🇬🇧12📰 The Point About CBDCs, Stablecoins and WEB3: After 10 Years Everybody On The Bandwagon…
Overview. CBDCs: theater in the economic warfare between the US and China-France-Ukraine-India-Europe (lost) — debates for and against the instrument, its governance and privacy; Bitcoin & CO.: rocket quotations and that wise guy of Elon Musk,…; Payments: maybe Amazon crypto-Mastercard and Visa go on; Rules and Illicit: Africa and Nigeria-India-Philippines-USA, periodic reports on bandits and their activities; Markets: GameStop and demographics; WEB 3.0 and DeFi: IBM perhaps downsizes the blockchain division-new oracles-sector reports.
Next Insight: How The GDPR Is Translated Into Daily (MIS)Use and The (MAYBE) Fall of The Bitcoin Myth.
🇺🇸 🤜 🤛 🇨🇳CBDCs are becoming an interesting theater of economic warfare in the confrontation between the US and China.
On the one hand the US, whose current situation regarding the topic is well articulated by the interesting debate on American Banker podcast, about the near future of a CBDC made in USA. Apart from the technical timeframe, declared to be at least 3 years by MIT and the FED in Boston which are carrying out the techno-proposal phase (‘Halminton Project’), the ideas expressed by the participants, all of high standing at political and managerial level, are many and confused. At the end, it remains to be seen whether the Digital USD will ever come to light, despite the jumble of rumors fired daily by the various specialized blogs.
- already have the digital USD, in the form of the various stablecoins on the market;
- banks have been given permission by the authorities both to hold crypto-assets of customers and, practically, to produce cryptocurrency if they want to, as well as to use DLT at will, as transfer protocol, and stablecoin as transfer vector;
so effectively there is no practical need for a digital USD.
However, CBDC is not only stablecoin: it is also direct contact between state and citizen, therefore an instrument of monetary policy, it is financial disintermediation, therefore lower systemic costs, it is formidable control for illicit and society, it is, finally, an aggregating geo-economic instrument.
All these added values cannot be provided through the path of liberalization of the private sector chosen by the US and, if we look at the overall picture in the long term, the US is well on its way to losing the war.
China, for its part, continues the process of DC/EP propagation without delay, and there are three operational theaters:
- popular propagation: on the one hand, as you can read almost everywhere, through the various lotteries, to progressively entice citizens to adopt the instrument, and state propaganda; on the other with the initialization of the network of ATMs suitable for the purpose, through the state commercial banks;
- technological propagation: BNS, the Chinese Blockchain Service Network, plans to complete in five years the national network for payments;
- geopolitical action, analyzed here, and geo-economic action, stressing the importance of the join-venture signed with SWIFT.
The grand strategy of global leadership in digitization, devised by Beijing some 10/15 years ago, is unlikely to fail, let alone the theater aimed at weakening USD through dominance in digital payments.
Rather, China faces internal operational and tactical problems. 80% of consumers use online payments from mobile and, therefore, if you want to impose DC/EP you have to either integrate or eliminate the habits now established, see the payment apps that ultimately are 2, Alipay and WeChat Pay, but are private, of Ant Group and Tencent.
The foreseeable scenario, also from the news, is that we will follow the path of (forced) integration: this does not take away the importance of two factors. The first is that merchants will be obliged to accept DC/EP, while this is not the case for Alipay and WeChat Pay: in the absence of fees the issue becomes significant; the second is that on the quotations of both Ant Group and Tencent the part of monetary penetration has a great weight, and this could cause unforeseen consequences at the level of stability of the reference groups.
In the meantime, the skirmishes continue. The USA at the level of communication aimed at propaganda are, logically, betting everything on the further abuse of digital human rights that the use of DC/EP would lead to: in these days two formidable broadsides, in this sense, by the Financial Times and the report written by CNAS (Centre for a New America Security), one of the main think-thanks of US economic intelligence.
🇫🇷France, as I wrote last year, is one of those European countries that has decided to go ahead on its own to experiment with its own CBDC and then, eventually if Europe wakes up, consider if and how to integrate.
To do this, Banque De France, in March 2020 issued an operational call that is bearing the first fruits, namely the testing of an interbank CBDC using IZNES, a currency management platform.
🇺🇦The Ministry of Digital Transformation of Ukraine and Stellar Development Foundation signed a memorandum of understanding for the development of the country’s virtual assets, including a CBDC project.
🇮🇳In 2018, India’s central bank initialized a study group on digital currencies. In December 2019, the governor expressed that the time was not yet ripe for a CBDC, especially from a cybersec perspective. Now a paper from the Reserve Bank of India highlights how there is a need for a digital Rupee and analyzes the various possibilities of implementation.
