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'Britcoin': Bank of England puts Monzo, PayPal and ASOS on digital pound forum

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·3 min read
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File photo dated 20/09/19 of the Bank of England, in the City of London. The Bank of England will meet on Thursday to decide on interest rates, as it comes under mounting pressure to cool rising prices after the biggest jump in inflation for at least 24 years. The latest verdict from the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) follows the biggest leap in inflation on record, from 2% in July to 3.2% in August, and comes amid rocketing energy prices. The Bank is expected to keep rates firmly on hold at 0.1% on Thursday.
The Bank of England and Treasury have been exploring the concept of a CBDC since April. Photo: PA

Representatives from ASOS (ASC.L), Spotify (SPOT) and PayPal (PYPL) were on Wednesday called up by the Bank of England and Treasury as part of the UK's central bank digital currency (CBDC) Engagement and Technology forums. 

The creation of these groups was announced in April 2021, alongside the CBDC Taskforce which coordinates the exploration of a potential digital pound, dubbed 'Britcoin' by the press. 

In April, the BoE said any UK digital currency would be a new form of digital money that could be used by both households and businesses. 

It would exist alongside cash and bank deposits, rather than replacing them. At the time, both the BoE and Treasury stressed they were simply exploring the idea and are not committed to launching 'Britcoin'.

Interest in CBDC has evolved from the growth of decentralised digital currencies such as bitcoin (BTC-USD) and ethereum (ETH-USD), which have taken markets by storm.

Read more: Rishi Sunak: 'We're not replacing cash with Britcoin'

CBDCs represent a new frontier for central bank stimulus, potentially acting as a conduit for policies such as stimulus checks, emergency loans, and UBI (universal basic income). Central banks could induce more powerful, directed "money drops" to stimulate the economy rather than tinkering with interest rates.

According to PwC, retail CBDC projects appear to be more advanced in emerging economies.

This week, Nigeria became the first country in Africa to launch a CBDC. The website for the country's eNaria went live ahead of schedule, reportedly attracting more than a million hits in the 24 hours following the launch. 

Elsewhere China, Cambodia and The Bahamas are leading the pack in terms of development, although the UK, Europe and the USA have all expressed an interest in developing their own CBDC.

The bank's Engagement Forum consists of senior stakeholders from industry, civil society and academia to gather strategic input on policy considerations and functional requirements pertaining to CBDC. 

The forum will have an important role in helping the Bank and HM Treasury understand the practical challenges of designing, implementing and operating a CBDC.

Among those invited to contribute are Starling Bank's CEO Anne Boden, Charlotte Hogg, CEO of Visa Europe, Jorn Lambert, chief digital officer at Mastercard and representatives from HSBC (HSBA.L), Nationwide, Standard Chartered (STAN.L), Google (GOOGL) and law firm Clifford Chance. 

Read more: 'Britcoin': Central bank digital currencies explained

The Technology Forum gathers input on all technology aspects of CBDC from a diverse cross-section of expertise and perspectives. The forum will help the bank to understand the technological challenges of designing, implementing and operating a CBDC.

Execs on the list include those from Monzo, IBM, PayPal and Spotify, as well as an academic from UCL and policymaker from the World Economic Forum. 

The Technology Forum met for the first time in late September, while the Engagement Forum will have its inaugural meeting later in the year. Agendas and minutes from meetings will be published regularly, the Bank said. 

Watch: Bank of England to Intervene on Digital Currency 'Programming'