Finally, there are also non-collateralized stablecoins that are not backed by anything, which might seem contradictory given what stablecoins are. These types of coins use an algorithm to control the stablecoin supply.