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CBDC (Central Bank Digital Currency) and Stablecoins: A Comprehensive Overview

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In the comprehensive overview titled “CBDC (Central Bank Digital Currency) and Stablecoins,” Prof. Dr. Fabian Schär takes you on a deep dive into the world of CBDC and stablecoins. This lecture is part of the Bitcoin, Blockchain, and Cryptoassets course offered by the Center for Innovative Finance at the University of Basel. The contributing team, consisting of Dario Thürkauf, Fabian Schär, Jakob Roth, Katrin Schuler, Lorenz Geering, Matthias Nadler, and Mitchell Goldberg, is eager to hear viewer feedback but reviews comments before publishing to maintain the integrity of the channel. Throughout the lecture, they encourage meaningful exchanges and discourage product or project recommendations and links. As one of the hottest topics in economics, CBDC, is explored and compared to stablecoins, shedding light on their goals, implementations, and the pros and cons associated with each. With CBDC pilots taking place worldwide and stablecoins relying on different design patterns, this overview touches on the extensive research and piloting happening in the field while keeping viewers engaged and informed.

CBDC: An Introduction

Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) refers to a type of digital currency issued and regulated by a country’s central bank. Unlike traditional forms of currency, CBDC exists solely in digital form and can be used for various transactions, including payments, remittances, and investments. CBDC is designed to complement existing forms of money, such as cash and bank deposits, and aims to leverage the benefits of digital technology while maintaining the stability and trust associated with a central bank.

Definition of CBDC

CBDC can be defined as a digital representation of a country’s official currency that is issued, regulated, and controlled by the central bank. It is an electronic form of money that exists in a centralized ledger and is backed by the full faith and credit of the issuing central bank. CBDC can be used to make payments, store value, and settle transactions, similar to physical cash or commercial bank deposits.

Goals of CBDC

The introduction of CBDC is driven by several goals. Firstly, it aims to enhance the efficiency and security of payment systems, reducing settlement times and costs associated with traditional payment methods. CBDC also seeks to promote financial inclusion by providing access to digital financial services for individuals who may not have access to traditional banking services. Additionally, CBDC can help combat illicit activities such as money laundering and the financing of terrorism by providing traceability and transparency to transactions.

Implementation of CBDC

The implementation of CBDC involves various technical and policy considerations. One approach is a “retail” CBDC, where the general public has direct access to the digital currency issued by the central bank. Another approach is a “wholesale” CBDC, which is limited to selected financial institutions for interbank transactions. The choice of implementation depends on the specific objectives and needs of the central bank. The underlying technology for CBDC can be blockchain-based or centralized, with each approach having its own advantages and trade-offs.

CBDC Pilots and Adoption

CBDC Pilots Around the World

Central banks across the globe have been conducting pilots and experimental projects to explore the feasibility and potential benefits of CBDC. Examples include the People’s Bank of China, which has been conducting extensive pilot programs in several cities to test the viability of its digital yuan. The European Central Bank has also launched its “Digital Euro” project to evaluate the impact of CBDC on the European financial system. Other countries, such as the Bahamas, Sweden, and Uruguay, have also initiated CBDC pilot projects to gauge the practicality and implications of implementing digital currencies.

Factors Driving CBDC Adoption

Several factors contribute to the growing interest in CBDC adoption. One key driver is the rapid digitization of the financial industry, with the widespread use of smartphones and advancements in payment technologies. This has created a demand for more convenient, efficient, and secure digital payment solutions. Additionally, the emergence of private cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, has prompted central banks to explore the potential risks and benefits of issuing their own digital currencies. The need for financial inclusion and the ability to reach unbanked individuals also serve as drivers for CBDC adoption.

CBDC (Central Bank Digital Currency) and Stablecoins: A Comprehensive Overview

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Stablecoins: An Overview

Definition of Stablecoins

Stablecoins are a type of digital currency designed to maintain a stable value by pegging it to an external reference, such as a traditional fiat currency or a basket of assets. Unlike cryptocurrencies, which have volatile values, stablecoins aim to provide a stable store of value and a medium of exchange. They can be used for various purposes, including cross-border payments, remittances, and as a unit of account in decentralized applications.

Purpose of Stablecoins

Stablecoins serve as a bridge between the benefits of digital currencies and the stability of traditional fiat currencies. They offer the advantages of fast and low-cost transactions associated with cryptocurrencies while mitigating the volatility risks commonly associated with them. Stablecoins can provide stability for users who want to hold and transact in digital currencies without being exposed to significant price fluctuations. Additionally, stablecoins can facilitate global commerce, particularly in regions with volatile local currencies or limited access to traditional banking services.

Design Patterns for Stablecoins

Off-chain Collateralized Stablecoins

Off-chain collateralized stablecoins are backed by real-world assets held by a central custodian or reserve entity. These assets can include fiat currencies, bonds, or commodities. The stablecoin’s value is maintained by ensuring that the collateral value exceeds the circulating supply of stablecoins. Examples of off-chain collateralized stablecoins include Tether (USDT), which claims to be backed by a reserve of U.S. dollars held by a private company.

On-chain Collateralized Stablecoins

On-chain collateralized stablecoins use blockchain-based assets as collateral to maintain stability. These assets are typically cryptocurrencies locked in smart contracts. The value of the stablecoin is maintained by over-collateralization, where the value of the locked assets exceeds the circulating supply of stablecoins. MakerDAO’s DAI is a prominent example of an on-chain collateralized stablecoin, with Ether (ETH) used as collateral in the MakerDAO system.

