In 2017, the price of a single bitcoin soared to almost $20,000, making it the talk of the financial – and indeed the non-financial – world. Fast-forward three years, and much of the buzz around the behemoth crypto asset has died down. But, despite a relative absence of bitcoin in the headlines, development of crypto assets has not slowed. Tech giant Facebook has taken up the torch and made its first foray into the sector with its own crypto asset, libra.
In the central banking world, several institutions have announced plans to investigate whether central bank digital currencies could be viable in a future that looks set to be largely cashless. Even outgoing International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde has urged the community not to shy away from such an idea. Sweden’s central bank has gone one step further and plans to launch a live pilot of an ‘e-krona’ in the coming years – a project closely watched by the community.
Throughout 2018, the global fintech ecosystem continued to mature at a rate of knots. With rapid progress made in open banking, increasing regulatory clarity and maturing artificial intelligence (AI), the past 12 months have been another big year for fintech.
AI and machine learning have undoubtedly made huge strides this year. Central banks have implemented the technology in all manner of ways: cyber red teaming exercises, data management, communication and regulation execution – all resulting in important successes. A few years ago, the media joked that Bank of England governor Mark Carney could be replaced by a robot. Such a reality may not be so far away.
In March 2019, Central Banking launched its second annual FinTech & RegTech Global Awards to showcase some of the groundbreaking projects being undertaken in the community. The results are revealed in the awards articles published in this special winners’ supplement. They show how, from an official sector perspective, technological innovation is being harnessed to improve central banking across a panoply of processes.
It is a rich field, with advancements in cyber security, data management, payments and AI. The winners are geographically dispersed and encompass organisations ranging from national start-ups to multinational infrastructure providers.
But there remains work to be done – almost 1.7 billion adults remain unbanked, international payments networks remain fragmented and costly, and hackers every day are finding new ways to break defences.
For 30 years now, Central Banking has been a trusted resource for the world’s central banks via its editorial content, training and bespoke conferences. Building on its founding mission to support the central banking community – fostering discussion around emerging challenges and opportunities – we look forward to seeing how central banks step up to future challenges.
Chairperson, Central Banking FinTech & RegTech Global Awards