Bitcoin certainly has a love-hate relationship with banks.
In recent months, they have tended to show some support for the technology that powers bitcoin (blockchain) but have dismissed bitcoin as being a legitimate option for the banking industry. But that hasn’t allowed them to ignore the attention that’s been placed on the rise of bitcoin.
That’s leaving central bankers across the globe looking into how they could implement their own virtual currency that would, unlike bitcoin, be regulated and embraced by governments. The benefits, of course, are the faster payments possibilities and more cost-effective systems that put the central banks more in control of transactions and how money moves. But then there’s the security issues.
As reported in a Wall Street Journal article, there hasn’t been a central bank that has formally devised a system to use or develop a digital currency, but there has been plenty of chatter going on in the industry.
“We have to envision a world in which people mostly use eMoney,” Carolyn Wilkins, senior deputy governor of the Bank of Canada, was quoted as saying in a speech last month. “We need to anticipate this and manage the risks and benefits that could arise.”
The trick for central banks is determining what system would be secure, efficient and able to get the backing of the government. But with the help of digital FinTech startups, there could be a changing tide for traditional financial service providers.
Take, for example, eCurrency Mint (eCM), a Dublin startup that’s working with central banks to discuss how they could actually look into the concept of the technology needed to implement a digital currency. Jonathan Dharmapalan, founder and CEO of eCM, told WSJ that his company has had conversations with several countries’ central banks and formed agreements with two of them to implement the tech needed to envision their digital currency plans.
What eCurrency Mint’s technology is designed to do is use existing digital transaction systems to transfer payments between consumers, merchants, banks and even payment companies. What this means is the tech would be used to alter the digital currency without needing to drastically change how the system already operates.
Two central banks that have shown interest in developing digital payment technologies are those of Canada and Ecuador, sparking conversations across the globe. Even the Bank for International Settlements, which includes members from 60 global central banks, noted in a paper that the concept of bitcoin should be explored in order to give banks more control.
“One option is to consider using the technology itself to issue digital currencies,” the group wrote in a paper. Conversations are likely to continue on a global scale, despite developments not formally moving forward.
Across most use cases for which digital currencies have been discussed, the conversations have centered on the fact that the option would reduce costs and streamline the payments process, thereby making financial services more efficient across the board. In the U.S., for example, it could help consumers move money faster and cheaper.
In the WSJ article, Andrew Haldane, chief economist of the Bank of England, was cited for his thoughts on what digital money could do for the global economy. He noted the benefits of getting away from physical cash for a variety of reasons, including working with financial policy tools.
“Perhaps central bank money is ripe for its own great technological leap forward,” he was quoted as saying in a past speech.