The Digital Money Revolution

"We are at the beginning of a profound transformation of the current money system, payment services, credits and other financial activities. "
Seville Summit

Thank you, President, for inviting me to participate in this session which, if I'm not mistaken, is the first to be held in Congress on the digital money revolution that has exploded throughout the world.

The time limitation allows me to convey just one idea: we are at the beginning of a profound transformation of the current money system, payment services, credits and other financial activities. It will be a structural change of great importance with even more positive effects than the economic reforms that have been undertaken in the last 70 years

Indeed, after the Second World War, all the countries of the world and with different rhythms and political ideologies, began to approve structural reforms to introduce competition in economic activities. It began with the liberalization of international trade and continued to liberalize many sectors such as capital markets, telecommunications, transport, etc., and at the end of the last century, the free market was introduced in the production of goods and services in China and other former communist countries. All these structural reforms have had very positive effects on the income and well-being of all the world's inhabitants, although with some problems such as the increase in inequalities that we know we have to correct.

On the contrary, and for fear of crises, the banking sector has moved in the opposite direction. States have been increasing protections, privileges and regulations to the point that today the banking sector is, without question, the most protected and intervened sector by the State in all economies.

And while there were no alternatives to bank deposits, all these interventions and protections have been - and are - absolutely necessary because, if they did not exist, we would be suffering from constant banking crises with their catastrophic consequences in addition to having to use taxpayers' money to save deposit institutions.

But alternatives to bank deposits have emerged. Proposals for private digital money such as Bitcoin and other cryptoactives have emerged, or proposals for public digital money such as CBDCs, or so-called stable currencies, etc. proposals that, in principle, would make it possible to introduce competition in payment services and other banking activities that are now monopolized by banks.

In Europe, the debate on these proposals is not yet of much interest to public opinion or its politicians. There is an intense and extensive debate, but it remains at a technocratic level, between officials and experts. But in the United States, the debate on crypto assets and public digital money is an issue that has already fully entered Parliament. More than thirty bills on money and digital assets were introduced on Capitol Hill last year.

In February, President Biden ordered all the agencies of the US administration related to money, banking activities and capital markets to send him, before the end of the year, reports on the most appropriate regulation of this important structural change. And he required them to give the utmost urgency to work on the design and implementation of a US digital public money (that is, a CBDC, or digital dollar).

In my opinion, all proposals should be analyzed. I belong to the group of economists who think that it is essential that digital money not be a risky asset, that it is necessary for digital money to be a public and safe asset and that payment services and other activities could thus be opened up to competition banking. But not everyone thinks that way. Neither here nor in the United States, where some of the bills I have mentioned try to prevent the government and the Fed from introducing a digital public money, a digital dollar, and thus favor the use of crypto assets. In Europe there are also those who propose limiting or harming the use of the digital Euro, but with the opposite objective, so that citizens cannot stop using deposits in private banks.

Before deciding you have to listen to everyone. Listen to the defenders of crypto assets, although there are many of us who believe that they are neither money nor will they ever be. You also have to listen to proponents of algorithmic stablecoins like the ones that just crashed last week, or reserve-backed stablecoins, because they have risks too. And of course you have to listen to those who propose stablecoins backed by reserves in the Central Bank since they could be a valuable instrument for the reform of money.

We must listen to those in favor of citizens being able to have a Digital Euro without limitations and analyze very important aspects of its design such as privacy and data protection, the prosecution of money laundering and the financing of terrorism, the need for systems are interoperable and avoid the closing effects of large networks, the specific application of Antitrust to large platforms, etc. And of course, we must listen to those who want to maintain the current system based on deposits in private banks.

We must be vigilant because, although it is assumed that those who debate are seeking a reform that benefits everyone, there is also a war of private interests between those who want to benefit from providing better services and more people with new technologies and those who do everything possible to that this change be delayed or impose all kinds of difficulties on new initiatives.

But don't worry too much either. The experience of the structural reforms that have been made in other sectors tells us that those interests may hinder or delay the changes but, in the end, pragmatism will prevail, and all countries will end up adopting a more stable digital money system, without crisis , without the need for privileges or monopolies and in which payment services and other financial services will be provided in free competition and therefore we will achieve increases in productivity, cost reduction, financial inclusion and, above all, continuous innovation, which now we do not They're possible.

Thank you very much.

(Intervention in the Economy Commission on May 24, 2022 on the occasion of the presentation of the Summit on Digital Money to be held in Seville on July 6 and 7 this year.)

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The Digital Money Revolution

About the Author

Miguel A. Fernandez Ordonez

Miguel A. Fernandez Ordonez

State economist. Former Governor of the Bank of Spain and member of the Governing Council of the European Central Bank (ECB). He currently teaches Seminars on Monetary Policy and Financial Regulation at IEUniversity.

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