Bitcoin, ethereum and libra: cryptos come in all shapes and sizes. When it comes to cryptos, DNB sees both opportunities and risks. Central banks are looking into the possibility of issuing European central bank digital currency.
European central bank digital currency
A central bank digital currency could ensure that citizens remain able to use central bank money even if cash is eventually no longer used. The ECB is therefore currently studying the potential for developing a European central bank digital currency. No decision on this topic has yet been made, however.
The ECB is collaborating in an international research group that is looking into this matter. The group includes the central banks of Canada, Japan, the UK, Sweden and Switzerland, along with the Bank for International Settlements (BIS). They are working together to explore potential cases for a central bank digital currency (CBDC) in their home jurisdictions. The focus is on:
- economic, functional and technical design choices, including cross-border interoperability, and
- sharing of knowledge on emerging technologies.
This international research group is exchanging expertise and research results. Read more about this central bank initiative.
At DNB, we are also looking into the potential of issuing a European central bank digital currency. As part of our research, we are looking at the objectives, framework conditions and technical design choices. We are committed to ensuring that money issued by a central bank is available to everyone in the Netherlands. People here use cash for payments less often compared to residents of other European countries. If the Eurosystem should decide to experiment with specific forms of CBDC, DNB is prepared to play a leading role. The Netherlands provides a suitable testing ground for such an experiment.
The most widely known cryptos are bitcoin and ethereum. There are significant risks involved in investing in cryptos. Their value can fluctuate wildly, and it is not always clear which parties are behind these currencies when it comes to issuing and managing them. If a party goes bankrupt, there is no guarantee scheme in place to protect consumers and businesses holding them. Central banks only support their own currencies. The euro, for example, is backed by the ECB, while the Federal Reserve System is responsible for the US dollar. There is no one behind bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, however. For this reason, we feel it is prudent to warn consumers and enterprises about the risks involved in investing in cryptos. Legally speaking, it is not within our mandate to impose a ban, however.
Stable coins such as tether and libra are new to the crypto marketplace. Tether has already been launched, while Facebook's libra is still under development. Stable coins are backed by a mix of assets, such as dollars, euros and government bonds. This kind of backing makes their value less prone to fluctuations than bitcoin. At DNB, we see potential for these types of cryptocurrencies, because they enable cross-border payments that are quicker and cheaper compared to more traditional means. Moreover, they can be used on a large scale. At the same time, we see a wide range of risks: money laundering, tax evasion, privacy issues, competition and consumer protection.
Cryptos are susceptible to use in financial crime,including money laundering operations and terrorist financing. For this reason, the European Fifth Anti-Money Laundering Directive now also covers: platforms for exchanging cryptocurrencies into fiat money crypto wallet providers. All of these parties are required to register their activities with DNB. We are responsible for monitoring compliance with anti-money-laundering legislation. However, registering with us does not imply that they are licensed by DNB. The do not fall under our full supervisory framework. By extension, they are not covered by a guarantee scheme.