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Sibos 2020: 'In a world of CBDCs, I am not sure what Swift would do' - David Birch

Sibos 2020: 'In a world of CBDCs, I am not sure what Swift would do' - David Birch

David Birch, author and financial services consultant, compares Swift to CB radio or Charlie's Angels, as an "affectionate tribute to the 1970s".

Following on from yesterday's discussion on central bank digital currencies (CBDCs), the director of Consult Hyperion was asked if he could envisage anything meaningfully different in the way money will operate in 20 years' time.

"In a world of CBDCs, I am not sure what Swift would do," Birch says.

"It involves an awful lot of messing around to do with settlement, reconciliation, clearing and so on."

He imagines a world in which an African farmer buys fertiliser from China and receives payment for the soya beans he grows all in CBDC.

"There may not even be banks involved in that transaction, let alone Swift," he claims.

In this world, money would become more of an interpersonal, unmediated entity.

Birch believes that CBDCS are much more of a revolution in the way money will operate than they are presently given credit for, largely because much of the conversation is being conducted by conservative people who assume there will always be some semblance of the old way of doing things.

Fellow panelist and Swift chief innovation officer, Thomas Zschach, believes that with digitisation and technological change will come further problems that need to be addressed.

According to Zschach, this is why Swift exists and therefore it will still be required to find solutions that can manage the inevitable risks that would be created by a decentralised, disintermediated financial world.

Lana Swartz, assistant professor at the University of Virginia suggests that any CBDC-driven change will be more subtle and may not bring about the far-reaching disruption to the financial system that some expect.

"We never have full and total revolutions - all technological change is additive," she says.

"Ecosystems become more complex rather than shifting completely from one paradigm to another."

Visa and Mastercard made money electronic in the 1970s, for example, which was not seen as a revolution by any means, but now forms the backbone of most financial transactions.

"We don't get revolution. We get evolution and even when we do get revolution we don't realise it," she says.

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