Algorithmic Stablecoins

Algorithmic stablecoins do not rely on collateral-backed reserves but instead use algorithms to manage the supply and demand of the stablecoin to maintain stability. These stablecoins adjust their supply based on market conditions, typically using mechanisms such as seigniorage or algorithmic rebasing. An example of an algorithmic stablecoin is Ampleforth (AMPL), which adjusts its supply daily based on price fluctuations to target price stability.

CBDC (Central Bank Digital Currency) and Stablecoins: A Comprehensive Overview

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Pros and Cons of CBDC

Enhanced Transmission of Monetary Policy

One of the key advantages of CBDC is the potential for enhanced transmission of monetary policy. With a digital currency, central banks can have more direct control over the money supply and interest rates, allowing for more efficient and targeted implementation of monetary policies. This can help address economic issues such as inflation, deflation, and financial stability more effectively than traditional monetary tools.

Mitigating Incentivization Issues

CBDC can also help address the challenges associated with private cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, which have been criticized for facilitating illegal activities and tax evasion. By having a digital currency issued and regulated by the central bank, it becomes easier to implement robust Know Your Customer (KYC) and Anti-Money Laundering (AML) measures, effectively mitigating the risks of financial crimes and illicit transactions.

Privacy Concerns

One potential concern with CBDC is the impact on privacy. With digital currency transactions being recorded on a centralized ledger, there are concerns about the potential for surveillance and data breaches. However, central banks can implement privacy-preserving technologies, such as zero-knowledge proofs or transactional anonymity, to strike a balance between privacy and transparency.

Potential Abuse of Power

Another concern is the potential abuse of power by central banks with the issuance of CBDC. Central banks could have increased control and surveillance over financial transactions, leading to a loss of privacy and potential misuse of personal data. It is crucial for regulatory frameworks to be established to ensure transparency, accountability, and adherence to privacy rights when implementing CBDC.

Impact on Financial Stability

While CBDC aims to enhance financial stability, there are potential risks associated with its implementation. Rapid adoption of CBDC can lead to significant shifts in bank funding, potentially impacting banks’ ability to lend and creating disruptions in the financial system. Therefore, careful consideration of the impact on financial stability and risk management frameworks is essential before widespread implementation.

CBDC Research and Pilots

Intensive Research on CBDC

Central banks and financial institutions worldwide have been engaging in intensive research on CBDC. This research involves studying various aspects of CBDC, such as its potential impact on monetary policy, financial stability, and the broader economy. Additionally, research is conducted to identify technical and regulatory challenges associated with CBDC implementation, as well as to develop frameworks for addressing these challenges effectively.

CBDC Pilot Projects

Several central banks have initiated CBDC pilot projects to gain practical insights into the potential benefits and challenges of implementing CBDC. These pilot projects aim to test the technology, study user behavior and preferences, and evaluate the operational and policy implications of CBDC adoption. The lessons learned from these pilot projects will inform the design and implementation of CBDC on a larger scale.

CBDC (Central Bank Digital Currency) and Stablecoins: A Comprehensive Overview

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Different Implementations and Risks of Stablecoins

Diverse Implementations of Stablecoins

Stablecoins have been implemented in various ways, each with its own set of advantages and risks. Some stablecoins are fully collateralized, backed by assets held in reserve, while others utilize algorithms to maintain stability without collateral backing. Each implementation has its trade-offs, including scalability, trust in the collateral, and susceptibility to market volatility. It is essential to assess the risks associated with each implementation and consider the specific use case and objectives for which stablecoins are being used.

Risks Associated with Stablecoins

Stablecoins, although designed to maintain stability, are not without risks. One significant risk is the potential loss of confidence in the backing collateral or the stability mechanisms employed. If investors or users lose faith in the stability of the stablecoin, it can lead to a rapid withdrawal of funds and a collapse in value. Additionally, regulatory risks, such as compliance with anti-money laundering laws and consumer protection regulations, must be considered when using stablecoins.

Comparison between CBDC and Stablecoins

Differences in Objectives and Issuers

CBDC and stablecoins differ in terms of objectives and issuers. CBDC is issued and regulated by the central bank of a country and aims to complement traditional forms of money while providing the benefits of digital currency. Stablecoins, on the other hand, can be issued by private entities or decentralized protocols and aim to maintain stability in value. While CBDC focuses on enhancing monetary policy and financial stability, stablecoins prioritize stability and usability in digital transactions.

Implications on Financial Systems

The adoption of CBDC and stablecoins can have significant implications for financial systems. CBDC, being a central bank-backed digital currency, has the potential to reshape the financial landscape by increasing efficiency, reducing costs, and promoting financial inclusion. Stablecoins, on the other hand, can introduce new payment infrastructure and cross-border transaction solutions. However, the widespread adoption of stablecoins could also lead to a fragmentation of the financial system and challenges in regulatory oversight.


CBDC and stablecoins are two emerging trends in digital currencies that offer unique benefits and present distinct challenges. The introduction of CBDC aims to leverage the advantages of digital technology while retaining the stability and trust associated with a central bank. Stablecoins, on the other hand, provide stability in value and facilitate digital transactions. Both CBDC and stablecoins have the potential to transform the financial landscape and enhance financial inclusion. However, careful consideration of the risks and challenges associated with their implementation is necessary to ensure their successful integration into existing financial systems.

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