Download publication

Policy Contribution

The economic potential and risks of crypto assets: is a regulatory framework needed?

What is the economic potential and the risks of crypto assets? Regulators and supervisors have taken great interest in these new markets. This Policy Contribution is a version of a paper written at the request of the Austrian Presidency of the Council of the European Union for the informal ECOFIN meeting of EU finance ministers and central bank governors.

By: and Date: September 6, 2018 Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance

This Policy Contribution is a version of a paper written at the request of the Austrian Presidency of the Council of the European Union for the informal ECOFIN meeting of EU finance ministers and central bank governors (September 2018).

 

We analyse and assess the economic potential and risk of crypto assets and discuss key regulatory questions that European Union policymakers need to confront. Crypto assets can be broadly classified as cryptocurrencies – a private means of payment – and initial coin offerings (ICOs), typically used to fund new activities against the promise of future utilities (utility tokens) or financial returns (securities tokens). Crypto exchanges and wallets provide services such as exchanging crypto assets into central bank currencies and brokerage services.

The underlying technologies – record keeping in distributed ledgers and blockchain – facilitate peer-to-peer interactions without intermediaries and are still experimental. They have been praised as offering benefits for many applications beyond finance, but there is also significant scepticism.

The crypto asset market has seen huge variation in its market valuation. After a peak of above $800 billion (January 2018), it fell to around US$200 billion (August 2018). Cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin have dropped markedly in value. The amount of funds raised through ICOs has also declined substantially since its March 2018 peak.

Regulators and supervisors have taken great interest in these new markets. Different regulators in Europe classify and treat cryptocurrencies differently. Some classify cryptocurrency as a unit of account while others reject it as a financial instrument. Several regulators take the view that case-by-case assessments of ICOs are necessary. There seems to be convergence on the view that crypto exchanges and wallet providers should require authorisation to operate.

Crypto assets raise six major public policy questions: how great is the potential of crypto assets in advanced financial systems? What is the best way to combat illegal activity such as money laundering and terrorism finance? How can consumer and investor protection be ensured? What about financial stability? How might crypto assets be taxed? And how can blockchain applications be embedded into the existing legal framework?

European policymakers must first decide whether crypto assets should be isolated, regulated or integrated. We argue that at this point regulation is the right approach. Second, global cooperation in the managing risks of the new technology should be ensured while reaping the opportunities it undoubtedly provides. The G20 and the Financial Stability Board should set regulatory norms that address the six policy questions. Standard-setting organisations such as the International Organisation for Standardization should also play a role. Third, EU policymakers need to agree on the right moment to move supervision of crypto assets from the national level to the EU level. In a single market for capital, diverging supervisory practices can come with significant downsides and this is particularly true for highly mobile crypto assets. However, different supervisory practices can allow experimentation with different approaches to a fast-changing technology.

Download the online annex.

View comments
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Opinion

Scholz's improved plan to complete the banking union

The head of German Finance has written in the Financial Times defending the need to deepen the banking union, now London is about to leave

By: Rebecca Christie Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: November 8, 2019
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Podcast

Podcast

How not to spend it

Buying a car, a house or a cryptocurrency has never been easier: with a simple click, digital banking has made financial operations accessible to everyone. But, while Fintech has become widespread, financial literacy does not seem to keep up the pace. This week Maria Demertzis and Nicholas Barrett are joined by Annamaria Lusardi, Denit Trust Endowed Chair of Economics and Accountancy from George Washington University School of Business to discuss financial literacy.

By: The Sound of Economics Topic: Finance & Financial Regulation Date: October 31, 2019
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Blog Post

A Fear of Regime Change is Slowing the Global Economy

Why did such a sharp and steady slowdown occur against a background of loose monetary policy, supportive fiscal policy, low inflation and absence of evident large imbalances? As argued in the IMF’s World Economic Outlook report issued last week, the evidence points to uncertainty over trade tensions as a major contributor.

