Money and payments
4.4 Conference ‘Money in the Digital Age’ considered the future of money
Digitalisation is reshaping the financial sector and the structures of the economy. Central banks must understand the change and the way it affects their own work.
In June 2018, the Bank of Finland organised a conference series entitled Money in the Digital Age, which spread over three days and consisted of three parts.
The first part of the series focused on academic research, the second on central bank-issued digital cash and the third on broader changes in financial structures and new operating models.
The target groups of the three sections ranged from researchers to central bankers and more broadly to all private and public actors in the financial sector.
Policy measures in support of technology and innovation
The academic conference (bankoffinland.fi) was organised in cooperation with the CEPR network. The conference discussed whether policy measures are needed in the financial sector to bring out the social benefits of new technologies and innovations. Also, new studies combining monetary theory and information technologies were presented at the conference.
The keynote speakers were Professor Bengt Holmström and Mr Hyun Song Shin, Head of Research at the Bank of International Settlements. Professor Holmström talked about the nature of the money market and of private and public money, while Mr Shin discussed the challenges of crypto assets from the perspective of economics.
Other research topics presented included the changes to finance and monetary policy transmission resulting from digitalisation. The conference also aired studies on how new forms of finance – such as crowdfunding and the issuance of virtual tokens (Initial Coin Offering, ICO) – affect the functioning of the financial market and the incentives for businesses.
Should the general public also have access to central bank-issued digital cash?
The second part of the conference series (bankoffinland.fi) was aimed at central banks. The main question was whether central banks should start making digital cash available to the general public.
The topics under discussion were the mandate, possibilities and objectives of central banks regarding the issuance of digital cash.
Morten Bech, Chair of the Committee on Payments and Market Infrastructures at the Bank of International Settlements (BIS), gave a world-wide overview of ongoing projects to develop central bank-issued digital cash. The event followed up on previous workshops on the same topic organised by the Swedish and Norwegian central banks, whence the prominence of the Nordic electronic payments perspective in the presentations.
Innovations reforming the financial sector
The topic of the final conference day was Banking in the Digital Age (bankoffinland.fi). Around 130 participants gathered in the Finlandia Hall to attend this public conference which was aimed at a broader audience.
In the keynote sessions, leading financial industry reformers such as BBVA, AliPay, Klarna and ClearBank presented their views. The event brought together entities performing traditional tasks in a novel way, companies running completely new business models, as well as initiatives launched by large technology firms.
Combining the experience and stability of traditional actors with the innovative and agile culture of newcomers represents a major challenge for the future.
The conference also offered examples of completely new technologies that can be used in the financial sector, including facial recognition in payments and banks’ cloud-based back-office systems.
In addition to the presentations by industry representatives, a panel discussion was also organised on these topics, featuring directors from the three largest commercial banks in Finland (OP, Nordea and Danske Bank). Commercial banks are ready to adopt new technologies and new business models provided these take a more customer-oriented and responsible course in their business.
The conference series was part of the Bank of Finland's work stream on the digitalisation process, and it was organised as a joint effort between a number of departments. In this context the Bank also published a series of three blog posts on the impact of digitalisation on the financial markets and their participants. The blog posts deal with the role of the central bank in a digitalising world (bofbulletin.fi), crypto-assets (bofbulletin.fi) and money in the digital era (bofbulletin.fi).