Fintech Notes

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March 3, 2023

Trust Bridges and Money Flows: A Digital Marketplace to Improve Cross-Border Payments

Description: Cross-border payments are expensive, slow, and opaque. These problems reflect multiple frictions, many of which boil down to limited trust among counterparties. Trust plays a central role in exchanging credit-based money. End users need to trust the issuers of money, and issuers must trust users to satisfy financial integrity requirements. Transactions are possible only where trust links exist. Interoperability between different forms of money can thus be conceptualized as the network of trusted links necessary for transactions. Traditionally, across borders, trust links involve exclusive bilateral credit relationships among correspondent banks. However, the fixed costs required to build these links foster an expensive and concentrated system. This paper interprets different payment arrangements in terms of the implied trust structures. It discusses how the tokenization of money alters trust links and allows for a potentially more efficient market structure to exchange money. The paper ends with a suggested global marketplace to trade tokenized money directly across borders.


September 28, 2022

Towards Central Bank Digital Currencies in Asia and the Pacific: Results of a Regional Survey

Description: Drawing on survey responses from 34 Asian economies and country case studies, this note takes stock of recent developments related to central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) and crypto assets in Asia. The survey finds that there is significant heterogeneity in terms of stage of development, but the emergence of private crypto assets has created an impetus to consider CBDCs. While most countries are engaged in research and development, with some at advanced stages of testing and pilots, very few countries are likely to issue CBDCs in the near-to-medium term, reflecting the still considerable uncertainties. Still, country experiences so far provide some key insights for others in their journey in this area.

September 26, 2022

Regulating the Crypto Ecosystem: The Case of Stablecoins and Arrangements

Description: Stablecoins have experienced periods of rapid growth, accelerated links with traditional finance. Without proper regulation, contagion risks to wider financial sector will increase. Global regulation for stablecoins should be comprehensive, consistent, risk-based, flexible, and focus on their structural features and use. Requirements on stablecoins should cover the entire ecosystem and all its key functions, and there should be additional oversight for systemic stablecoin arrangements. In markets where risks are growing quickly, authorities should take immediate action by using all the tools at their disposal. This note provides key elements that should feature in any regulatory arrangement. For effective implementation, domestic and international collaboration are key.

September 26, 2022

Regulating the Crypto Ecosystem: The Case of Unbacked Crypto Assets

Description: Unbacked crypto assets are the oldest and most popular type of crypto assets, relying not on any backing asset for value but instead on supply and demand. They were originally developed to democratize payments but are mostly used for speculation. Crypto assets were designed to disintermediate financial services, but centralized entities, such as exchanges and wallet providers, offer key functions to users and sustain the necessity of trust in one or several entities. At present, many of these entities are not covered by existing conduct, prudential, or payment regulations and can generate risks to market integrity, market conduct, and potential financial stability. We recommend that global bodies work to develop common taxonomies that can inform global and cross-sectoral standards while improving data insights. Standards should be risk-based, with greater requirements on entities and activities that generate more risk. Crypto asset service providers that deliver core functions and generate key risks should be licensed, registered, or authorized.

June 7, 2022

Digital Currencies and Energy Consumption

Description: Whether in crypto assets or in CBDCs, design choices can make an important difference to the energy consumption of digital currencies. This paper establishes the main components and technological options that determine the energy profile of digital currencies. It draws on academic and industry estimates to compare digital currencies to each other and to existing payment systems and derives implications for the design of environmentally friendly CBDCs. For distributed ledger technologies, the key factors affecting energy consumption are the ability to control participation and the consensus algorithm. While crypto assets like Bitcoin are wasteful in terms of resources, other designs could be more energy efficient than existing payment systems.

May 10, 2022

Capital Flow Management Measures in the Digital Age: Challenges of Crypto Assets

Description: Capital flow management measures (CFMs) can be part of the broader policy toolkit to help countries reap the benefits of capital flows while managing the associated risks. Their implementation typically requires that financial intermediaries verify the nature of transactions and the identities of transacting parties but is facing the rising challenge of crypto assets. Indeed, crypto assets have become a significant instrument for payments and speculative investments in some countries. They can be traded pseudonymously and held without identification of the residency of the asset holder. Many crypto service providers operate across borders, making supervision and enforcement by national authorities more difficult. The challenges posed by the attributes of crypto assets are compounded by gaps in the legal and regulatory frameworks. This paper aims to discuss how crypto assets could impact the effectiveness of CFMs from a structural and longer-term perspective. To preserve the effectiveness of CFMs against crypto-related challenges, policymakers need to consider a multifaceted strategy whose essential elements include clarifying the legal status of crypto assets and ensuring that CFM laws and regulations cover them; devising a comprehensive, consistent, and coordinated regulatory approach to crypto assets and applying it effectively to CFMs; establishing international collaborative arrangements for supervision of crypto assets; addressing data gaps and leveraging technology (regtech and suptech) to create anomaly-detection models and red-flag indicators that will allow for timely risk monitoring and CFM implementation.

