Eugne Etsebeth is an ex-central bankerwho was employed as a technologist at the South African Reserve Bank from 2013 to 2017. During his time at the reserve bank, he notablychaired the virtual currency and distributed ledger working group.
In this opinion piece, Etsebeth outlines why he believes central banks won’t be able to adapt to innovations in cryptocurrency, arguing they simply aren’t set up to compete with sea changes in technology.
It’s a familiar trend, one that happened in communications (internet), and that is now playing out in energy (solar), manufacturing (3D printing)and finance (cryptocurrency) power and control are moving into the hands of the individual and away from nation states.
This has huge implications for central banks, which today enable nation states to maintain their monopolies over the issuance of notes, coins and sovereign bonds. While communications and manufacturing are not their focus, cryptocurrencies and initial coin offerings (ICOs) fall predominantly in the realm of central banks.
In these systems,central banks don’t issue legal tender. Rather, miners and algorithms now control the issuance of tokens effectively, the money supply. Whereas previously banks were licensed to store, send and spend currency, now wallet providers and exchanges allow the same features.
The currency renaissance has arrived and central banks are studying cryptocurrencies, though some central banks are more open to change than others.
Singapore has been investigating the notion of using distributed ledger technologies to settle cross-border transactions in real time, and the Bank of England has experimented with Ripple. Central banks are even looking to build their own versions of central bank-issued digital currency (CBDC).
Even still, central banks are not well equipped to deal with the cryptocurrency renaissance.
In fact, there are10 good reasons why most central banks will find cryptocurrencies insurmountable. Sure, a small number of forward-thinking (and acting) central banks willmaintain monetary competiveness with the burgeoning cryptocurrencies and ICOs that have reared their decentralized heads.
Still, most will succumb to a mix of the following issues:
Central banks will need to attract and retain fresh talent that will enable them to deal with the new openness and transparency demands, as well as digital transformation and the increasingly complex global world.
Decision-making in central banks is like wading through treacle decisions take months because of numerouslayers of hierarchy.
Working groups need to compile voluminous and detailed documents that need to be reviewed and signed by all parties before they can proceed to the heads of departments or the deputy governors.
Academics, economists and big-picture thinkers excel in central banks. The academics ponder on conceptual issues andthe economists make interpretations from data, whereas the policy makers and regulators mull over the cause and effect of promulgating laws.
However,technologists are generally not part of the discussion when it comes to policy and economic decisions for currency.
Although some central banks are engaging in experimentation, there is a fear of going from proof-of-concept to pilot phase.
This is natural, should a central bank make an error, it may turn out to be a reputation buster and reputation is the cornerstone of central banks. There is also some trepidation that the early regulation of cryptocurrencies, and associated new technologies, may legitimize their adoption.
Central banks are similar to conglomerates in that they have a number of different and distinct departments that require diverse skills and outputs.
These differences make it difficult to approach a new technology and economic tour de force like cryptocurrency, because it doesnt fit neatly into any one of the industrial-style conglomerate domains.
To highlight the conglomerate type nature of central banks, the core departments and skill sets are listed below:
Most central banks do not have substantial software development capability. Therefore any new project will have to buy its technology. There is an acute shortage of central bankers who can explain or use Merkle trees.
A large portion of central bankers are career central bankers, so the desire and ability to change arenot incentivised. Change is often considered a threat to staff, and threats are met with jelly-like stickiness to the status quo.
Banks are licensed to operate by central banks, giving them the ability to create money from customer deposits.
The central bank asks the banks to protect depositor’s hard-earned money and to serve as many customers as it can: i.e. maximizingfinancial inclusion. The task of banks is therefore to service anation’s citizens at the behest of the central bank.
These relationships and licenses are expensive to buy and will not easily be changed to include new members.
Just as the departments within central banks tend to be siloed, so too are the intergovernmental departments that look at currency matters.
They cover treasury, financial intelligence (KYC), financial services conduct authority, central bank, tax revenue and secret service units. Each of these units may have different acts and regulations that overlap cryptocurrencies and ICOs.
