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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

Fed governor speaks on responsible innovation in money and payments

Bank Regulatory Federal Issues Federal Reserve Cryptocurrency CBDC Fintech Digital Assets Money Service / Money Transmitters

On October 17, Federal Reserve Board Governor Michelle Bowman provided remarks on innovation in money and payments, including crypto assets, central bank digital currency (CBDC), and the development of instant payments, in which she laid out her vision for “responsible innovation,” which recognizes the important role of private-sector innovation and leverages the U.S. banking system supported by clear prudential supervision and regulation. With respect to CBDC, Bowman said that she has yet to see a compelling argument that CBDC could address frictions within the payment system, promote financial inclusion, or provide the public with access to safe central bank money any more effectively or efficiently than alternatives. She explained that, given that the U.S. has a safe and well-functioning banking system, the potential uses of a U.S. CBDC remain unclear and, at the same time, could introduce significant risks and tradeoffs. Bowman also expressed skepticism over stablecoins, stating that in practice they have been less secure, less stable, and less regulated than traditional forms of money. Finally, Bowman discussed technological innovations in wholesale payments, which are large-value, interbank transactions. Bowman said that the Fed is researching emerging technologies that could enable or be supported by future Fed-operated payment infrastructures, including depository institutions transacting with “tokenized” forms of digital central bank money. Bowman noted that banks and other eligible institutions already hold central bank money as digital balances at the Fed. She also stressed that wholesale payment infrastructures operated by the Fed “underpin domestic and international financial activities” by serving as a “foundation” for payments and the broader financial system. Because these wholesale systems function “safely and efficiently” today, it is necessary to investigate and understand the potential opportunities, risks, and tradeoffs for wholesale payment innovation to support a safe and efficient U.S. payment system.

Find continuing InfoBytes coverage on CBDCs here.