At the launch of the Bank for International Settlements’ (BIS) fourth Innovation Hub in London, Governor Andrew Bailey expressed positivity around the work currently being carried out by the Bank of England on central bank digital currencies.
Bailey stated: “I'm very encouraged by progress on that [CBDC] front and the fact that we are getting to grips with this critical innovation. If this comes to pass, it will be one of the most fundamental innovations in the history of central banking, it will move us into a new era."
Discussion throughout the morning canvassed multiple payments related topics from cross border payments, open banking, open finance, regtech, suptech, payments standards such as ISO 20022, to digital currencies, all tying back to the fundamental desire to leverage technology and innovation made available in the private sector, to bolster public sector infrastructure.
“As a central bank we've always recognised the importance of innovation for the global financial system, and we look to support it wherever possible in the safest manner. Of course, the private sector can create technological and commercial innovation, it is a comparative advantage and expertise. But in the public sector, we have a very vital role in enabling and channelling its development so that it can provide efficient but also safe finance for consumers and businesses across the country.”
Bailey continued that there is a clear benefit from collaboration and cooperation in many areas, particularly in areas such as those covered by the BIS Technology Hub. Drawing focus back to a key theme raised in the Kalifa Review earlier this year, Bailey emphasised that while the Innovation Hub will be based in London, it will proactively make use of the entire fintech sector and financial expertise in the UK.
With significant development currently ongoing across global financial innovation, Bailey noted that there is “intense” international public sector cooperation over issues such as the development of stablecoins. There is also close work between undertaken by financial regulators to understand how developments in these markets could affect financial stability, in addition to the BoE’s own work on central bank digital currency.
“The innovation agenda that the BIS have laid out is at the heart of this central global cooperation. It has a focus on future financial market infrastructure, on central bank digital currency, on digital currencies more generally, on open finance on reg tech, supervision technology, cybersecurity, which sadly is also at the centre of what we have to do and have to protect against, and also green finance. So if you put all those things together, you can see what an ambitious and important agenda this is.”
Benoît Cœuré head of the BIS Innovation Hub confirmed that digital payments and CBDC are an important part of the BIS agenda. In fact, half of the BIS’ current projects are CBDC-related, covering wholesale, retail and multiple CBDC interoperability.
“Our portfolio spreads across our Hong Kong, Singapore and Swiss centres, and it's initially focused on wholesale CBDC, although we do have some projects on retail CBDC. Exploring the potential of next generation multilateral cross border payment platforms for wholesale CBDC is a key focus also.”
More BoE heavyweights added their insight on the topic, with Deputy Governor Jon Cunliffe explaining that the bank’s focus has been for some time on new types of digital money, such as stablecoin and also CBDC.
“It's been a big week for developments in the FinTech space, as we published a discussion paper on Monday, setting out many of the key issues for central banks, that these new types of digital money potentially raise…CBDC if adopted, could represent one of the biggest innovations, one of the biggest developments in central banking, since central banking itself started many centuries ago.”
David Ramsden, also Deputy Governor at the central bank followed, adding: “my expectation is that given the work we've been focusing on here in the Bank of England, and more widely in the UK fintech sector which we've kind of hinted at with some of some of what we've published earlier this week, we will be focusing around areas of payments and CBDC, regtech, suptech, data and open finance as obvious priorities.”
Following the morning’s session, Bradley Rice, financial regulatory partner at law firm Ashurst said: "This is another pivotal moment in the inevitable transition to digital assets and further advances in digital finance. It is also an important market for the UK's ambitions to continue to influence FinTech developments on a global scale.
"As private capital markets transform and innovate, and private stablecoins and cryptocurrencies continue to develop, it is vital that Central Banks innovate. Many are well advanced on this journey with Central Bank Digital Currencies being launched or in advanced stages. But innovation waits for nobody. The time has come for Central Banks, regulators and legislators to coordinate responses and provide clarity for industry participants to facilitate the fourth industrial revolution."