Internationally the nation-state must get guidance from a multitude of organisations like the G20 or G7, International Monetary Fund (IMF), Bank of International Settlements (BIS), Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and INTERPOL. International coordination often requires prolonged diplomacy and mismatched agendas.
Statue of Davidimage via Shutterstock
The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk strives to offer an open platform for dialogue and discussion on all things blockchain by encouraging contributed articles. As such, the opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the view of CoinDesk.
For more details on how you can submit an opinion or analysis article, view our Editorial Collaboration Guide or email [emailprotected].
- 2018 Bahamas Blockchain & Cryptocurrency Conference - July 16th, 2018
- Best Cryptocurrency Trading Platform 2018 | Top Crypto ... - July 13th, 2018
- Cryptocurrency: Advantages And Disadvantages Explained - July 12th, 2018
- ATB Coin - The fastest and most secure payment system - June 19th, 2018
- An Illustrated Glossary of Cryptocurrency Slang (Infographic) - June 19th, 2018
- Apollo All-in-One Cryptocurrency - June 3rd, 2018
- Cryptocurrency News, ICO Database, Coin Rankings and ... - May 25th, 2018
- CoinLib - Cryptocurrency prices now - May 21st, 2018
- Cryptocurrency Market Capitalizations | CoinMarketCap - May 4th, 2018
- CryptoCurrency Market , Coin Prices & Charts, Crypto ... - April 28th, 2018
- Nasdaq open to cryptocurrency exchange in future, says CEO - April 27th, 2018
- The 4 Top Cryptocurrency Mining Stocks -- The Motley Fool - April 27th, 2018
- One in five financial institutions consider cryptocurrency ... - April 27th, 2018
- New hacks siphon private cryptocurrency keys from ... - April 27th, 2018
- What Is Cryptocurrency? - dummies - April 21st, 2018
- Cryptocurrency Market Surges to $365 Billion, Start of a ... - April 21st, 2018
- BTCMANAGER | Bitcoin, Blockchain & Cryptocurrency News - April 16th, 2018
- How to keep your cryptocurrency safe - CNET - April 11th, 2018
- How do I report Cryptocurrency Mining income? - TurboTax ... - April 4th, 2018
- When do you report Cryptocurrency investments? - TurboTax ... - April 4th, 2018
- Trading Cryptocurrency in 2018: The Definitive Guide - March 14th, 2018
- How would one operate a Cryptocurrency Mining Pool and ... - March 13th, 2018
- Coinbase cryptocurrency index fund - Business Insider - March 10th, 2018
- Cryptosomniac | Cryptocurrency Price Tracker - Bitcoin & Eth ... - February 24th, 2018
- Cryptocurrencies News & Prices | Markets Insider - February 22nd, 2018
- I started cryptocurrency mining at the end of 2017 and was ... - February 20th, 2018
- Cryptocurrency News - Bitcoin, Ethereum, NEO, ICO startups - February 8th, 2018
- 7 Best Cryptocurrency Exchanges to Buy/Sell Any ... - February 8th, 2018
- Electroneum. The Mobile Cryptocurrency. - February 8th, 2018
- Cryptocurrencies trading | your guide in the world of trading ... - February 5th, 2018
- Robinhood trading app introduces cryptocurrency - money.cnn.com - January 28th, 2018
- Robinhood adds zero-fee cryptocurrency trading and tracking ... - January 28th, 2018
- Cryptocurrency Price Prediction, Comparison, Analysis - January 22nd, 2018
- South Korea's major cryptocurrency exchanges ... - reuters.com - January 13th, 2018
- Bitcoin-crazy South Korea may face a ban on cryptocurrency ... - January 13th, 2018
- Cryptocurrency - IC Markets - January 13th, 2018
- Kodak launches cryptocurrency, stock pops 125% - Jan. 9, 2018 - January 10th, 2018
- The cryptocurrency bubble is strangling innovation | TechCrunch - January 9th, 2018
- Coinschedule - The best cryptocurrency ICOs (Initial Coin ... - January 8th, 2018
