Central banks look to quell crypto’s influence over the money supply

The news: The Bank of Mexico intends to launch a Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) within the next two years, according to American Banker.

The central bank confirmed its plans last week via Twitter, signaling a strong commitment by noting that, “These new technologies and next-generation payment infrastructure are extremely important.”

The data: Among adults who have discretion over their finances, awareness of cryptocurrencies is nearly ubiquitous, according to a Visa study completed in partnership with LRW, a Material Company.

  • 81% of adults worldwide control their household’s finances (their household income is >$35,000 income and they’re financial decision-makers). Among this group, 94% were aware of cryptocurrency.
  • 57% of respondents were familiar with CBDCs. This number jumped to 70% among adults in emerging markets. It was just 49% for those in developed economies.
  • 46% of respondents around the globe were aware of stablecoins. Similarly to CBDCs, developing countries showed greater awareness of stablecoins than more mature regions—61% versus 37%, respectively.

The bigger picture: Central banks worldwide have been ramping up interest in CBDCs as they look to maintain control over their country’s money supply.

  • China’s central bank released a pilot of its digital yuan (e-CNY) ahead of the Beijing Winter Olympics. The number of people with e-CNY accounts increased to 140 million, according to November data from the Public Bank of China.
  • India plans to pilot a CBDC early this year, and indicated it may connect the digital currency to its instant mobile bank-to-bank transfer system, which could help boost adoption.
  • Elsewhere, CBDC ambitions are less developed, but around 90% of central banks worldwide are exploring creating CBDCs, according to Reuters. (And for those keeping score, there’s also now a Central Bank Digital Currency Tracker.)

Looking ahead: As digital currencies of all types gain traction globally, banks that don’t prepare to meet the demand risk being left behind.

  • Banks could sell crypto directly to their customers. 50% of consumers who are aware of crypto are interested in their bank offering cryptocurrency, according to Visa data. 39% of crypto owners from the study said they would be likely to switch to a bank that offers crypto products within the next 12 months.
  • Banks could offer CBDCs and stablecoins as alternative savings vehicles. Interest in using CBDCs or stablecoins as a saving option remained below the level of overall awareness for each digital currency. But Visa’s data still displays their potential: 22% of respondents expressed interest in CBDCs as a savings option, while 27% said the same for stablecoins.