Claudia Buch: Are crypto-assets a threat to financial stability?

Speech by Prof Claudia Buch, Vice-President of the Deutsche Bundesbank, prepared for the seminar series "Women in Finance", organised by the University of Hohenheim, Hohenheim, 20 April 2023. 

The views expressed in this speech are those of the speaker and not the view of the BIS.

Central bank speech  | 
26 April 2023

Check against delivery.

Spring has come, but whether the crypto-asset winter is over remains to be seen. Those who see crypto-assets mainly as a conduit for illegal and gambling activities would certainly hope that turbulent spells in markets for crypto-assets have provided a salutary lesson. Those who see productive potential in these new technologies would hope that these episodes help separate the wheat from the chaff.

Which of those views prevails is an open issue. Whether crypto-assets that promise to improve the provision of financial services ultimately deliver on those promises crucially depends on the regulatory response. Which services are useful, how market structures evolve, whether new entrants are able to challenge the incumbents, what risks are associated with this – all this is shaped by regulations that apply to crypto markets.

Today, I would like to focus on the financial stability implications of crypto-assets. So far, the crypto market has been small. Market capitalisation of crypto-assets stands around 0.2% of global financial assets.

However, if there is one thing we've learnt from the past, it is that even seemingly small pockets of distress can breed financial crises. Crypto-assets promise innovative ways of providing financial services, just as the securitisation of financial assets did in the 1990s. Securitisation was an innovation considered to improve the allocation of risks in the financial system. It, too, started small in the 1980s, only to grow to an annual issuance volume of approximately half of outstanding mortgage and consumer loans in 2007. Similarly, the US mortgage market was considered to be of relatively minor importance – only to send shockwaves through the global financial system in 2007-08.