Tom Mutton, the director of fintech at the Bank of England, spoke on the outlook for central bank digital currencies at FStech's "Future of Fintech" conference on June 17. Specifically, Mutton addressed responses to the BoE's discussion paper on CBDCs, as well as the outlook for the technology.
On one hand, Mutton maintained that any British CBDC would require a great deal more work before launch. On the other, he was more optimistic about CBDCs — as well as the potential role of blockchain in a digital pound — than prior public statements from the BoE had been.
"As a liability of the Bank of England, CBDC would be the safest type of money available," said Mutton. He further subtly distinguished the envisioned CBDC from existing private stablecoins by comparing them with other forms of private money:
"The ability to convert, on demand, ‘private’ money – such as a bank deposit, into ‘public’ money, issued by the central bank, in the form of cash, is a foundation of that confidence. It also promotes the understanding that different types of money are uniform and makes them substitutable."
Recent news has emphasized rising concerns over Bitcoin's energy use, which has led to broader skepticism over blockchain technology. While Mutton was careful to say that the BoE had not confirmed that it would issue a CBDC, let alone specify the technology that would underpin it, he did enjoin listeners: "let’s not throw the blockchain baby out with the Bitcoin bathwater."
Mutton's speech highlighted responses to a discussion paper on CBDCs that the BoE had released last year. Of those responses, 39% came from technology and fintech firms, while only 5% came from financial institutions. Overall, Mutton said that responses were favorable to a cautious approach:
"Whatever a respondent’s position on whether or not a CBDC might be needed, there was near universal agreement that the pros and cons needed to be studied in depth, broad engagement was needed as the evidence was assembled, and open consultation essential before reaching any conclusions"