World Banknote Summit devotes multiple sessions to Central Bank Digital Currency

Thomas Kudrycki, Chief Technology Officer, eCurrency

The World Banknote Summit (WBS) is an organization dedicated to making banknotes a more effective, efficient, and competitive form of payment. It typically focuses on topics such as banknote security, counterfeit prevention, and tools and processes necessary to efficiently manage banknotes’ lifecycle from production through the circulation to their eventual destruction. As cash usage tends to fall around the world, the WBS started considering the digitalization of cash a few years ago and is increasingly at the forefront of discussions on the subject of Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC).


The most recent event in Prague held between February 24 and 26, 2020, attracted diverse speakers and an audience representing banknote producers, central banks, payment companies, and security experts. A significant number of presentations and sessions were devoted to CBDC. Banco Central del Uruguay (BCU) presented their experience designing and operating a pilot implementation of the CBDC in that country. The pilot is widely quoted as perhaps the most advanced trial of the concept of CBDC anywhere since it was not limited to an isolated sandbox within a protective cocoon of a central bank lab. The pilot included a commercial e-wallet provider and a network of cash-in and cash-out agents and allowed participants to pay using the ePeso “digital banknotes”. The pilot is generally considered a success in that it demonstrated that the public could transact using a tokenized, digital liability of a central bank. Various impacts of the ePeso are described as mostly positive, from a positive impact on the monetary policy to a positive impact on commercial competition and resilience (footnote 1). The pilot is now completed, and BCU is analyzing the results. It is not clear if or when the pilot will lead to an actual implementation or the next steps.

The BCU pilot was an interesting first in the CBDC world, but it was only an experiment that paved the way for other central banks to crystalize their thinking, refine their requirements, and hone their approach. The next generation of efforts is led by the South African Reserve Bank (SARB). The SARB presented the road they took to define the requirements and issue the Request for Proposal (RFP) for a CBDC feasibility project. The first public description of the approach and the process by which the SARB will execute the project was described in an Expression of Interest (EOI) document (footnote 2). The document is a manifestation of how carefully and thoughtfully the SARB is considering the project. I predict its results will set the tone for many future CBDC implementations by central banks around the world.

Indeed, the interest in CBDC is exploding among the world central banks. The Bank for International Settlements (BIS) presented the results of a study conducted among the central banks on the level of interest in CBDC, and perhaps more importantly, on the motivations behind the interest in the issuance of the general-purpose CBDC (footnote 3). As the CBDC discussions and plans evolve very quickly, that initial, now somewhat outdated study, is followed by a sequel entitled“Impending arrival...” (footnote 4). This latest January 2020 study finds that central banks are undertaking extensive work on central bank digital currencies. Globally, emerging market economies are moving from conceptual research to intensive practical development, driven by stronger motivations than those of advanced economy central banks. BIS states that central banksrepresenting a fifth of the world’s population say they are likely to issue the first CBDCs in the next few years.

On behalf of my company, eCurrency Mint, I have led two exciting CBDC World Banknote Summit sessions devoted to the operationalization of CBDC. We discussed the key issues the central banks face when planning the initial implementations of their CBDC (footnote 5). The free-form discussions in an open, round-table format addressed matters ranging from policy decisions to the minutiae of IT execution of CBDC implementations. I thoroughly enjoyed the interactions with all the session participants, hope to have made the subject more approachable and appreciate the participants’ input into the evolving future of the eCurrency CBDC solution. eCurrency is looking forward to the next World Banknote Summit in 2021. We expect the CBDC landscape to continue evolving at an accelerated pace and will continue contributing our expertise and solutions to this exciting new form of cash.


Footnotes:

  1. The results are published here: http://www.bcu.gub.uy/Comunicaciones/Conferencias/20171103_BCU_Billete_Digital.pdf

  2. SARB EOI: https://www.resbank.co.za/AboutUs/Departments/FinancialServices/ProcNew/Lists/News%20and%20Publications/ Attachments/40/EOI%20MR01-2019-0.pdf

  3. Proceeding with caution – a survey on central bank digital currency” https://www.bis.org/publ/bppdf/bispap101.pdf

  4. “Impending arrival – a sequel to the survey on central bank digital currency“ https://www.bis.org/publ/bppdf/bispap107.pdf

  5. Common sense guide to operationalizing CBDC https://www.ecurrency.net/media/document/202004/WBS.pdf

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