China’s digital currency could be a response to Libra

Earlier this month, a senior official of the People Bank of China (PBoC) announced that the country was ready to launch its digital currency. The announcement was made at a China Finance 40 (CF40) group discussion and it was revealed that China has been working on this for the past five years. Image Source The […]

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Convergence or clash of non-natives & natives going Stable – #CVC19

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The 2019 Cryptovalley Conference remains true to its nature. Three days, three stages, and overweight technical and economics content. I attended for two days and became A cool kid on the Blockchain. 

The narrative has clearly changed. Lots of evidence around us. Yesterday the BIS, the umbrella organization, announced the launch of a global innovation hub in Basel,Hong Kong, and Singapore to help Central Banks to “identify relevant trends in technology, supporting these developments where this is consistent with their mandate, and keeping abreast of regulatory requirements with the objective of safeguarding financial stability”.

The EU is very serious about supporting Blockchain technology. Tom Lyons announced the Convergence conference this coming November sponsored by the European Commission, the EU blockchain observatory & Forum, Consensys, Alastria, and INATBA[1].

Several speakers and panelists participated at the Cryptovalley Conference from Central banks around the world. Of course, they repeatedly stated that they share personal opinions and not the CBs official position. Between the BOE, the Fed, the SNB, and the Bank of Italy, the conversations went deeper.

We were reminded that unconsciously we are going back to the 19th century when multiple entities issued money. I like to add to that observation that we are also going back to bearer instruments. Tomaso Atse, director of the UCL Center for Blockchain Technologies, pointed out that what is new in our era is programmable money and the creation of hybrid types of value (like combining digital identity with money or some other value) and the ability to exchange it).

Alexander Lipton, the EPFL visiting professor and founder of SILAmoney, poked and provoked and defended his point of view. In a nutshell, he is the godfather of the DLT version of Narrow Banking concept. This is a way for Central banks to deploy DLT technology by issuing a fiat-backed digital coin (FBDC). The idea is that the central bank will allow and work (indirectly) with a consortium of validators that manage the issuance of the FBDC. It is worthwhile reading about this concept `Narrow Banks and Fiat-backed digital coins` by Alexander Lipton, Alex Pentland, Thomas Hardjono (MIT). What jumps out of it is that right now, we are faced with Facebook intending to implement this kind of concept through the LIBRA association. While each Central bank is doing its in-house due diligence, concerned only with its local country monetary policy and reserves; there is a clear need for Central banks to get together. They should be designing a Central bank coordinated narrow bank consortium.

This is a wakeup call to nightmares of whether Central banks will be able to control reserves and rates on reserves if LIBRA scales. LIBRA`s adoption in countries with currency instability, is troublesome if it really scales. Can LIBRA create hyperinflation in Venezuela? Alexander Lipton, says yes.

The narrative has clearly changed, and we are shifting in a phase where understanding monetary economics is becoming important.

When I raised the question last week about the governance of the LIBRA association (see  here) and whether there could be collusion; I didn’t mean in the DAO technical sense (i.e. more 50% of validators collude and validate an invalid transaction). I meant collusion in terms of decisions about, for example, the management of the LIBRA reserve fund. Which currencies will be included, will the fund become a significant holder of US debt, how much government debt versus currencies, why share the interest of this cash cow by accepting new members, how to deploy the profits of the reserve?

Once the LIBRA reserve scales to $100billion (Ant Financial`s money market fund is currently $168billion down from a high of $250billion), the interest will be in the order of $1.5billion (assuming an average 1.5% interest rate). That is huge for an association with no reporting requirements.

We live in very interesting times.

Monetary policy issues need to be understood better.

Moral hazards are lurking everywhere.

Those that have been working on financial inclusion, self-sovereign identity, P2P protocols are feeling looted.

  • Why didn`t Facebook join the Decentralized Identity – DID- project (media report that they were invited and rebuffed an invitation)?
  • Why isn’t Facebook`s Calibra, the ID part of the LIBRA ecosystem, respectful of the open standards for verifiable credentials developed already by DID under the auspices of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)? Why do they want to design new ones?
  • Will this world domination-ish attitude, shoot them in the foot[2]?

Back to the native people, Lisa Nestor from the Stellar foundation, shared a great overview of the global P2P network that can be used by banks to work directly with each other, without the need for correspondent banks. Stellar is decentralized and open with 28 nodes currently. Their aim is to optimize cross-border payments and work with all currencies. They launched in 2014. In 2016 they had 9,000 accounts and today they have 3.2million. Their daily volume has reached $350k with a total cost of processing of $1.50! During the conference, they reported that the first Swiss node was launched.

Bitcoin Suisse announced that they are seeking a banking license and they will be expanding in Europe. Ficas, a Swiss crypto asset management group for HNW, was a platinum sponsor. They are based in Zug with presence in Turkey, Greece, Spain, and Australia.  Flovtec and Ovrium shared the award of the best Swiss Blockchain company at the SICTIC investor event during the conference. Orvium is a decentralized scientific collaboration platform for deploying blockchain and artificial intelligence technology. Flovtec is a liquidity provider for tokenized assets.

My opinion is that we will be seeing an explosion of stable coin issuance. CNNmoney Switzerland was at the Cryptovalley conference taking a pulse on  LIBRA (watch here).

The GOSCI  – Global Open Source Currency Index- is a novel independent volatility benchmark for Stablecoins. Launched by Bernard Lunn the same day the LIBRA white paper hit the market. Become part of it.

The Stablecoin.foundation was launched in October 2018 with 25 Stablecoin issuers from 16 countries. Its mission is to represent the collective interests of Stablecoin issuers to unify the industry.

Closing remarks

The narrative is now, about financial stability with privately issued coins. Several factors are forcing everyone to the table. These conversations are hard and consensus is not given.