🇪🇺As in the best tradition of that patchwork of bureaucracy and immobility that well represents the European Union, in merit (not) we go ahead exclusively with papers: they give prestige to whoever publishes them and make it seem that there is movement when, operationally, we are still before the year zero, thus staining ourselves with mortal sin given the transformations taking place due to the pandemic. The CBDC game is miserably lost by now and countries like France are right to proceed on their own. The papers also serve not to take responsibility and, at the same time, when someone will have to take them to be able to say “I said so”, as the crudest previous buck-passed teaches. (P.S.: 🇮🇹Italy missed, papers or not papers)
👎🏻The interesting paper of two researchers from the University of Wuerzburg about the uselessness and the alleged danger of the instrument: in support of the argument, the analysis of IMF for which 80% of the countries in the world has a legislation, under different aspects, not suitable, or not yet suitable, to implement the issuance of a CBDC
👍🏽👎🏻 World Economic Forum instead presents, through its Digital Currency Governance Consortium, a prospective examination of the implications that stablecoin and CBDC could have on the state of the art in terms of technology and governance.
🗣Useful podcast, with transcript and with a good level panel, as participants, organized by Unchained having focus in privacy’s governance and how it should be thought in function of CBDC.
Bitcoin and Cryptocurrencies.
🚀On why crypto quotes are skyrocketing, the analysis remains the same as last month, with the added fact that other heavyweight financial players have joined (or claim to be in the process of joining) the list of those who have chosen the asset as a store of value (from Blackrock to Osprey Funds, via MicroStrategy, which kicked off the whole thing, and now claims to want to invest another billion USD): the bandwagon doesn’t seem to stop and everyone is jumping on it.
Significant rumors about how the wind is changing, however, are of a different nature: for example, Bank of New York Mellon, the oldest US bank, has begun to allow clients to hold crypto accounts and trade; Deutsche Bank is about to do the same, as inferred from page 23 of the World Economic Forum’s “Use Case” report; the chief economist of the central bank of Singapore, historically far from reformist in perspective, takes a very open position on the pairing of Bitcoin with gold as a safe haven and makes a witty remark on the behavior of the millennials that we will deepen later.
Above all, however, it is Africa that, far from the clamor of Western quotations and media, with an internet penetration of just 22% (and therefore all to be invented in the best of ways, with all that this entails), with prohibitive banking costs for remittances and with a young, technological population, is contributing the most to spreading the phenomenon. The latest implementations of the various national regulations, as we shall see later, bear witness to this.
One of the discordant notes of the scenario (idyllic on the whole) is the ambiguous behavior of Elon Musk, considering the media relevance of the character: it is not clear if he first buys and then says he bought or vice versa. Not even the SEC is understanding it, which, in fact, is asking him, also because Musk’s waltz on Bitcoin is being repeated on Dogecoin with obvious market disturbances. By the way Elon Musk already has his own crypto, launched in 2013, MarsCoin the crypto that should circulate (also) on Mars
📊To have an overall idea of how the market went, not only in terms of quotations, it is useful to take a look at the overall analysis for 2020 prepared by Decrypt.
The total capitalization of cryptocurrency has exceeded, with the upward bangs of this last month, 1,500 billion USD, so more than 1% of the world’s money is crypto: who would have thought it only two years ago?
🏭In 2013 Amazon launched its own currency, Amazon Coins, expendable in the internal circuit and gradually extended its use to many countries. Now the company’s center for ‘Digital and Emerging Payments’ is looking for specialists for the launch of a digital currency in Mexico: rumors give no signs on either type or spendability.
💳Mastercard here explains why it opens to cryptocurrency payments by 2021, Visa on the other hand proceeds with its strategy of functioning as a technical bridge between traditional banks and crypto-monetary fintechs, progressively allowing their integration. PayPal, according to CEO Dan Schulman, aims to become a ‘distributor’ of CBDC.
👀 To read (if you feel like it)
NYT analyzes which goods and services, in practice and in the US, can actually be purchased with the broader circulating cryptocurrency;
useful, on the other hand, is the report on the future of payments, compiled by the Digital Money Institute in London. DMI is the predictive analytics sector of OMFIF (Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum), an independent think-thank participated by all the main public and private financial operators of the world with an endless panel, in terms of competences and articulations, in the field of financial intelligence. The importance of the report lies in the overall view, at scenario level, that it provides regarding digital payments.
