The Geopolitical Case for a digital Pound

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Hosted: 23 March 2023
Location: London, UK
No. Attendees:

Panelists included: Jannah Patchay (DPF), William Lovell (Bank of England), Richard Ells (Electroneum), Rebecca Park (Global Counsel), David Karney (Worldline UK&I), and Varun Paul (Fireblocks).

Central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) – a digital form of central bank-issued fiat currency – have seen explosive growth in interest over the past four years. At the start of 2023, 114 countries, representing 95% of global GDP, are currently exploring CBDC, of which 60 are in an advanced stage of development, pilot or launch, with 11 having fully launched a CBDC. This does not include China’s pilot, which currently reaches 260 million users and is expected to expand to most of the country in 2023. The UK itself is also potentially moving closer to adoption with the Bank of England and HM Treasury recently issuing a consultation paper on a retail CBDC.

But what are the policy drivers and motivations behind the rise of CBDCs? Are CBDCs just a natural response to practicalities surrounding the decline of cash or are they more geopolitical in nature? And how does this vary around the world? 

There has also been a growing recognition of the wider benefits associated with CBDCs beyond their use as payments instruments. This includes opportunities for innovation and competition arising from programmable, digital-native central bank-issued money. 

In this event, our expert speakers and panel explored the geopolitical considerations that governments and central banks must take into account when deciding whether and how to introduce a CBDC in their own jurisdiction. In particular, given the Bank of England’s recent publication of its consultation on the digital Pound, we looked at the UK’s unique set of motivations and drivers, and how a CBDC may help to  underpin the delivery of numerous policy objectives – not least of which involves maintaining the UK’s position of global leadership in financial services and fintech.

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