In this post I discuss several differences between physical cash, and what I imagine retail Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs) might end up looking like. The main differences between CBDCs and cash are accessibility, anonymity, and interest.
Accessibility means “who can use it?”. Pretty much anyone can use cash.
Anonymity describes how much information about the payer and recipient’s identity is needed to make a transaction. Cash doesn’t require the payer or recipient to provide any identity information.
Interest describes how much the number goes up if you leave it sitting in its natural state without lending it to anyone. Physical cash does not have interest.
Summary: Issuers of today’s fiat-backed stablecoins (such as PAX, USDC and TUSD) need to identify (or KYC) only those users who convert between bank account money and stablecoin, not all holders.
Some people might be surprised that intermediate users of stablecoin may transact without needing to being identified by the issuers. Yet few people know that there are kill-switches built in that can hinder bad actors. This arrangement can be described as permissioned pseudonymity. Stablecoin issuers have permission by their regulators to have pseudonymous users in their network.
Permissioned pseudonymity is positive for innovation while the industry explores the most productive uses for stablecoins.
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.
The Bank of International Settlements (BIS) is now throwing their weight behind Central Bank Digital Currencies for household use (“Retail CBDCs”). For clarity, this doesn’t necessarily mean recording fiat currency as tokens on blockchains: regular account-based technology can also be used. But it means that households could store and spend fiat money digitally outside of a bank or other private sector company.
But a popular pattern in the crypto/token/blockchain world is that someone will come along and be like “finally, through tokenization, we have invented a way to slice _________ into bits and let people trade the bits.” I always find this a bit confusing. Whatever _________ is, it is safe to say that before the invention of tokenization there was already a way to slice it into bits and let people trade the bits. Slicing things into tradeable bits has been a very hot area of finance for a very long time, and people got pretty good at it. Real estate is a popular target for tokenization, for instance, and I am confused because real estate securitization—not so much mortgage-backed securities but real estate investment trusts—is a thing that has existed for a long time.
In this post I articulate what a peer-to-peer transaction is, why Bitcoin transactions are not peer-to-peer, and why it is important to understand the differences clearly. I describe the benefits of peer-to-peer transactions and discuss that Corda is the closest architecture to take advantage of those benefits.
Yesterday I did an recording where the interviewer asked me a simple question – what is blockchain? This got me thinking – I had no go-to answer for this. People use this word to cover a wide range of networks and platforms, and some platforms such as R3’s Corda (Note: I work at R3) are categorised as “blockchain” platforms, when they don’t even bundle transactions into blocks!
The best description I could come up with was:
Blockchain is a word used to describe a bundle of technologies that allow digital assets to be created and passed from party to party with guarantees that the assets are authentic and haven’t been copied or counterfeited all without needing to trust a third party to open and maintain accounts for customers.