Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs) and Their Impact So Far

CBDCs are the digital forms of a country's fiat currency, issued and regulated by its central bank. Unlike cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin or Ethereum, CBDCs are backed by the full faith and credit of the issuing government, making them a sovereign and secure form of digital currency.

Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs) and Their Impact So Far


1. Introduction

2. What are Central Bank Digital Currencies

3. What Sets CBDCs Apart From Traditional Currencies?

4. Types of CBDCs

5. How are CBDCs Different from Cryptocurrencies?

6. Countries Embracing CBDCs

7. How CBDCs Work

8. The Impact of CBDCs on Traditional Banking

9. Closing Thoughts

10. FAQs


Word on the street is that digital finance is the future of finance.

An example of this being as good as the gospel is evident in the fact that more centralised financial institutions are beginning to develop regulated digital currencies in the evolving financial ecosystem.

Some may argue that traditional banking is stale and has gone out of style, hence the rise of digital banking. Do you agree with this opinion? While you may beg to differ, the key players in the central banks of some countries are getting integrated into the digital economy by introducing CBDCs.

But what are CBDCs? How do they work, and how are they impacting the global banking system? Well, let’s find out!

What are Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs)?

CBDCs are the digital forms of a country's fiat currency, issued and regulated by its central bank. Unlike cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin or Ethereum, CBDCs are backed by the full faith and credit of the issuing government, making them a sovereign and secure form of digital currency.

CBDCs trace back to the early 21st century, gaining momentum as technological advancements transformed the global financial ecosystem.

While the concept of digital currency isn't entirely new, it was in the past decade that central banks seriously explored issuing their digital currencies. The inspiration for this exploration stems from various factors, including the growing adoption of cryptocurrencies, the digitisation of financial services, and the need for greater financial inclusion.

What is a Central Bank Digital Currency? A Beginners Guide to CBDCs
A Central Bank Digital Currency is a digital form of a country’s currency issued by the country’s central bank. It’s divided into two categories - wholesale and retail CBDCS.

Significant milestones and experiments across different regions have marked the evolution of CBDCs. For instance, in 2014, the Central Bank of Ecuador became one of the first central banks to announce the issuance of a digital currency known as the Dino Electrónico. Since then, numerous central banks, including those of China, Sweden, and the Bahamas, have undertaken pilot projects and research initiatives to explore the feasibility and implications of CBDCs.

CBDCs are widely discussed today because they have the potential to tackle economic challenges and inefficiencies. CBDCs offer the possibility to extend secure and affordable financial services to unbanked and underbanked populations, enabling greater economic participation driven by the pursuit of financial inclusion in regions with limited or inaccessible traditional banking infrastructure.

CBDCs give central banks increased control over monetary policy, leading to more efficient transmission mechanisms and improved financial stability. Digital technologies help central banks streamline payment systems, lower transaction costs, and reduce risks in cash-based economies.

CBDCs can also help fight illicit activities like money laundering and tax evasion due to their transparency and traceability.

What Sets CBDCs Apart From Traditional Currencies?

Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs) stand out from traditional currencies in several ways.

Firstly, CBDCs are purely digital, existing only in electronic form and lacking a physical counterpart like coins or banknotes. This digital nature makes them easily transferable and accessible through various electronic devices, contrasting with traditional currencies that rely on physical mediums for transactions.

Secondly, CBDCs are directly issued by central banks, distinguishing them from traditional currencies that often go through commercial banks. This direct issuance allows central banks to have greater control and oversight over the currency's supply and circulation, enhancing monetary policy effectiveness. Unlike traditional currencies, where the central bank influences money supply indirectly, CBDCs provide a more direct and immediate channel for monetary authorities.

CBDCs incorporate advanced technologies like blockchain or distributed ledger technology (DLT) to ensure transparency, security, and traceability. This is a departure from traditional currencies relying on more traditional and centralised banking infrastructure. The use of blockchain in CBDCs prevents issues like double-spending and promotes a secure and transparent financial environment.

CBDCs make money programmable by incorporating smart contracts. Unlike traditional currencies, CBDCs can automatically execute specific terms when conditions are met. For instance, a CBDC transaction could trigger a smart contract for instant settlement or automate compliance with regulations. This programmable capability improves efficiency and minimises the reliance on intermediaries in financial transactions.

CBDCs can serve as a tool for financial inclusion, as anyone with a smartphone or an internet connection can easily access them. On the other hand, traditional currencies may have access barriers for certain populations, particularly those without access to traditional banking services. CBDCs bridge this gap, potentially bringing financial services to the unbanked and underserved populations.

Types of CBDCs

There are two types of Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs): Retail and Wholesale. Let's check them out.

1. Retail CBDCs:

These are the ones regular folks like you and me might use in everyday transactions, just like cash or digital wallets. Retail CBDCs offer the potential for greater financial inclusion by providing a secure and efficient means of payment for everyone, including those without access to traditional banking services. They operate on a peer-to-peer basis, allowing individuals and businesses to transact directly with the central bank. Examples include the digital yuan issued by the People's Bank of China and the e-krona piloted by the Swedish central bank, Riksbank.

