How Central Banks Think About Digital Currency
In the late 1600s, the introduction of bank notes changed the financial system forever. Fast forward to today, and another monumental change is expected to occur through central bank digital currencies (CBDC).
A CBDC adopts certain characteristics of everyday paper or coin currencies and cryptocurrency. It is expected to provide central banks and the monetary systems they govern a step towards modernizing.
But what exactly are CBDCs and how do they differ from money we use today?
The ABCs of CBDCs
To better understand a CBDC, it helps to first understand the taxonomy of money and its overlapping properties.
For example, the properties of cash are that it’s accessible, physical and digital, central bank issued, and token-based. Here’s how the taxonomy of money breaks down:
- Accessibility: The accessibility of money is a big factor in determining its place within the taxonomy of money. For instance, cash and general purpose CBDCs are considered widely accessible.
- Form: Is the money physical or digital? The form of money determines distribution and the potential for dilution, and future CBDCs issued will be completely digital.
- Issuer: Where does the money come from? CBDCs are to be issued by the central bank and backed by their respective governments, which differs from cryptocurrencies which mostly have no government affiliations.
- Technology: How does the currency work? CBDCs break down into token-based and account-based approaches. A token-based CBDC operates like banknotes today, where your information is not known nor needed by a cashier when accepting your payment. An account-based system, however, requires authorization to partake on the network, akin to paying with a digital wallet or card.
Digital Currency vs Digital Coins
In essence, digital currency is the electronic form of banknotes that exists today. Therefore, it’s viewed by some as a modern and efficient version of the cash you hold in your wallet or purse.
On the other hand, cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin are a store of value like gold that is secured by encryption. Cryptocurrencies are privately owned and fueled by blockchain technology, compared to digital currencies which do not use decentralized ledgers or blockchain technology.
Digital Currency: Regulatory Authority and Stability
Digital currencies are issued by a central bank, and therefore, are backed by the full power of a government. According to the Bank for International Settlements, over 20% of central banks surveyed say they have legal authority in issuing a CBDC. Almost 10% more said laws are currently being changed to allow for it.
As more central banks issue digital currencies, there’s likely to be favorability between them. This is similar to how a few currencies like the U.S. dollar and Euro dominate the currency landscape.
The Benefits of Issuing a CBDC
There are several positives regarding the issuance of a CBDC over other currencies.
First, the cost of retail payments in the U.S. is estimated to be between 0.5% and 0.9% of the country’s $20 trillion in GDP. Digital currencies can flow much more effectively between parties, helping reduce these transaction fees.
Second, large chunks of the global population are still considered unbanked. In this case, a CBDC opens avenues for people to access the global financial system without a bank. Even today, 6% of Americans do not have a single bank account.
Other motivations for a CBDC include:
- Financial stability
- Monetary policy implementation
- Increased safety, efficiency, and robustness
- Limit on illicit activity
An example of payments efficiency can be seen during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, when some Americans failed to receive their stimulus check. Altogether, some $2 billion in funds have gone unclaimed. A functioning rollout of a CBDC and a more direct relationship with citizens would minimize such a problem.
Status of CBDCs
Although widespread adoption of CBDCs is still far away, research and experiments are making notable strides forward:
- 81 countries representing 90% of global GDP are exploring CBDCs.
- The share of central banks actively engaging in CBDC work grew to 86% in the last 4 years.
- 60% of central banks are conducting experiments on CBDCs (up from 42% in 2019) and 14% are moving forward to development and pilot arrangement.
- The Bahamas is one of five countries currently working with a CBDC – the Bahamian Sand Dollar.
- Sweden and Uruguay have shown interest in a digital currency. Sweden began testing an “e-krona” in 2020, and Uruguay announced tests to issue digital Uruguayan pesos as far back as 2017.
- The People’s Bank of China has been running CBDC tests since April 2020. In all, tens of thousands of citizens have participated, spending 2 billion yuan, and the country is poised to be the first to fully launch a CBDC.
The U.K. central bank is less optimistic about a rolling out a CBDC in the near future. The proposed digital currency—dubbed “Britcoin”—is unlikely to arrive until at least 2025.
Disrupting The World of Money
Wherever you look, technology is disrupting finance and upending the status quo.
This can be seen through the rising market value of fintech firms, which in some cases are trumping traditional financial institutions in value. It is also evident in the rapid rise of Bitcoin to a $1 trillion market cap, making it the fastest asset to do so.
With the rollout of central bank digital currencies on the horizon, the next disruption of financial systems is already beginning.
Charting the Number of Failed Crypto Coins, by Year (2013-2022)
We visualize over 2,000 crypto failures by year of death, and year of project origin. See how and why crypto projects die in these charts.
The Number of Failed Crypto Coins, by Year (2013-2022)
Ever since the first major crypto boom in 2011, tens of thousands of cryptocurrency coins have been released to market.
And while some cryptocurrencies performed well, others have ceased to trade or have ended up as failed or abandoned projects.
These graphics from CoinKickoff break down the number of failed crypto coins by the year they died, and the year they started. The data covers a decade of coin busts from 2013 through 2022.
What is the marker of a “dead” crypto coin?
This analysis reviewed data from failed crypto coins listed on Coinopsy and cross-referenced against CoinMarketCap to verify previous market activity. The reason for each coin death was also tabulated, including:
- Failed Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs)
- Abandonment with less than $1,000 in trade volume over a three-month period
- Scams or coins that were meant as a joke
Dead Crypto Coins from 2013 to 2022
While many familiar crypto coins—Litecoin, Dogecoin, and Ethereum—are still on the market today, there were at least 2,383 crypto coins that bit the dust between 2013 and 2022.
Here’s a breakdown of how many crypto coins died each year by reason:
|Abandoned / |
|Scams / |
|ICO Failed / |
|Joke / No
Abandoned coins with flatlining trading volume accounted for 1,584 or 66.5% of analyzed crypto failures over the last decade. Comparatively, 22% ended up being scam coins, and 10% failed to launch after an ICO.
As for individual years, 2018 saw the largest total of annual casualties in the crypto market, with 751 dead crypto coins. More than half of them were abandoned by investors, but 237 coins were revealed as scams or embroiled in other controversies, such as BitConnect which turned out to be a Ponzi scheme.
Why was 2018 such a big year for crypto failures?
This is largely because the year prior saw Bitcoin prices climb above $1,000 for the first time with an eventual peak near $19,000. As a result, speculation ran hot, new crypto issuances boomed, and many investors and firms got bullish on the market for the first time.
How Many Newly Launched Coins Died?
Of the hundreds of coins that launched in 2017, more than half were considered defunct by the end of 2022.
Indeed, a lot of earlier-launched coins have since died. The majority of coins launched between 2013 and 2017 have already become “dead coins” by the end of 2022.
|Coin Start Year||Dead Coins by 2022|
Part of this is because the cryptocurrency field itself was still being figured out. Many coins were launched in a time of experimentation and innovation, but also of volatility and uncertainty.
However, the trend began to shift in 2018. Only 27.62% of coins launched in that year have bit the dust so far, and the failure rates in 2019 and 2020 fell further to only 4.74% and 1.03% of launched coins, respectively.
This suggests that the crypto industry has become more mature and stable, with newer projects establishing themselves more securely and investors becoming wiser to potential scams.
How will this trend evolve into 2023 and beyond?
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