In his farewell address as Deputy Governor of the Bank of England (BOE), Sir Jon Cunliffe delved into the evolution of payment solutions, both past and future. Meanwhile, Vice Chair Michael Barr of the Federal Reserve Board spoke on October 27 about the ongoing research into a central bank digital currency (CBDC) or related technologies. These discussions took place at the Economics of Payments XII Conference, where both Sir Jon Cunliffe and Vice Chair Barr shared their insights.
Vice Chair Barr shed light on the Federal Reserve’s current focus, which revolves around the “end-to-end system architecture,” encompassing ledgers, tokenization, and custody models for an intermediated CBDC. He emphasized the necessity of a congressional mandate before a digital dollar could become a reality, but he also highlighted the importance of learning from domestic and international experiments to guide responsible innovation.
While Vice Chair Barr’s remarks may seem uncontroversial, they evoke Representative Tom Emmer’s earlier call to end the Federal Reserve’s somewhat “sketchy” CBDC research, made in the House of Representatives in September.
Sir Jon Cunliffe, whose decade-long tenure as Deputy Governor concludes on October 31, spoke at the conference a day before Vice Chair Barr. He, too, underscored that no final decision had been made in his country regarding a CBDC. Nevertheless, a consultation paper published in February suggested that current payment trends and technological advancements would likely necessitate a Digital Pound by the decade’s end.
Notably, this consultation paper garnered 50,000 responses, with key concerns revolving around privacy, programmability, and the diminishing use of physical currency. Cunliffe amusingly remarked, “Critics of the Digital Pound have expressed a wide range of concerns, from its potential to disintermediate the banking system and pose threats to financial stability, to questioning its utility and viewing it as a ‘solution in search of a problem.’”
Cunliffe envisioned a future where private companies could seamlessly integrate and program the Digital Pound as the settlement asset into the services they provide to wallet holders. He assured that the BOE would release a discussion paper on stablecoin regulation in the coming months.
Both Cunliffe and Vice Chair Barr emphasized the importance of regulating stablecoins, citing their reliance on the trust of central banks. These insights shed light on the dynamic landscape of digital currencies and payment systems.