Stable coins are creating a very collateral hungry market situation.

[1] INATBA is the new International Association for Trusted Blockchain Applications, offers developers and users of DLT a global forum to interact with regulators and policy makers and bring blockchain technology to the next stage.

[2] “That’s very world domination-ish of them,” said Kaliya Young, a co-author of “A Comprehensive Guide to Self Sovereign Identity” and co-founder of the Internet Identity Workshop. “Some of us have been working on that problem for a really long time. You already have a set of open standards for verifiable credentials that are basically done and working.” From the article `Buried in Facebook`s LIBRA paper, a Digital Identity Bombshell`

Efi Pylarinou is the founder of Efi Pylarinou Advisory and a Fintech/Blockchain influencer.

 I have a commercial relationship with Flovtec. I have no positions or commercial relationships with any other company or the people mentioned. I am not receiving compensation for this post.

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What is the problem with Money being a claim on an Institution? Reflections from the AxessThinkTank event

axessThe first full day event focused on what is now `Alternative finance` was of high quality and non-tribal. Organized by the Geneva based, Axess Think Tank, with four themes

  • The future of money
  • The Regulatory landscape
  • ICO-STO and Capital markets
  • Blockchain and the Token economy

I had the great pleasure of moderating the last two topics.

Watch Alpha Point the US based leader in digital Exchange software white label solutions and DLT software. Both team members were extremely upbeat about the growth prospects of their market sector. The CME group and the Royal Mint of England are already their customers and Novogratz invested in them last summer.  I felt that they are out there for a mass distribution of Crypto Exchanges that will allow for the tokenization of all kind of illiquid Assets. While selling exchange software, they are disintermediating the oligopolistic conventional exchange software business.

Cryptofinance is a Swiss quality business that offers asset management services, brokerage and custody. Lewin Boehnke CTO of Crypto Storage AG and head of research and shared insights from their journey, seemed to have a card up his sleeve when he repeatedly stated that

`there are a few major players that will join the digital asset class soon`[1].  Stay tuned on their news.

SCX is the new fully regulated Swiss Crypto exchange live since last summer. The Chairman of the board Christian Katz joined our panel. He is the former head of the SIX exchange and is now devoted to building an institutional grade business. A secure and transparent crypto exchange is undoubtedly needed and C. Katz knows the inside outs of the exchange business.

Taurus is a new Swiss player offering brokerage and trading services. Recently also added storage solutions.

LakeDiamond & Monart, were the two specific tokenization use cases that participated. One in tokenizing the industrial production of diamonds and the other in the contemporary art space.

Capco shared lots of insights from their clients and the projects that they have working on.Romal Almazo, Capco’s UK DLT & Crypto Lead continuously emphasized that we need to go back to the core issue

`What is the problem we are trying to solve?`. Five words please. Then we see whether blockchain can do the magic and solve it.

He was also assertive, in his belief that only what is FCA approved will be the dominant tech that will scale. He announced a CAPCO pilot project that is by invitation only, in which CAPCO will use its global network of SMEs to participate in a solution around digital assets that will be led by CAPCO. The aim is to develop a blueprint in solving market problems via digital assets.

CVVC and Amazix, participated in the panels, sharing their experiences from the growth and pivoting of the startup ecosystem.

e-Money, CBDC, and BTC

When you have a board member of the SNB Andrea Maechler, a senior research advisor to the BOE Michael Kumhof, a research fellow of the Fed St. Louis & Professor at univ. of Basel Aleksander Berentsen, a research fellow of the UCL Center for Blockchain Technology Daniel Heller; there is a lot to absorb from their talks and panel discussions. Add to that the moderator Michel Girardin, from the Univ of Geneva and Jean-Pierre Roth, the ex Governor of SNB, in the audience.

They agreed that payments are the very heart of any economy and that we live in a world that customers expect payments to be like WhatsApp messages.

The SNB is actually following the innovations around payments, whether Fintech or Bitcoin originated. Andrea Maechler, emphasized that the SNB`s mandate is to support and promote cashless payments and this done through SIX. Fintechs that hold a FINMA payment license will be granted access to the SIX system.

Regarding CBDC[2]`s they have concluded that it is not a tech issue but rather a policy issue. The SNB believes that while there are advantages, the main disadvantages, make CBDCs a no-no fort he SNB. They see that a CBDC would increase the risk of a bank run and would make monetary policy ineffective when it is actually mostly needed.

This is where Aleksander Bernesten actually stepped up and provoked the thinking. He firmly believes that Central Bank electronic money would increase financial stability.

Give access directly to the CB to all.

His motto is that

the Censorship resistant attribute of Bitcoin, is priceless!

He makes things simple by focusing on this attribute. Since there is no free lunch, we have to choose between

A Censorship resistant database which is inefficient and slow

Or

An efficient and fast centralized database which is not censorship resistant

 

He thinks that a central bank decentralized currency has no meaning at all. Forget about a Fedcoin type of idea. However, he proposes that Central banks issue electronic money for all! So instead of having the authorized commercial banks exclusively access directly the CB, we should all have direct access to the CB. Forget about the RTGS system.

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For those that want to understand more details read The Case for Central Bank Electronic Money and the Non-case for Central Bank Cryptocurrencies

Note: This post is not comprehensive coverage of the event. By joining the Axess think tank you can access the video recordings and more. Check it out here.

Don’t forget that currently

MONEY is a claim on the Central Bank or a commercial bank!

Will this change? How and when? The Why has been answered: For a Censorship resistance monetary system.

[1] Check https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6497140631427694592

[2] Central Bank Digital Currency

Efi Pylarinou is the founder of Efi Pylarinou Advisory and a Fintech/Blockchain influencer.

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