Bitcoin Is Not a New Type of Money
Bitcoin, and more generally, cryptocurrencies, are often described as a new type of money. In this post, we argue that this is a misconception. Bitcoin may be money, but it is not a new type of money. To see what is truly new about Bitcoin, it is useful to make a distinction between “money,” the asset that is being exchanged, and the “exchange mechanism,” that is, the method or process through which the asset is transferred. Doing so reveals that monies with properties similar to Bitcoin have existed for centuries. However, the ability to make electronic exchanges without a trusted ...
Cyber Risk and the U.S. Financial System: A Pre-Mortem Analysis
We model how a cyber attack may be amplified through the U.S. financial system, focusing on the wholesale payments network. We estimate that the impairment of any of the five most active U.S. banks will result in significant spillovers to other banks, with 38 percent of the network affected on average. The impact varies and can be larger on particular days and geographies. When banks respond to uncertainty by liquidity hoarding, the potential impact in forgone payment activity is dramatic, reaching more than 2.5 times daily GDP. In a reverse stress test, interruptions originating from banks ...
How do insiders respond to regulatory oversight? History suggests that they form sophisticated networks to share information and circumvent regulation. We develop a theory of the formation and regulation of information transmission networks. We show that agents with sufficiently complex networks bypass any given regulatory environment. In response, regulators employ broad regulatory boundaries to combat gaming, giving rise to regulatory ambiguity. Tighter regulation induces agents to migrate transmission activity from existing social networks to a core-periphery insider network. A small group ...
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.
Deciphering Americans’ Views on Cryptocurrencies
Having witnessed the dramatic rise and fall in the value of cryptocurrencies over the past year, we wanted to learn more about what motivates people to participate in this market. To find out, we included a special set of questions in the May 2018 Survey of Consumer Expectations, a project of the New York Fed’s Center for Microeconomic Data. This blog post summarizes the results of that survey, shedding light on U.S. consumers’ depth of participation in cryptocurrencies and their motives for entering this new market.
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 ...
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 ...
Central Banks and Digital Currencies
Recent developments in payments technology raise important questions about the role of central banks either in providing a digital currency themselves or in supporting the development of digital currencies by private actors, as some authors of this post have discussed in a recent IMF blog post. In this post, we consider two ways a central bank could choose to become involved with digital currencies and discuss some implications of these potential choices.
Modern-day financial systems are highly complex, with billions of exchanges in information, assets, and funds between individuals and institutions. Though daunting to operationalize, regulating these transmissions may be desirable in some instances. For example, securities regulators aim to protect investors by tracking and punishing insider trading. Recent evidence shows that insiders have formed sophisticated networksthat enable them to pursue activities outside the purview of regulatory oversight. In understanding the cat-and-mouse game between regulators and insiders, a key consideration ...
How Does Information Affect Liquidity in Over-the-Counter Markets?
A large volume of financial transactions occur in decentralized markets that commonly depend on a network of dealers. Dealers face two impediments to providing liquidity in these markets. First, dealers may face informed traders. Second, they may face costs associated with maintaining large balance sheets, either due to inventory or liquidity costs. In a recent paper, we study a model of over-the-counter (OTC) markets in which liquidity is endogenously determined by dealers who must contend with both asymmetric information and liquidity costs. This post provides an intuitive explanation of ...