Assistant Secretary for Financial Institutions at the US Treasury Graham Steele spoke at a Texas conference about digitizing financial services. He focused on Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs) and discussed their potential and consequences.
Steele, who oversees banking, credit unions, insurance, consumer protection, capital access, and cybersecurity policies, acknowledged the trend of digitizing financial services. He highlighted computing power and connectivity advancements as driving forces behind this shift. Steele emphasized the need to consider the financial industry’s new digital risks and opportunities.
He delved into significant developments such as CBDCs, the upcoming launch of FedNow, and the growth of Open Banking. Steele mentioned that the United States is actively studying the implications of CBDCs through an interagency working group led by the Treasury Department. The committee examines various policy goals related to global financial leadership, national security, privacy, illicit financing, and financial inclusion.
Steele discussed the potential impacts of introducing a retail CBDC available to the public, including fostering a more competitive payment market and increasing access to financial services. However, he cautioned about the risks, such as instability in the private lending market and the need to balance user privacy, data traceability, and availability.
He also mentioned FedNow, a real-time payment settlement service by the Federal Reserve, enabling faster transactions and providing more options and system resilience.
Steele highlighted the development of Open Banking and referenced Europe’s Revised Directive on Payment Services (PSD2) as an example. He emphasized the importance of safe data exchange to enhance access and competition in the United States.
However, he did sound a warning about the dangers that may arise, including the instability of the private sector lending market due to runs into a retail CBDC. To achieve this delicate balancing act, designers must consider user privacy, data traceability, and availability even when there is no network connection.