Banking with digital currency

How Banks Can Succeed with Cryptocurrency
NOVEMBER 05, 2020
By Zubin Mogul, Bernhard Kronfellner, Michael Buser, Chi Lai, Kenneth Wee, Will Rhode, Kaj Burchardi, Anna Golebiowska, Pratin Vallabhaneni, John Wagner, and Alexander Abedine

Be prepared for a major transition in banking during the early 2020s: it’s time to adopt cryptocurrencies. Retail-banking clients and institutional investors are expressing increased interest in this financial vehicle and in the distributed-ledger technology (DLT) that underlies it: particularly innovations such as blockchain. Indeed, some investors, fintechs, and venture capital funds are beginning to make a sustained commitment to cryptocurrency, regarding it as the future of money. Banks can no longer afford to ignore this opportunity.

Of course, they have reason to be cautious. Some financial services leaders remain skeptical of the value that cryptocurrency has as an asset class, and individual cryptocurrencies have lost market capitalization at times (including this year). During the COVID-19 crisis, cryptocurrencies have experienced volatility, and their reputation has been tarnished by the association of Bitcoin, the most prominent cryptocurrency, with criminal acts such as the Twitter hack of July 2020.

Nonetheless, cryptocurrencies are a vehicle with great prospects. They have the potential to outperform conventional banking products while offering greater efficiency, less bureaucracy, and more transparency.

Cryptocurrencies are a vehicle with great prospects.

Many industry observers have been aware of the opportunities for some time. As far back as 2012, for example, American Banker writer Jeremy Quittner proposed that banks launch a variety of cryptocurrency offerings: processing payments, providing escrow services, facilitating international cash transactions, helping customers exchange their money for bitcoins, and even making loans in the currency.

Nonetheless, only recently have some banks and financial services institutions begun to build and launch their own entries in the ever-maturing blockchain ecosystem. In 2019, for example, JPMorgan Chase introduced JPM Coin, its own cryptocurrency, which it uses primarily for funds transfers and faster transaction settlements among clients. Morgan Stanley has offered blockchain-based investment products since 2018. Goldman Sachs introduced a new leader for oversight of digital assets in recent months, an indication that it expects activity to increase. More than 100 banks have tested instant payments with the use of the cryptocurrency Ripple. The European Central Bank has set up a task force to explore offering a digital euro, “not because we want to keep up with fashionable trends,” says ECB executive board member Yves Mersch, “but because we have to be ready.” Central banks in China, Sweden, and the UK have indicated interest in cryptocurrencies as well. Read more at https://www.bcg.com/publications/2020/how-banks-can-succeed-with-cryptocurrency

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