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Are CBDCs the future of money and the end of banking as we know it?

In recent years, the world has witnessed a significant shift in the way payments are made. With the rise of digital transactions, more and more countries are exploring the possibility of introducing their own Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) and the UK is no exception.

First, let's define what a CBDC is. Simply put, it's a digital form of a country's currency that is issued and backed by the central bank. Unlike cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, CBDCs are legal tender and are regulated by the central bank. They can be used for making transactions, just like physical cash or traditional digital payments.

Several countries, including China, Sweden, and the Bahamas, have already introduced their own CBDCs or are in the process of doing so. China's digital yuan, for example, has already been rolled out in pilot programs in several cities, while the Bahamas' Sand Dollar became the world's first CBDC to be launched in 2020. These initiatives are gaining momentum, with other countries like the United States, Canada, and Japan also exploring the possibility of launching their own CBDCs.

So, what does this mean for banks? Well, for starters, CBDCs have the potential to revolutionise the way payments are made. They offer a faster, more secure, and cost-effective way of conducting transactions, which is good news for both businesses and consumers. However, they also pose a significant challenge to the traditional banking system.

One of the most significant potential impacts of CBDCs is that they could reduce the demand for cash and traditional bank deposits. If consumers and businesses can hold and transact in digital currency issued by the central bank, they may not need to rely on traditional bank accounts as much. This could lead to a decline in the role of banks in the payment system and could impact their business models. 

Similarly, according to a report by McKinsey, if a CBDC is launched successfully with direct access for consumers and businesses, it could lead to a significant portion of the deposits currently held in commercial bank accounts being displaced. This, in turn, could result in the emergence of a new competitive landscape for payment solution providers. As bankers are already grappling with the task of strengthening client relationships beyond the conventional deposit model, the introduction of CBDCs could further exacerbate this challenge.

In the UK, the payments landscape is already changing rapidly, with the introduction of Open Banking and the Payment Services Directive 2 (PSD2). Banks are also facing increasing competition from fintech companies and challenger banks, which are disrupting the market with innovative digital offerings.

The introduction of a CBDC would add another layer of complexity to this changing landscape. Banks would need to be prepared to adapt to new technologies and work with regulators to ensure that CBDCs are integrated seamlessly into the payment system. For example, they would need to ensure that the technology used to create and distribute CBDCs is secure and can't be hacked. Additionally, they would need to ensure that CBDCs don't pose a threat to financial stability and that they can be used to implement monetary policy effectively.

Like it or not, CBDCs are set to transform the payment system and create new opportunities and challenges for banks. While the road ahead may not be without bumps, banks need to be prepared for the changes that are coming. By embracing innovation and focusing on improving their digital offerings, they can continue to play a vital role in the payment system of the future.

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Comments: (1)

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 03 April, 2023, 22:35Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Who needs CBDC and for what purpose? What gaps in the present day electronic payment service with multiple schemes and thousands of providers in competition still remain for a government single provider monopoly to resolve? The CBDC would destabilize the mortgage lending in society and drive up interest rates since it would drain deposits from banks that partly finance lending from deposits. Furthermore it would create a huge concentration risk and make payment services more prone to  disturbances. It would also be the dream target of any hostile foreign government hacker and organized crime operative. Last but not least, if CBDC would not be significantly better and cheaper to run than existing payment services, it would fail to get uptake and while trying waste taxpayer monies. Who believes that central bank people can build a successful retail payment system? 

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