Blockchain is often discussed as if it is one single technology. But it is really a combination of several distinct features – decentralisation, distribution, cryptography, and automation – which are combined in different ways by different platforms. Some of these features may have benefits, while others may be unnecessary or even unhelpful – depending on the specific application. In this post, I consider whether and how these features may have different potential applications in financial services. Blockchain will only be truly useful in settings where one of more of these features solves a problem that existing technologies cannot.
Cryptoassets (or ‘cryptocurrencies’) are notoriously volatile. For example, in November 2018, Bitcoin – one of the more stable cryptoassets – lost 43% of its value in just 11 days. This kind of volatility makes it difficult for cryptoassets to function as money: they’re too unstable to be a good store of value, means of exchange or unit of account. But could so-called ‘stablecoins’ solve this problem and finally provide a price-stable cryptoasset?
The topics of central bank digital currency (CBDC) and distributed ledger technology (DLT) are often implicitly linked. The genesis of recent interest in CBDC was the emergence of private digital currencies, like Bitcoin, which often leads to certain assumptions about the way a CBDC might be implemented – i.e. that it would also need to use a form of blockchain or DLT. But would a CBDC really need to use DLT? In this post I explain that it may not be necessary to use DLT for a CBDC, but I also consider some of the reasons why it could still be desirable.