Listen ad-free

Is this how CBDCs will happen in the major global currencies?

Where Finance Finds Its Future

24-03-2023 • 1 hr 13 mins

When it came to digital money useable on blockchain networks, the choice between central bank money and commercial bank money used to feel binary: Stablecoins and tokenised deposits and e-money were stopgaps pending the introduction of CBDCs. But as the threat of Stablecoins that were either global or issued by unregulated non-banks has receded, a more traditional hierarchy of money has asserted itself. CBDCs are likely to become the central bank digital money foundation on which myriad forms of digital commercial bank money will blossom.

Central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) originated in need (to put fiat currency on blockchain networks) but also fear. Central banks were fearful that private forms of money based on blockchain technology would rob them of control of national and international monetary conditions. These fears were crystallised by the prospect of Facebook issuing a multi-currency Stablecoin called Libra.

Having crushed Libra – whose remnants were sold to digital asset bank Silvergate in January 2022 – developed market central banks around the world are now bringing Stablecoins within the regulatory perimeter by privileging banks as issuers and prescribing what assets they can use to back a Stablecoin. This has released much of the pressure on the major central banks to issue CBDCs.

There are currently just four CBDCs actually in issue – the Bahamas Sand Dollar, the Eastern Caribbean Dcash, the Nigerian eNaira and the Jamaican JAM-DEX – and all are developing slowly, with limited take-up. Significantly, all four were issued in developing economies, where the benefits of CBDCs in promoting financial inclusion and fighting financial crime are easiest to capture.

Of another 93 countries exploring a CBDC – as monitored by the Atlantic Council CBDC Tracker – the most advanced (Brazil and Kazakhstan) fit the pattern. In all, just 17 are at the pilot testing stage. Of them, the Swedish eKrona project is the only one being pursued by a Western economy. 72 central banks are still developing or researching their plans, and the rest have stopped doing even that.

True, the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) website records ten CBDC experiments in progress, with various combinations of banks and central banks taking part, and it is not hard to find others where the BIS is not involved. So the leading central banks have not lost interest in CBDCs, but they do now seem relaxed enough to let the private sector lead the digitisation of money.

This reflects a consensus that a CBDC in a developed market must not disintermediate the commercial banks through which central banks influence monetary conditions. Nor are most central banks credible providers of customer-facing services such as digital wallets, foreign exchange and checking customers are not money launderers, terrorists or sanctioned businesses or individuals.

There is an even more profound sense in which central banks are content to cede the leadership role, and it is this: CBDCs are emerging as the foundation of a layered system of issuance and distribution in which asset-backed Stablecoins issued by regulated banks, tokenised cash on deposit at regulated banks and e-money backed by cash held at regulated banks will provide the bulk of digital monies.

To carry on reading, go to :


Ricardo Correia

Senior Technology Executive at R3

Gilbert Verdian

CEO at Quant

Barney Reynolds

Partner, Global Head Financial Institutions, Governance & Advisory at Shearman and Sterling

Keith Bear

Fellow at the Centre for Alternative Finance, Judge Business School at the University of Cambridge

Hosted on Acast. See for more information.