Mastercard believes central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) still face major adoption challenges despite growing interest from countries worldwide.
In an interview at the Singapore FinTech Festival, Ashok Venkateswaran, Mastercard’s blockchain and digital assets lead for Asia-Pacific, said there is not yet enough justification for widespread CBDC use. He cited consumers’ high comfort levels with existing forms of money.
- Mastercard says there is not enough justification currently for widespread adoption of central bank digital currencies (CBDCs).
- The payments provider says consumers are very comfortable with existing forms of money.
- Building the infrastructure for CBDCs would require significant time and effort from countries.
- Mastercard believes CBDCs make more sense for countries with less robust domestic payments networks.
- It says Singapore doesn’t have a compelling case for a retail CBDC given its efficient payments system.
CBDCs are the digital form of a country’s fiat currency, issued and backed by its central bank. Proponents argue CBDCs could expand access to financial services. About 105 countries representing 95% of global GDP are exploring CBDCs.
But Mastercard cautions the path to adoption remains difficult. Venkateswaran said implementing the infrastructure for consumers to freely spend CBDCs could require significant time and resources from issuing countries.
He also noted that in countries like Singapore with robust domestic payments networks, consumers have little reason to switch from current options. As such, the business case for rolling out a retail CBDC is less compelling there versus countries with less efficient systems.
Mastercard believes CBDCs likely make more sense for specific purposes like interbank settlements, as with the upcoming wholesale CBDC trials by Singapore’s central bank.
Still, Mastercard is actively working with central banks on CBDC projects to improve understanding of use cases and implementation challenges. Last week, it completed testing of its CBDC platform in Hong Kong’s e-HKD pilot program.
The company is also part of Project Dunbar, a joint research effort with the Bank of International Settlements to study CBDCs for cross-border payments.
Mastercard says its CBDC work has focused on the technical feasibility of issuance, distribution and exchange. It aims to enable CBDC integration into existing payment rails to reach consumers and merchants.
But it cautions that for CBDCs to succeed, central banks must clearly communicate the intent and design to avoid disruption to monetary systems. This underscores Mastercard’s view that major adoption hurdles remain.