Central Banks Highlight Conditions Required for CBDC Success

Central bank digital currencies will meet the goals envisioned by their proponents only if they include private-sector participation, interoperability with the existing payments system and careful, deliberate design and implementation, a group of central banks that includes the Federal Reserve said yesterday. In a series of reports published by the Bank for International Settlements, the seven central banks representing major developed economies examined CBDC system design, user adoption and implications for financial stability.

The central banks “envisage CBDC ecosystems based on a broad public-private collaboration, i.e. a ‘tiered’ system where some roles would be carried out by the public sector and others by private entities,” they said. “A natural split in any tiered CBDC system would be for the central bank to be responsible for the core of the system to the extent that they could steer the system to deliver policy goals and a safe and efficient payment system.” A CBDC directly operated by the central bank would be “likely unsuitable” for those contributing to the reports, they added.

The banks added that a CBDC would need to be gradually and carefully introduced to avoid abrupt financial stability risks. “CBDC and certain new forms of digital money could also increase the latent risk of systemic bank runs,” the report said, noting that “this risk is reduced in the existing system through effective banking regulation, deposit insurance, and resolution frameworks.” CBDC could also be expected to erode insured banks’ deposit base, driving up their cost of funding and thus affecting lending; meanwhile, outflows of deposits from banks could require a CBDC-issuing central bank to boost its reserves through more lending or through asset purchases—further extending the economic reach of the central bank.

If any of the central banks did issue one, “in most cases the actual introduction of CBDC could be some years away,” they said. “In the interim providers of private money and tokens are expected to continuing developing and expanding their service offerings.” ABA noted this dynamic in a recent statement for the record. “Given the additional complexity, delay, and transition costs involved in creating a new form of money, there are strong efficiency interests that suggest CBDC should only be pursued as a final option to meet clearly-defined public policy goals that cannot be achieved through payments innovations that leverage existing digital dollars,” ABA said. “As of today, those use cases have not emerged.”