Rules and Illicit
🛖We mentioned earlier that Africa is one of the geo-economic factors most responsible for consolidation in the market penetration of cryptocurrencies: as a result, the legislation of the various countries is adapting. Zimbabwe, South Africa and Kenya are preparing regulations to remedy what is, for now, indiscriminate use and which is beginning to produce possible internal stability problems.
The largest African economy, Nigeria, is also the largest in the exchange of Bitcoin, resulting according to Paxful the second world market in 2020 by volume of exchange. Here things go a bit against the trends as the central bank has recently reminded commercial banks that they cannot deal with anyone trading in crypto, inviting them to close the accounts.
In an effort to give some stability to the issue, and waiting for the announced regulatory bill, for now Nigerians can continue to sell and buy crypto but only through accounts with exchangers.
🇮🇳India is also moving against the trends. The government’s intent has always been to ban crypto but, in March 2020, the Indian Supreme Court repealed the ban: now it seems that the government is trying again with a bill that provides for an unidentified blockade of private cryptocurrencies. Another rumors indicate instead as a solution a taxation of 18% on transactions, the most logical way to follow in view of market development.
Meanwhile Cashaa Team has opened the world’s first physical branch (they say) of crypto-bank in Jaipur and, considering the structural investment plan described, the opinion is that they are not proceeding in view of a ban.
🇵🇭The Philippines has aligned crypto regulation with FATF guidance, placing quantitative and qualitative stakes on intermediaries as usual.
🇺🇸After Kraken, of which we have written here, and Avanti, which have obtained the authorization of crypto-bank in Wyoming (and the next one will be Ripple), therefore statal although with national operations, now it is the turn of Anchorage (participated among others by Visa and the usual A16Z). Anchorage, however, has been granted, by the OCC (Office of the Comptroller of the Currency), a pre-authorization at federal level therefore with greater possible articulation in terms of functions.
🕵️For the illicit section, the periodic publication of ChiperTrace and the annual publication of Chainalysis should be highlighted: for both, there seems to be nothing in particular to highlight other than sector trends.
📉I approach the GameStop issue from a particular, socio-demographic angle: for those who are not aware of what we are talking about here NYT explains what happened in a simple and comprehensive way.
It’s been a while since the days when the mass of investors were people with a little money under their pillows, addressing the bank ‘guru’, or the notorius ‘financial expert’, of financial or non-financial origin, blindly believing in the skills and knowledge of characters who had a purpose (their own profit and / or budget), which was not to make the best interest of the client.
Now the mass of investors are, demographically and at the very least, the millennials who, if they were not born digital, have become so by force, have grown up in the era of disintermediation, are addicted to infodemics, have the day after tomorrow as their time horizon and sustainable profitability as a curious ethical principle.
Gone are also the times when access to the Grail of markets was reserved for the chosen few: for some years now, everyone can independently enter and act everywhere, in real time at zero cost.
Therefore, events such as the one described above, i.e. to consider Bitcoin as a safe haven instead of gold, or GameStop, i.e. a (random) Reddit (r/WallStreetBets) community that knocks out experienced traders and brokers (in to be short), i.e. classical actors of the financial system as commonly understood, are not episodic but will become the norm.
In other words, autonomous digital communities, with converging interests and operating directly in real time, will be (already are) the mass financial market: the others will continue to exist but will become niches. Those who work in the financial (and payment) markets and have not understood this, or are dismissive of the issue as folkloric, or do not notice it because their knowledge/competence remains at 30 years ago, will have serious problems, I think.
WEB 3.0 and Defi
🏭IBM was, in 2016 with market products and since 2014 as a project, the first ‘big-one’ to invest on DLT in its different articulations. CoinDesk here reports both that the company is, practically, shutting down the dedicated division due to multi-year failure to meet targets, and IBM’s own relative denials.
🔮For some time I have been stressing the fact that one of the main problems of the spread of the DLT component of WEB 3.0 is its non-connection with the real world (economy). One of the links are the oracles, for now monopolized almost exclusively by DeFi (hence by finance, more remunerative, and for now the only crypto-sector developed at the level of tangible phenomenon) and by a company, ChainLink, that has understood the business well in advance and has made it, for now, practically all its own with careful strategic choices. So I am happy when structured competitors enter the market, because they liven it up: this is the case of Band Protocol.
👀 To read
with regard to reports issued by the EU, particular note to the 2020 thematic report by ‘The European Union Blockchain Observatory & Forum’ about the current situation, overall and country by country, of the European DLT ecosystem on blockchain. The observatory also publishes monthly thematic updates.
Next Insight: How The GDPR Is Translated Into Daily (MIS)Use and The (MAYBE) Fall of The Bitcoin Myth.
This is an English adaptation of a neuronal Italian/English AI translation by DeepL