Digital currencies

November 2015

Digital currencies, and especially those which have an embedded decentralised transfer mechanism based on the use of a distributed ledger, are an innovation that could have a range of impacts on various aspects of financial markets and the wider economy. These could include potential disruption to business models and systems, as well as facilitating new economic interactions and linkages.

Currently, such schemes are not widely used or accepted, and they face a series of challenges that could limit their future growth. However, some digital currency schemes have demonstrated that their underlying technology could feasibly be used for peer-to-peer transactions in the absence of a trusted third party. Such technology may have potential to improve some aspects of the efficiency of payment services and financial market infrastructures (FMIs) in general. In particular, these improvements might arise in circumstances where intermediation through a central party is not currently cost-effective.

This report considers the possible implications of interest to central banks arising from these innovations.