StanChart CEO Bill Winters says digital currencies’ widespread rollout is ‘absolutely inevitable’

Bill Winters, chief executive officer of Standard Chartered Plc, gestures while speaking during a Bloomberg Television interview in London, U.K., on Thursday, July 4, 2019.

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SINGAPORE — The widespread creation and rollout of digital currencies is “absolutely inevitable” as the international payments system rapidly evolves, according to the CEO of Standard Chartered.

Speaking at the Singapore FinTech Festival, Bill Winters said there is scope for both state-backed electronic currencies and private ones, too.

“I think there is absolutely a role for central bank digital currencies as well as non-central bank-sponsored digital currencies,” the finance chief said Monday.

Standard Chartered is set to announce further news “along these lines” in the coming days, he added.

A push to digital

Meantime, private companies have been getting in on the act. Facebook-backed Libra — recently renamed as Diem — is among the names working on an alternative currency that could behave like the U.S. dollar.

However, Winters said the greatest opportunity for digital currencies could be in new, niche segments that don’t replicate existing fiat currencies.

“The really interesting development for me,” he continued, “is to have currencies that don’t match a currency in and of itself, but are intended to capture either a superset of a subset.”

Tailor-made currencies

Digital currencies could be created for specific types of projects, such as trading in the voluntary carbon market, for example, suggested Winters. That would provide users, who want to offset their carbon emissions, confidence that the financing behind their project is “verified, standardised, monitored,” he said.

“Those sorts of applications for a digital currency, and creating a digital currency ecosystem, is something that can’t be replicated by a fiat currency, or, most likely, by a central bank digital currency any time soon.”

Some kind of network stitched together, but with central bank digital currencies at the core, will become a reality.

“I think there is a whole new world that’s opening up for us,” he said.

Winters was speaking as part of a panel at the annual conference, which this year is being held virtually over the course of five days. He was joined by Piyush Gupta, chief executive officer of Singapore-based DBS Bank, and Calvin Choi, chairman and chief executive officer of AMTD Group, who both agreed that the rollout of digital currencies will likely require a collaborative effort from public and private bodies.

“You will find over the next few years that some kind of network stitched together, but with central bank digital currencies at the core, will become a reality,” said Gupta.

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