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Bank of Canada accelerates work on digital currency amid pandemic

02/10/2021 | 01:11pm EDT
FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: A sign is pictured outside the Bank of Canada building in Ottawa

OTTAWA, Feb 10 (Reuters) - The COVID-19 pandemic has added urgency to the Bank of Canada's development of a digital currency and a decision could come sooner than previously thought, a senior policymaker said on Wednesday, though he noted that a launch was not a "foregone conclusion."

Bank of Canada deputy governor Tim Lane, speaking to a digital intelligence audience, also noted that while the pandemic has boosted cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, recent prices spikes look like "speculative mania" and said the offerings are not plausible as the currency of the future.

"For several years, the Bank of Canada has been analyzing which circumstances might lead Canada to decide to issue a digital currency. The pandemic may bring us to a decision point sooner than we had anticipated," said Lane.

While the pandemic had accelerated the central bank's work to prepare for potential launch of a digital dollar, that day has not yet arrived, said Lane.

"A digital currency is by no means a foregone conclusion," he said, later adding that Canada is front-runner among its peers on development, but behind countries like China, which has launched pilots of its offering.

Lane, in a Q&A session, played down concerns over China getting first-mover advantage saying that Canadians are unlikely to use a digital renminbi for everyday purchases, but noted a widely adopted option could pose a risk.

"We can certainly imagine a situation where other central banks would launch a digital currency that could come to be used increasingly in Canada," he said. "If that were to happen... that could start to threaten the role of the Canadian dollar."

Bolstering the chance of Canada launching its own digital currency is a recent shift by Canadians away from using cash, though Lane noted it was unclear if that would continue post-pandemic, and the rise of "deeply flawed" cryptocurrencies.

"Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin do not have a plausible claim to become the money of the future," said Lane. "The recent spike in their prices looks less like a trend and more like a speculative mania."

Lane added that while there is more potential in so-called stablecoins, backed by safe assets, serious data privacy concerns remain, especially if offered by technology companies that already mine customer data for profit.

"If that business model were used as a foundation for the dominant method of payment in the economy, the issuer would gain control over an enormous range of data - bringing with it overwhelming market power," he said. "In effect, a technology company could become the gatekeeper of the entire economy."

Facebook has announced plans to launch a stablecoin, prompting global political leaders to worry about regulation. (Reporting by Julie Gordon and David Ljunggren in Ottawa Editing by Nick Zieminski)

© Reuters 2021
Stocks mentioned in the article
ChangeLast1st jan.
AUSTRALIAN DOLLAR / CANADIAN DOLLAR (AUD/CAD) 0.03% 0.95418 Delayed Quote.-1.68%
BITCOIN - EURO 0.44% 48897.25 Real-time Quote.107.14%
BITCOIN - UNITED STATES DOLLAR 0.23% 58126.64 Real-time Quote.101.20%
BRITISH POUND / CANADIAN DOLLAR (GBP/CAD) -0.05% 1.71626 Delayed Quote.-0.72%
CANADIAN DOLLAR / JAPANESE YEN (CAD/JPY) -0.03% 87.481 Delayed Quote.7.27%
CANADIAN DOLLAR / SWISS FRANC (CAD/CHF) 0.09% 0.73752 Delayed Quote.5.90%
EURO / CANADIAN DOLLAR (EUR/CAD) 0.00% 1.49057 Delayed Quote.-3.65%
FACEBOOK INC -0.18% 312.46 Delayed Quote.14.39%
NEW ZEALAND DOLLAR / CANADIAN DOLLAR (NZD/CAD) 0.00% 0.88061 Delayed Quote.-2.89%
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Financials (USD)
Sales 2021 108 B - -
Net income 2021 32 610 M - -
Net cash 2021 78 317 M - -
P/E ratio 2021 27,8x
Yield 2021 -
Capitalization 888 B 888 B -
EV / Sales 2021 7,52x
EV / Sales 2022 6,08x
Nbr of Employees 58 604
Free-Float 83,9%
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Last Close Price 312,46 $
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Mark Elliot Zuckerberg Chairman & Chief Executive Officer
David M. Wehner Chief Financial Officer
Michael Todd Schroepfer Chief Technology Officer
Atish Banerjea Chief Information Officer
Sheryl Kara Sandberg Chief Operating Officer & Director
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