- Sweden’s central bank, the Riksbank, could become the first to introduce its own cryptocurrency.
- Cash usage in the Scandinavian nation is dropping rapidly, making Sweden a prime candidate for an “official” cryptocurrency.
- The introduction of the e-krona could come within a couple of years, although “2018 may be a little too soon,” according to HSBC’s James Pomeroy.
Sweden’s central bank, the Riksbank, is spearheading international cooperation on the development of officially sanctioned cryptocurrencies and could be the first to launch its own, according to a note from analysts at HSBC.
HSBC economist James Pomeroy sent a note to clients this week titled “Sweden’s big year: Can the economy overcome some challenges?”
Broadly, the note takes a look at the state of Sweden’s economy – which HSBC calls “one of the world’s most interesting” – before drilling down to the possible introduction of a so-called “e-krona,” something that might occur within the next couple of years, although “2018 may be a little too soon.”
Sweden’s economy has one of the lowest cash usage rates of anywhere in the world, with cash use often actively discouraged by shops and other businesses. There are even anecdotal tales of beggars and buskers having card terminals to take payments on the street.
The chart below shows just how rapidly cash use in Sweden is dwindling:
As such, it makes sense that the Riksbank is at the forefront of discussions of what a central bank issued cryptocurrency could look like.
As HSBC economist James Pomeroy notes, the Riksbank has “issued a number of research articles on the topic, with the suggestion being that as cash usage continues to dwindle, the central bank may need to find another way to provide their populations with access to payments that are not via an intermediary such as a retail bank.”
“The so-called e-Krona will have to be able to be used for small purchases, as a claim on the Riksbank and be accessible by companies, individuals and financial institutions at all times.”
Interestingly, the Riksbank has been at the forefront of advances in money throughout history, with HSBC flagging a speech by the bank’s governor, Stefan Ingves, in December, when Ingves pointed out that: “It was in Stockholm that the first modern banknote was created more than 350 years ago, and that it is here, in Sweden, that cash is currently taking its last breaths. Perhaps the Riksbank will be writing history again.”
The Riksbank has presented two possible ways that the e-krona could work, one based on value and another on a register-based system.
The first option, HSBC says “would be more like cash is at present, with value stored on an app or a card rather than in a central database.”
Alternatively, under the register-based system, e-krona would be stored in accounts that themselves would be held on a central database.
“This is more complex, but may make the framework easier to expand and develop over time, and would likely require the use of blockchain technology,” Pomeroy writes. The Riksbank has also said that it would consider using a mixture of the two approaches.
“A Central Bank Cryptocurrency (CBCC) would use blockchain technology, whereas a non-blockchain solution would make the e-Krona a ‘deposited currency account’,” Pomeroy adds.
The chart below shows where the two options would fit into the global monetary system as it is right now:While it might become the first central bank to introduce a cryptocurrency, the Riksbank is by no means the only one thinking about it.
For instance, over the Christmas period, the Bank of England made numerous headlines after it was suggested that it could be planning to introduce a cryptocurrency this year.
There is no official word that the BoE has such plans, but a spokesperson told the Daily Telegraph that a crypto research unit within the bank set up in 2015 could report its findings at some point in 2018. That does not mean, however, that the bank is anywhere near formally introducing such a currency.