2. Wholesale CBDCs:

These are designed for financial institutions and large businesses to settle transactions among themselves. Wholesale CBDCs offer faster and more secure settlement of transactions between banks and other financial entities, reducing counterparty risk and increasing efficiency in the financial system. They are not typically accessible to individual consumers but play a crucial role in the smooth functioning of the broader economy. Examples include Project Jasper in Canada, which explores the use of wholesale CBDCs for interbank settlements, and Project Ubin in Singapore, which explores the potential for CBDCs in cross-border payments.

How are CBDCs Different from Cryptocurrencies?

Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs) and cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin may seem similar when they are first described to you, but they operate in basically different ways.

One key difference lies in the authority overseeing them. CBDCs are government-backed digital versions of a country's national currency, issued and regulated by the central bank. In contrast, cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin operate on decentralised networks without any central authority. They rely on blockchain technology to validate and record transactions.

Another significant difference is the level of privacy and anonymity. While cryptocurrencies offer a degree of anonymity, CBDCs are likely to be more regulated, allowing central banks to monitor and trace transactions. This heightened transparency is designed to prevent illicit activities and ensure financial stability.

In addition, CBDCs are legal tender, meaning they are recognised as an official currency by the government. Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, on the other hand, are not universally accepted as legal tender and are often subject to varying degrees of regulation worldwide.

Lastly, the value stability differs between the two. Cryptocurrencies are notorious for their price instability, with values fluctuating dramatically. CBDCs, however, are designed to maintain a stable value, similar to traditional fiat currencies. These differences highlight the diverse nature and purposes of CBDCs and cryptocurrencies, each with its unique role in digital finance.

Countries Embracing CBDCs

Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs) have been gaining traction across the globe, with several countries taking significant steps to embrace this new form of digital currency. These countries include:

1. China - Digital Yuan:

China has been at the forefront of CBDC adoption, launching the Digital Yuan, also known as the Digital Currency Electronic Payment (DCEP). Since its pilot phase, major cities like Beijing and Shenzhen have witnessed widespread usage, allowing citizens to make digital transactions seamlessly. With over 140 million digital yuan wallets distributed, the country is setting a benchmark for CBDC implementation.

2. Sweden - E-Krona:

Sweden has been actively exploring the concept of CBDC with the E-Krona project. With the decline in cash usage, the Swedish Riksbank is testing the digital version of the national currency to ensure that the financial system remains efficient and inclusive. The pilot program is a response to the changing landscape of payments and reflects the nation's commitment to staying at the forefront of financial technology.

3. Bahamas - Sand Dollar:

The Bahamas made history by becoming one of the first countries to officially launch a CBDC – the Sand Dollar. This digital currency aims to enhance financial inclusion, especially in remote areas where traditional banking services are limited. The Sand Dollar is a tangible example of how CBDCs can bridge gaps and provide financial services to underserved populations.

4. European Union - Digital Euro:

The European Central Bank (ECB) is actively exploring the development of a digital euro. Recognising the changing landscape of payments and the increasing use of digital currencies, the EU aims to ensure the safety and accessibility of digital transactions. The proposal for a digital euro is a significant step towards a more digital and resilient financial ecosystem.

5. United States:

While the United States has not officially launched a CBDC, there is ongoing research and development in this direction. The Federal Reserve is studying the potential benefits and risks of a digital dollar, reflecting the growing global interest in CBDCs. The U.S. recognises the need to stay competitive in the rapidly evolving financial landscape and is actively exploring the possibilities of a digital currency.

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How CBDCs Work

Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs) work through a secure digital system managed by the central bank. Here's how they operate:

1. Issuance: Just like how central banks print physical money, they also create CBDCs. More like creating electronic versions of banknotes and coins.

2. Digital Wallets: To use CBDCs, people need digital wallets. These wallets are like digital piggy banks where you store your CBDCs securely.

3. Transactions: CBDC transactions happen digitally. When you buy something or transfer money to someone, it's all done electronically, similar to sending an email or a text message.

4. Blockchain or Centralised System: CBDCs can operate on either a blockchain, which is a decentralised digital ledger, or a centralised system managed by the central bank. Blockchain offers transparency and security, while a centralised system might be more controlled.

5. Security Measures: Just like physical money has security features to prevent counterfeiting, CBDCs have digital security measures to prevent fraud and hacking. These measures are crucial to ensure the safety of transactions.

6. Regulation and Oversight: Central banks regulate and oversee CBDC transactions to maintain stability and prevent illegal activities like money laundering. They keep an eye on the flow of money to ensure everything runs smoothly.

7. Accessibility: CBDCs aim to be accessible to everyone, just like physical cash. They can help include people who don't have access to traditional banking services, especially in remote areas or developing countries.

8. Cost and Efficiency: CBDCs can make transactions faster and cheaper compared to traditional banking systems. They can cut down on processing times and reduce the need for intermediaries, making payments more efficient.

The Impact of CBDCs on Traditional Banking

1. Competition:

Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs) have stirred up competition among traditional banks. Let’s say you have two shops selling the same thing - suddenly, a third shop opens, selling it cheaper and faster. That's what CBDCs are doing to banks. They're making it easier for people to pay and transfer money directly through the central bank, skipping traditional banks.

