Jens Wiedmann, the president of Germany’s Bundesbank, has warned that digital currencies could potentially worsen financial crises in the future. He also stated, in his personal opinion, that ‘instant payments’ would put an end to the public interest in digital currencies like bitcoin.
Germany’s top central banker was speaking in Frankfurt today in a speech predominantly on the European Central Bank’s quantitative easing (QE) program when he touched on the subject of digital currencies.
Instant Payments to Dampen Bitcoin?
Wiedmann, who is one of the most powerful figures in European and the global economy, claimed that the ongoing digitization of finance is and will remain the most significant challenge faced by central banks.
He offered a solution toward taking on popular growing financial technologies like bitcoin and other digital currencies.
In quotes reported by the Financial Times, he stated:
My personal take on this is that central banks should strive to make existing payment systems more efficient and still faster than they already are – instant payment is the buzzword here. I’m pretty confident that this will reduce most citizens’ interest in digital currencies.
‘Digital Currencies Could Worsen Financial Crises’
Wiedmann admitted that central banks are likely to create their own official digital currencies in the future. A move toward digitization which would, according to the central banker, provide citizens with the reassurance that their money would be safe. In doing so, however, Wiedmann claimed that private banks would risk bank runs during times of future crises.
A bank run occurs when a large number of customers panic to make withdrawals from financial institutions at the same time. In their attempt to safeguard their cash while losing faith in the institution, the withdrawal en masse from customers could lead to banks losing liquidity and struggle to make their loans, leaving them insolvent.
Allowing the public to hold claims on the central bank might make their liquid assets safer, because a central bank cannot become insolvent. This is a feature which will become relevant especially in times of crisis – when there will be a strong incentive for money holders to switch bank deposits into the official digital currency simply at the push of a button. But what might be a boon for savers in search of safety, might be a bane for banks, as this makes a bank run potentially even easier.
The central banker is a known critic of digitization brought on by financial technologies, questioning the promise of FinTech revolutionizing financial services and infrastructure earlier in March this year. However, he did add that technologies like blockchain ‘could’ have the potential to make financial processes faster, inexpensive, more efficient and convenient.
Meanwhile, the Bundesbank has been developing a blockchain-based settlement infrastructure system, based on a concept of the open source www.ccn.com/tag/hyperledger-project/.
Featured image from Flickr/Bankenverband.