- CCN: Bitcoin, Ethereum, ICO, Blockchain & Cryptocurrency News - January 7th, 2018
- Cryptocurrency boom: Why everyone is talking about ripple - January 4th, 2018
- Cryptocurrency stocks holding gains despite bitcoin pullback ... - December 29th, 2017
- MobileCoin: A New Cryptocurrency From Signal Creator Moxie ... - December 16th, 2017
- Cryptocurrency Definition | Investopedia - December 6th, 2017
- '$300m in cryptocurrency' accidentally lost forever due to bug ... - November 10th, 2017
- Amazon might want in on cryptocurrency - mashable.com - November 8th, 2017
- What is Cryptocurrency - earnlite.com - October 26th, 2017
- Cryptojacking Lets Strangers Mine Cryptocurrency With Your ... - October 21st, 2017
- Introduction to Cryptocurrency - CryptoCurrency Facts - October 14th, 2017
- Cryptocurrency Flash Crash Is Said to Draw Scrutiny From CFTC ... - October 7th, 2017
- Cryptocurrency Alternatives to Bitcoin - due.com - October 7th, 2017
- Learn BitCoin and master the world of cryptocurrency - October 7th, 2017
- Almost Every Cryptocurrency Is Tanking Right Now | Time.com - September 7th, 2017
- Cryptocurrency boom stalls as regulators focus on ICOs ... - September 7th, 2017
- Why Marketers Need to Pay Attention to Cryptocurrency -- Now - Entrepreneur - September 7th, 2017
- Opinion: That Floyd Mayweather-backed cryptocurrency is another sign of a bursting bubble - MarketWatch - September 7th, 2017
- Putin-Backed Political Group Advances 'Green' Cryptocurrency Concept - CoinDesk - September 7th, 2017
- First He Beat Up His Girlfriend, Now He's Selling Cryptocurrency With Paris Hilton - Daily Beast - September 7th, 2017
- Cryptocurrencies have already recovered from last weekend's crash ... - TechCrunch - September 7th, 2017
- Venezuela Cracks Down On Cryptocurrency Mining - CryptoCoinsNews - September 4th, 2017
- Mobius Foresees Cryptocurrency Crackdown Sparking a Rush to Gold - Bloomberg - September 4th, 2017
- The Aggregate Cryptocurrency Market Cap Is Up 810% Year to Date - Motley Fool - September 4th, 2017
- How to make upwards of $1,000 a month by mining cryptocurrency - Mashable - September 2nd, 2017
- Chinese Officials Contemplate Suspending Cryptocurrency ICOs - The Merkle - September 2nd, 2017
- Cryptocurrency Investment Course 2017: Fund your ... - Udemy - September 2nd, 2017
- Six Banking Giants Just Decided to Partner to Create a New Cryptocurrency - Futurism - September 2nd, 2017
- 7 Cryptocurrency Predictions From the Experts - fortune.com - September 2nd, 2017
- Russia Could Pass Cryptocurrency Law This Year, Senior Lawmaker Says - CoinDesk - September 2nd, 2017
- AxionV: AI Cryptocurrency Fund Leading the Way in ICO Security - HuffPost - September 2nd, 2017
- PayThink Custom tokens are the future of cryptocurrency - PaymentsSource - September 1st, 2017
- Litecoin Prices Surge Above $70 as Crypto Market Tops $175 Billion - CoinDesk - September 1st, 2017
- Dharma wants to let anyone borrow a small amount of cryptocurrency - TechCrunch - September 1st, 2017
- PR: Archain Is Building an Uncensorable Internet Archive Inside a Cryptocurrency - Bitcoin News (press release) - August 31st, 2017
- Cryptocurrency Market Just Reached Total Value of $160 Billion - Futurism - August 31st, 2017
- Another banking trojan is trying to loot your cryptocurrency wallets - The Register - August 31st, 2017
- Cointal Revolutionizes P2P Cryptocurrency Trading - CryptoCoinsNews - August 31st, 2017
- $160 Billion: Cryptocurrency Market Sets New All-Time High ... - CoinDesk - August 30th, 2017
- Central Banks Can't Ignore the Cryptocurrency Boom - Bloomberg - August 30th, 2017
- Whoppercoin is a cryptocurrency you can eat or trade - The Verge - August 30th, 2017
- Learn about cryptocurrency mining with this interactive blockchain demo - TNW - August 30th, 2017