The race between stablecoins and CBDCs

Alisa DiCaprio from R3, Siân Jones from XReg Consulting, and Ran Goldi from Fireblocks all shared their perspectives on the current state and future of CBDCs compared to privately issued stablecoins. 

At a panel discussion at Money20/20, the three professionals discussed the possibility of cooperation or competition between central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) and stablecoins and the practical implications of the widespread acceptance of digital currencies in the real world.

Ran Goldi emphasized the growing adoption of stablecoins, such as USDC and USDT, noting that “30 million people globally are using stablecoins,” with monthly transactions reaching $3.3 trillion. 

He outlined key use cases, including cross-border payments and payouts to individuals, highlighting how stablecoins are being used to bypass traditional systems.  According to Visa, stablecoins have seen huge growth recently, with around $3.3 trillion traded monthly. The main use cases are cross-border payments, payouts, and merchant acceptance. 

Alisa DiCaprio provided a contrasting view on CBDCs, explaining that while there is significant interest, adoption remains low.

“Adoption of CBDCs is below 0.2% of circulating currency in every economy where CBDCs are live,” DiCaprio said, citing privacy concerns and the complexities of implementation as major hurdles.

This low adoption is due to privacy concerns around data collection. DiCaprio noted that emerging economies, rather than advanced ones, are leading the way in CBDC development due to their simpler banking systems.

“Most [CBDCs] are still in the research stage,” Dicaprio said. “No advanced economies are really doing this.”

Siân Jones discussed regulatory perspectives by describing regulators’ cautious optimism. Regulators are interested in CBDCs’ potential benefits, such as improved payment efficiency and financial inclusion. However, Jones also pointed out the inherent challenges and the regulators’ primary focus on mitigating risks.

“There’s no one digital form of digital money to rule them all, is my answer,” Jones said.

There is cautious optimism about CBDCs, as they could benefit payment efficiency and financial inclusion. However, Jones emphasized the importance of mitigating risks and the improbability of a single dominant form of digital money.

Money20/20: The race between stablecoins and CBDCs - 1

Geopolitical dynamics

The discussion also touched on geopolitical dynamics, with Goldi noting the impact of Europe’s regulations, which require stablecoin issuers to comply with European standards. 

“This is leading to a new wave of stablecoin competition, what I call the second stablecoin war,” Goldi remarked.

In a way, the panelists reached a consensus that despite the distinct advantages and obstacles associated with stablecoins and CBDCs, continuous advancements are bringing about some serious changes in conventional financial systems. 

“Take advantage of the war…. Be the beneficiaries of that because you can actually move your businesses to way better rails,” Goldi said. 

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