Hundreds of millions of consumers will use digital currencies soon: Circle CEO

Executives from Facebook’s ‘Diem’ Association, Circle, Soramitsu, and Coinbase discussed how and when digital currencies will go mainstream, at the Singapore Fintech Festival.

Speaking at Singapore Fintech Festival, Circle CEO Jeremy Allaire said that “third-generation blockchain technology” would see digital currency “in the hands of hundreds of millions, if not billions of users.”

Allaire featured on a panel alongside the CEO of Facebook’s ‘Diem’ Association (formerly Libra Association) Stuart Levey, Coinbase CPO Surojit Chatterjee, and Soramitsu CEO Makoto Takemiya, to discuss the question: Can Digital Currencies Birth the Next Generation of World-Class Payment Systems?.

Allaire argued that digital currencies are still very early in their development but are about to take a leap analogous to that from dial-up internet to broadband.

“We’re right on the cusp, of what I like to think of, as the broadband moment of digital currency.”

However, Soramitsu’s chief executive said that the current user experience of crypto remains a barrier to widespread adoption, despite the underlying technology already being “good enough for everyday use.”

Allaire countered that the focus of much of the innovation in the sector has shifted towards the consumer experience, and predicted that improved user experiences will allow ordinary people to become hooked on crypto’s advantages:

“Users will be saying, ‘How could I ever have not had this before!’”

Bouncing off Allaire’s analogy of the broadband moment, Coinbase’s Chatterjee suggested mainstream adoption needs a “TikTok moment”, where users find it “just so easy to use.”

The panel also discussed the impact of regulation on mainstream crypto-asset adoption.

Citing his experience in working directly with regulators, Diem’s Levey told the panel that governments feel the need to regulate digital currencies due to concerns over illicit activity, and the circumvention of financial sanctions.

Central bank digital currencies, or CBDCs, are not a threat to cryptocurrency projects he said, and private organizations should work to harmonize with government initiatives. He added that Libra will incorporate any new CBDC’s that are launched.

Levey called on innovators to look at their designs to see what “compromises” they could incorporate to make the networks more resistant to illicit activities.

Levey, who was a former U.S. Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, did voice concerns about governments getting too involved, citing China’s CBDC as a prime example of where this can be dangerous:

“It is true that what the Chinese are doing is profound, but it does have the result of the central government authority having access to every detail of every transaction. Which is very different to the vision that, I think, we all have.”

For this reason, Levey believes that although government acceptance is critical, its wholehearted endorsement is not necessary.

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