In a market where consumers choose between payment options and firms compete with products and prices, we show that payment data drives the formation of a market monopoly. A data-sharing policy can successfully restore and maintain a competitive market, but often at the expense of both efficiency and consumer welfare. The introduction of a low-cost anonymous means of electronic payment, or digital cash, preserves the market structure and improves consumers’ welfare by enabling them to monetize their private information. We discuss the potential role of central banks in providing digital ...
Nonlinear pricing with competition: the market for settling payments
The multiple payments settlement systems available in the United States differ on several dimensions. The Fedwire Funds Service, a utility that operates a U.S. large-value payments-settlement service, offers the fastest speed of settlement. Recognizing that payments differ in the urgency with which they need to be settled, Fedwire offers banks a decreasing block-price schedule. This approach allows Fedwire to price discriminate, charging high fees for urgent payments and low fees for less urgent ones. We analyze banks? demand for Fedwire Funds given this nonlinear scheme, taking into account ...
Illiquidity in the interbank payment system following wide-scale disruptions
We show how the interbank payment system can become illiquid following wide-scale disruptions. Two forces are at play in such disruptions-operational problems and changes in participants' behavior. We model the interbank payment system as an n-player game and utilize the concept of a potential function to describe the process by which one of multiple equilibria emerges after a wide-scale disruption. If the disruption is large enough, hits a key geographic area, or hits a "too-big-to-fail" participant, then the coordination of payment processing can break down, and central bank intervention ...
Mapping change in the federal funds market
We use an information-theoretic approach to describe changes in lending relationships between federal funds market participants around the time of the Lehman Brothers failure. Unlike previous work that conducts maximum-likelihood estimation on undirected networks, our analysis distinguishes between borrowers and lenders and looks for broader lending relationships (multibank lending cycles) that extend beyond the immediate counterparties. We find that significant changes in lending patterns emerge following implementation of the Interest on Reserves policy by the Federal Reserve on October 9, ...
Monetizing Privacy with Central Bank Digital Currencies
In prior research, we documented evidence suggesting that digital payment adoptions have accelerated as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. While digitalization of payment activity improves data utilization by firms, it can also infringe upon consumers’ right to privacy. Drawing from a recent paper, this blog post explains how payment data acquired by firms impacts market structure and consumer welfare. Then, we discuss the implications of introducing a central bank digital currency (CBDC) that offers consumers a low-cost, privacy-preserving electronic means of payment—essentially, digital ...
Which bank is the \\"central\\" bank? an application of Markov theory to the Canadian Large Value Transfer System
Recently, economists have argued that a bank's importance within the financial system depends not only on its individual characteristics but also on its position within the banking network. A bank is deemed to be "central" if, based on our network analysis, it is predicted to hold the most liquidity. In this paper, we use a method similar to Google's PageRank procedure to rank banks in the Canadian Large Value Transfer System (LVTS). In doing so, we obtain estimates of the payment processing speeds for the individual banks. These differences in processing speeds are essential for ...
Turnover in Fedwire Funds Has Dropped Considerably since the Crisis, but It's Okay
The Fedwire Funds Service is a large-value payment system, operated by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, that facilitates more than $3 trillion a day in payments. Turnover in Fedwire Funds, the value of payments made for every dollar of liquidity provided, has dropped nearly 75 percent since the crisis. Should we be concerned? In this post, we explain why turnover has dropped so much and argue that it is, in fact, a good thing.
COVID-19 and the Search for Digital Alternatives to Cash
Today, the majority of retail payments in the United States are digital. Practically all digital payments are tracked, collected, and aggregated by financial institutions, payment providers, and vendors. This trend has accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic as payments that require physical contact, such as cash, have been discouraged. As cash gradually becomes obsolete, consumers are left with fewer alternatives for making private transactions. In this post, we outline some evidence on the impact of COVID-19 on consumer payment behavior and follow up in the second post in this Liberty ...
Who Sees the Trades? The Effect of Information on Liquidity in Inter-Dealer Markets
Dealers, who strategically supply liquidity to traders, are subject to both liquidity and adverse selection costs. While liquidity costs can be mitigated through inter-dealer trading, individual dealers? private motives to acquire information compromise inter-dealer market liquidity. Post-trade information disclosure can improve market liquidity by counteracting dealers? incentives to become better informed through their market-making activities. Asymmetric disclosure, however, exacerbates the adverse selection problem in inter-dealer markets, in turn decreasing equilibrium liquidity ...
Token- or Account-Based? A Digital Currency Can Be Both
Digital currencies, including potential central bank digital currencies (CBDC), have generated a lot of interest over the past decade, since the emergence of Bitcoin. The interest has only grown in recent months because of a desire for contactless payment methods, stemming from the coronavirus pandemic. In this post, we discuss a common distinction made between “token-based” and “account-based” digital currencies. We show that this distinction is problematic because Bitcoin and many other digital currencies satisfy both definitions.