2. Reduced Transaction Costs:

CBDCs can slash transaction costs for people and businesses. If you send money to a friend in another country, banks might charge hefty fees and take days to process it. With CBDCs, the process could be almost instant and much cheaper. This can save people a lot of money in the long run.

3. Financial Inclusion:

CBDCs have the potential to bring more people into the financial system. With CBDCs, anyone with a smartphone and internet connection can access banking services directly from the central bank, even in remote areas without banks.

4. Security and Transparency:

CBDC transactions are recorded securely on a digital ledger, making them more transparent and less prone to fraud. This can help build trust in the financial system and reduce corruption.

5. Impact on Interest Rates:

CBDCs could affect interest rates set by central banks. If more people start using CBDCs instead of traditional bank deposits, it could change how banks lend money and how central banks control the economy.

6. Customer Relationship:

Traditional banks may need to adapt to keep their customers happy. If people find CBDCs more convenient and cheaper to use, they might switch away from traditional banks. Convenience often wins.

Challenges and Concerns

1. Cybersecurity Risks:

One major concern with CBDCs is their vulnerability to cyberattacks. Just like how hackers can target banks or financial institutions, they could potentially target CBDC systems, jeopardising the security and integrity of transactions. For instance, if hackers manage to breach the system, they could steal funds or disrupt financial stability.

2. Privacy Issues:

With CBDCs, there's a worry about the extent to which people's financial transactions could be monitored or tracked by governments or other entities. While some level of transparency is necessary for regulatory purposes, excessive surveillance could infringe on individual privacy rights and lead to misuse of personal financial information.

3. Digital Divide:

Not everyone has access to the internet or digital devices, which could exclude certain segments of the population from participating in the CBDC system. This digital divide could worsen existing inequalities and limit financial inclusion efforts, especially in underserved or remote areas where internet infrastructure is lacking.

4. Centralisation Concerns:

CBDCs are issued and controlled by central banks, which raises concerns about the centralisation of power and control over the financial system. Critics argue that excessive centralisation could undermine the principles of decentralisation and lead to potential abuses of authority.

5. Operational Challenges:

Implementing CBDCs requires significant technological infrastructure and operational readiness. Central banks need to ensure that the systems are strong, scalable, and capable of handling large transaction volumes securely. Any technical glitches or operational failures could undermine trust in the CBDC system and disrupt financial stability.

6. Cross-Border Implications:

CBDCs could have implications for cross-border transactions and international monetary policies. Coordinating policies and regulations across different jurisdictions presents challenges in terms of interoperability and regulatory compliance, potentially leading to conflicts or friction in the global financial system.

7. Impact on Commercial Banks:

CBDCs could potentially disrupt the traditional banking sector by reducing the role of commercial banks in the financial intermediation process. If individuals and businesses prefer to hold CBDCs directly with the central bank, it could reduce the demand for traditional bank deposits and lending services, impacting banks' profitability and business models.

Closing Thoughts

Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs) represent a fundamental change in the way we conceptualise and transact with money. Their evolution from conceptualisation to implementation reflects a growing recognition of the transformative potential of digital currencies in addressing economic challenges and fostering financial inclusion. As central banks continue to explore and experiment with CBDCs, their impact on the global financial landscape is expected to be profound and far-reaching.


Q1. What is a Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC)?

A1. A CBDC is a digital form of a country's national currency, regulated and issued by its central bank.

Q2. How is CBDC different from cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin?

A2. Unlike cryptocurrencies, CBDCs are centrally regulated by a country's central bank, providing stability and security.

Q3. How does CBDC impact traditional banking?

A3. CBDCs challenge traditional banking models by allowing individuals direct access to central bank accounts, reducing reliance on commercial banks.

Q4. What is the potential impact of CBDCs on financial inclusion?

A4. CBDCs have the potential to empower the unbanked population by providing them with access to digital currency through simple devices like mobile phones.

Q5. How do CBDCs contribute to economic stimulus?

A5. CBDCs enable central banks to distribute digital currency directly to citizens during economic downturns, stimulating spending and aiding economic recovery.

Q6. Are CBDCs more secure than traditional currencies?

A6. Yes, CBDCs are built on advanced blockchain technology, enhancing security and reducing the risk of fraud.

Q7. How do CBDCs affect global competition?

A7. Countries are recognising the potential of CBDCs to enhance their global economic standing, leading to increased adoption and development.

Q8. What environmental concerns are associated with CBDCs?

A8. Environmental concerns include the energy consumption of blockchain technology, but efforts are underway to implement eco-friendly solutions.

Q9. What challenges does the implementation of CBDCs face?

A9. Challenges include privacy issues, cybersecurity threats, and the need for robust regulatory frameworks.

Q10. How are countries addressing the environmental impact of CBDCs?

A10. Many countries are actively working to implement eco-friendly blockchain technologies to minimise the environmental footprint of CBDCs.

Disclaimer: This article was written by the writer to provide guidance and understanding of cryptocurrency trading. It is not an exhaustive article and should not be taken as financial advice. Obiex will not be held liable for your investment decisions.