Fed, BOE officials share continuing interest in CBDCs, stablecoin regulation


The Federal Reserve Board continues to research a central bank digital currency (CBDC), or at least adjacent technologies, vice chair Michael Barr said on Oct. 27. He also touched on stablecoins at the Economics of Payments XII Conference where his English colleague Sir Jon Cunliffe made his last speech as deputy governor of the Bank of England (BOE).

The Fed’s research is currently focused on “end-to-end system architecture,” such as ledgers and tokenization and custody models for an intermediated CBDC, Barr said in Washington. Barr repeated the Fed mantra of no digital dollar without a congressional mandate, but added that “learning from both domestic and international experimentation can aid decisionmakers in understanding how we can best support responsible innovation.”

Barr’s remarks are not controversial on the surface, but bring to mind Representative Tom Emmer’s call for an end to the Fed’s “sketchy” CBDC research made in the House of Representatives in September.

Related: Stablecoin market escaping US regulatory oversight: Chainalysis

Cunliffe, whose ten-year term in office ends on Oct. 31, spoke at the conference a day earlier. He too emphasized that no decision has been made in his country on a CBDC. But he said a consultation paper published in February “concluded that current trends and technological advances in payments […] made it likely that a Digital Pound would be needed by the end of the decade.”

The consultation paper received 50,000 responses, Cunliffe said. Privacy, programmability and the decline of cash were the top concerns among commenters. Further:

“I would observe, if only a little tongue in cheek, that criticisms of the Digital Pound have ranged from concerns that it would […] disintermediate the banking system and threaten financial stability, to, at the same time, concerns that there would be no use for it and it would be a ‘solution looking for a problem.’”

Cunliffe envisioned that “private companies would be able to integrate and programme the Digital Pound, as the settlement asset, into the services they would offer to wallet holders.” The BOE will respond in “the coming months,” he added.

Cunliffe promised that the BOE would soon issue a discussion paper on stablecoin regulation. Barr also mentioned stablecoin, saying regulation was necessary. An asset of that type “borrows the trust of the central bank,” he said.

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