The New Libra Coin – An Unofficial Explainer

I’ve been looking at the design of the new Libra coin (LBR) in the updated Libra Whitepaper. Here’s what I think the differences are between this new “synthetic” coin and the previous iteration of the coin as described in 2019. Hope it’s helpful!

Note, this is just my attempt to explain it with the information that is available. It is probably still subject to change. If you’ve found it useful, feel free to share!

Three currency wars, not one

This short blog post describes three different types of currency wars that seem to be happening at the moment.

The phrase “currency wars” is not new – typically is has referred to deliberate devaluation of one’s own currency to increase competitiveness of exports.  If your currency is worth less, then your goods are cheaper to foreigners, so they buy more of them, which is generally good for your country.

Yet with increased discussion and relevance of fintech, wallets, central bank digital currencies, Libra, bitcoin, etc, it seems to me that there is more going on.  I’ve identified three distinct wars (battles? fronts?) being fought:

  1. Currency devaluation to increase competitiveness
  2. Offshore e-money supremacy
  3. Public money vs private money
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Tokens: Shares with Benefits

This short post explores some of the additional value that tokenised assets on blockchains can add, over and above pure financial return.

The assets in question could be shares, or bonds, or other financial securities recorded as tokens on blockchains.  Some assets may not even be not regarded as financial securities, due to what they represent and what is promised to the asset holders – these have been described as “utility tokens”.

Today, people typically buy financial securities purely for their financial return.  A bond, loan, or other fixed income product, will give investors some amount of yield, usually commensurate to the amount of risk the investor is taking by providing their money.

Equity may give you slightly more than just a return: perhaps a vote at an annual shareholder meeting.  However, most people don’t care about these votes.  They just care about the share price going up, and dividends, if any.  The crypto community describes this succinctly as #NumberGoUp.

Yet increasingly, tokens are being used creatively to incentivise and delight token holders.

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Banking When the Bank is Shut – Token Maximalism

In this post I describe why freeing financial assets from the books of custodians and returning control of them to their owners as tokens could create significant benefits to an economy. This brings together concepts from traditional finance, cryptocurrencies, and enterprise blockchains.

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The Basics of Bitcoins and Blockchains

Last December I was approached by a publisher, Mango, who asked me if I would write a book about blockchain technology.  A little nervously, I agreed, and I’m excited to announce the result of six months of effort:

The basics of bitcoins and blockchains - book cover

The Basics of Bitcoins and Blockchains is an essential guide for anyone who needs to learn about cryptocurrencies, ICOs, and business blockchains.  Written in plain English, it provides a balanced and hype-free grounding in the essential concepts behind the revolutionary technology.

I wrote The Basics for an audience of business people, students, practitioners, and those who are simply interested in this technology.  I tried to make it entertaining even for those who are already working in the cryptocurrency or blockchain industry.  For example, did you know:

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The hype around central banks, digital currencies, and blockchains

Central banks and blockchain

There has been a lot of hype around central banks, interbank payments, blockchains, and central bank digital currencies (CBDCs), but the narrative has become confusing and often misses the point.  What’s going on?  Actually two independent things are being actively explored:

  1. Decentralisation of interbank payment systems
  2. Wider access to digital central bank money (Central Bank Digital Currencies – CBDCs)

I aim to explain them both in this post.

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A Gentle Introduction to Interbank Payment Systems

How do banks pay each other?  In most countries, when banks want to transfer money to each other, perhaps upon instruction from a customer, they don’t put bundles of banknotes in vans, they pay each other digitally.  How does this work?

This post is intended as a primer about payment systems and explains correspondent banking, nostros, real time gross settlement (RTGS) systems and deferred net settlement (DNS) systems.  It supports other posts where I discuss decentralisation of these systems using distributed ledgers.

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