By: Uri Dadush Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: October 25, 2019
Read about event More on this topic

Past Event

Past Event

Financial and digital literacy in the age of fintech

How to ensure the safe use of digital payments and other technological innovations in the area of personal finance?

Speakers: Maria Demertzis and Annamaria Lusardi Topic: Innovation & Competition Policy Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels Date: October 23, 2019
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Opinion

Brexit and Finance: Brace for No Impact?

Amid the daily high drama of Brexit, it is easy to lose track of the structural shifts, or lack thereof, that may be associated with the UK’s possible departure from the European Union. One of them, and not the least, is the potential impact on the European and global financial system.

By: Nicolas Véron Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: October 14, 2019
Read about event More on this topic

Past Event

Past Event

Banking disrupted by FinTech and Big Tech

Today banks are facing competition from non-bank firms whose core strategy is based on technological innovation - Big Tech and Fin Tech. What is in store for the future of banking?

Speakers: Teunis Brosens, Rebecca Christie, Sam Taussig and Nicolas Véron Topic: Finance & Financial Regulation Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels Date: October 9, 2019
Read article More on this topic

Opinion

Banking, FinTech, Big Tech: Emerging challenges for financial policymakers

FinTech and Big Tech firms are both increasingly stepping on banks’ traditional turf. This column introduces the 22nd Geneva Report on the World Economy, which looks at the challenges generated by new technology-enabled entrants to the global banking industry and the public authorities that oversee it. It argues that to respond adequately to the FinTech/Big Tech challenge, authorities will need to raise their game and enter uncharted territories.

By: Kathryn Petralia, Thomas Philippon, Tara Rice and Nicolas Véron Topic: Finance & Financial Regulation Date: September 26, 2019
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Podcast

Podcast

Deep Focus: What is a hybrid attack?

Hybrid attacks are fast, dynamic and ever-evolving. They can cross borders and span industries. They are best dealt with at the national level, but without international cooperation, nation-states are bound to be overwhelmed. So hybrid attacks must be repelled by responsive nation-states and by cooperative international bodies.

By: The Sound of Economics Topic: Innovation & Competition Policy Date: September 18, 2019
Read article Download PDF

Policy Contribution

European Parliament

Hybrid and cybersecurity threats and the European Union’s financial system

The authors document the rise in hybrid threats and cyber attacks in the European Union. Exploring preparations to increase the resilience of the financial system they find that at the individual institutional level, significant measures have been taken, but the EU finance ministers should advance a broader political discussion on the integration of the EU security architecture applicable to the financial system.

By: Maria Demertzis and Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance, European Parliament, Finance & Financial Regulation, Testimonies Date: September 12, 2019
Read article More on this topic

Blog Post

Libra: possible risks in Facebook's pursuit of a 'stablecoin'

Facebook’s new cryptocurrency has the potential to be both widely accessible and attractive to those countries that do not have strong sovereign currencies. So far regulators have treated such currencies as a minor risk to national economics, but the Libra could change everything.

By: Maria Demertzis and Jan Mazza Topic: Finance & Financial Regulation Date: July 17, 2019
Read article Download PDF More on this topic

Blueprint

Digitalisation and European welfare states

EU policymakers must find answers to pressing questions: if technology has a negative impact on labour income, how will the welfare state be funded? How can workers’ welfare rights be adequately secured? A team of Bruegel scholars, with the support of the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth, has taken on these questions.

By: Georgios Petropoulos, J. Scott Marcus, Nicolas Moës and Enrico Bergamini Topic: Innovation & Competition Policy Date: July 9, 2019
Read article Download PDF More by this author

Parliamentary Testimony

Promoting sustainable and inclusive growth and convergence in the European Union

This speech was delivered by Guntram Wolff at the Informal ECOFIN Meeting in Bucharest on 5 April 2019.

By: Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance, Testimonies Date: April 8, 2019
Load more posts