- Reuters/Stephen Hird
- A new report from the Bank for International Settlements questions the viability of central bank issued cryptocurrencies.
- “The introduction of a central bank digital currency (CBDC) would raise fundamental issues that go far beyond payment systems and monetary policy transmission and implementation,” the BIS said.
- Cryptocurrencies have entered the consciousness of central banks in recent years as they increase in popularity.
LONDON – Central banks issuing their own cryptocurrencies could threaten the stability of the global financial system, the Bank for International Settlements said in a report issued on Monday.
The BIS report, written by a group of analysts led by the ECB’s Klaus Löber and Aerdt Houben of the Dutch central bank, argued that were central banks to issue digital currencies, those currencies could become rivals to cash, which might lead to rising interest rates as money is pulled away from the commercial banking system.
“The introduction of a central bank digital currency (CBDC) would raise fundamental issues that go far beyond payment systems and monetary policy transmission and implementation,” the BIS said in its report.
“A general purpose CBDC could give rise to higher instability of commercial bank deposit funding. Even if designed primarily with payment purposes in mind, in periods of stress a flight towards the central bank may occur on a fast and large scale, challenging commercial banks and the central bank to manage such situations.
“Introducing a central bank digital currency could result in a wider presence of central banks in financial systems.”
This in turn could lead to a “greater role for central banks in allocating economic resources, which could entail overall economic losses should such entities be less efficient than the private sector in allocating resources.”
“It could move central banks into uncharted territory and could also lead to greater political interference,” the report adds.
Cryptocurrencies have entered the consciousness of central banks and their most senior officials over the course of the last couple of years.
In September last year, the BIS made its first public comments about cryptocurrencies, saying that central banks must think seriously about their approach to the space.
Early last year, for example, Jens Weidmann, the head of Germany’s Bundesbank – and favourite to succeed Mario Draghi as ECB President – warned that digital currencies like bitcoin have the potential to make financial crises in the future even more devastating.
Weidmann said he believes that central banks will eventually create their own digital currencies to reassure average citizens that such currencies are safe and stable, but in doing so could increase the risk of bank runs in future crises.
“Allowing the public to hold claims on the central bank might make their liquid assets safer, because a central bank cannot become insolvent,” he said in a speech in June.
No central bank has yet introduced its own cryptocurrency, but Sweden’s Riksbank – one of the most forward thinking central banks – has said it could issue a so-called e-krona imminently, while the Bank of England also has a cryptocurrency unit, despite Governor Mark Carney’s distrust of cryptos.