February 9, 2022

Behind the Scenes of Central Bank Digital Currency: Emerging Trends, Insights, and Policy Lessons

Description: Central banks are increasingly pondering whether to issue their own digital currencies to the general public, so-called retail central bank digital currency (CBDC). The majority of IMF member countries are actively evaluating CBDCs, with only a few having issued CBDCs or undertaken extensive pilots or tests. This paper shines the spotlight on the handful of countries at the frontier in the hope of identifying and sharing insights, lessons, and open questions for the benefit of the many countries following in their footsteps. Clearly, what can be gleaned from these experiences does not necessarily apply elsewhere. The sample of countries remains small and country circumstances differ widely. However, the insights in this paper may inspire further investigation and allow countries to gain time by building on the experience of others. Importantly, the purpose of this paper is not to evaluate the courses taken by different jurisdictions, but to study and discuss their key experiences and lessons. The paper studies six advanced CBDC projects, drawing on collaboration and exchanges with the respective central banks to get insights beyond what has previously been published. Unless a specific published source is cited, all information stems from interviews and workshops with members of CBDC project teams in each jurisdiction.

January 27, 2022

Keeping Pace with Change: Fintech and the Evolution of Commercial Law

Description: This note explores the interactions between new technologies with key areas of commercial law and potential legal changes to respond to new developments in technology and businesses. Inspired by the Bali Fintech Agenda, this note argues that country authorities need to closely examine the adequacy of their legal frameworks to accommodate the use of new technologies and implement necessary legal reform so as to reap the benefits of fintech while mitigating risks. Given the cross-border nature of new technologies, international cooperation among all relevant stakeholders is critical. The note is structured as follows: Section II describes the relations between technology, business, and law, Section III discusses the nature and functions of commercial law; Section IV provides a brief overview of developments in fintech; Section V examines the interaction between technology and commercial law; and Section VI concludes with a preliminary agenda for legal reform to accommodate the use of new technologies.

January 26, 2022

Blockchain Consensus Mechanisms: A Primer for Supervisors

Description: Technology plays an increasingly important role in financial services. With the pace of technological inno-vation moving ever faster, the role new technology plays in the provision of financial services is becoming increasingly fundamental. New technology can generate efficiencies for firms, lowering costs that can be passed on to end users. It can increase access to financial services and products for consumers, particularly the most vulnerable; however, new technology can also create new risks and unintended consequences that can harm financial stability, consumer protection, and market integrity. This primer is designed for financial supervisors at central banks, regulatory authorities, and government departments. It adds to existing literature by summarizing key aspects of popular consensus mechanisms at a high level, with a specific focus on how such mechanisms may impact the mandates of supervisors and policymakers when deployed in financial services markets. It could also help inform IMF staff on policy development and technical assistance related to crypto assets, stablecoins, and blockchains.

January 24, 2022

BigTech in Financial Services: Regulatory Approaches and Architecture

Description: BigTech firms are gradually entering the financial sector and becoming important service providers, particularly in emerging markets. BigTechs have entered financial services using platform-based technology to facilitate payments and more recently expanded into other areas, such as lending, asset management, and insurance services. They accumulate data from their nonfinancial and financial activities and draw on consumer data held in different parts of their business (such as via social media). BigTechs are applying new approaches to existing financial services products and services such as underwriting using big data and are also applying machine learning for their key business decisions, such as pricing and risk management across multiple financial sectors. Incumbent financial firms have also increased their reliance on BigTech firms to host core IT systems (for example, cloud-based services, which have the potential to improve efficiency and security). This rapid and significant expansion of BigTechs in financial services and their interconnectedness with financial service firms are potentially creating new channels of systemic risks. To achieve effective implementation and multiple objectives of financial regulation and supervision, a hybrid approach, combining a mix of entity- and activity-based approaches, is needed.

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