Since its inception, bitcoin has managed to disrupt the financial world resulting in many traditional financial institutions changing tact to remain on top. Its decentralized nature means that no centralized institution controls it which has led many to believe that it can help bank the unbanked around the world.
But, the traditional financial institutions are trying to regain control after the crypto sector keeps threatening to replace them. In that context, the CEO of MasterCard, Ajay Banga, thinks that bitcoin is highly volatile and opaque. Thus, it cannot drive financial inclusion. But, he believes CBDCs are a different story.
According to Banga, Bitcoin cannot function as an inclusive currency for the unbanked since it is quite volatile. He said during Tuesday’s Fortune Global Forum conference. Moreover, he cited a lack of knowledge about who is behind this crypto as worrying.
“I am not a believer in the volatility or, for that matter, the absence of transparency in who is the person who’s involved with that currency. So, that’s why central bank digital currencies, we’re believers in.”
Banga also said that MasterCard has a considerable patent library that relates to CBDCs. That may help explain his positivity towards them. When asked about bitcoin as a possible solution to financial inclusion, the CEO alleged that the crypto does not fulfill the needs of the unbanked. He used a strange example of Coke bottles to represent its price volatility:
“Can you imagine someone who is financially excluded trading in a way to get included through a currency that could cost the equivalent of two Coca-Cola bottles today and 21 tomorrow? That’s not a way to get them [included]. That’s a way to make them scared of the financial system.”
Banga Condemns Cryptocurrencies
Banga thinks that if the fiat currencies were to turn into the digital world, they would “help with cross-border traded flows.” Nevertheless, he said that financial inclusion for people is a different thing. He has maintained a strong view against the opacity of cryptos for years and even referred to all non-government mandated cryptos junk back in 2017.
In 2018, he compared these cryptos to ‘snakes’ explaining that they do not deserve to be considered as a medium for exchange. Nonetheless, MasterCard has publicly said that it is open to state-issued digital currencies.
In 2019, MasterCard seemed to be taking a possibly more open stance towards cryptos by being one of the founding members of Facebook’s Libra project. But in October 2019, the payments provider company abandoned the project along with Stripe, Visa, and PayPal citing lack of transparency among the major reasons for its departure.
The CEO said that MasterCard has now invested a large amount of money in central bank digital currencies, commenting:
“Today, we’re one of the largest patent holders in the space of central bank digital currencies.”
Notably, the CBDC sandbox released last month by MasterCard enables commercial and central banks to explore CBDCs together for different use-cases including “cross-border transactions flows.” This new tool stimulates different types of transaction environments to enable central banks to evaluate CBDC use cases. It is still not yet clear which banks are using this tool.