Central Banks Less Likely to Issue Retail CBDCs in Mid-Term, BIS Says

Graph showing the results of the 2023 BIS survey on CBDC

A recent survey by the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) indicates that a vast majority of central banks worldwide are steering away from issuing retail versions of central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) in the medium term, with only 12% of respondents expressing plans to do so.

Wholesale CBDCs on the Rise

According to the survey results, the likelihood that a wholesale central bank digital currencies will be issued within the next six years is now “greater than that for retail”, BIS says, adding that there could be nine wholesale CBDCs “publicly circulating towards the end of this decade.”

The international financial institution notes that central banks are still interested in wholesale CBDCs mainly due to their desire to “enhance cross-border payments”, in both advanced economies and emerging market and developing economies.

“In particular, some respondents mentioned that a wholesale central bank digital currencies could address the challenges that cross-border payments face today, such as high costs, low speed, limited access and insufficient transparency”.

The Bank for International Settlements

Advantages of Wholesale CBDCs

The survey also identified that in the case of wholesale CBDCs, central banks are mainly trying to allow financial institutions to “access new functionalities enabled by tokenization, such as composability and programmability”.

Challenges for Retail CBDCs

Meanwhile, for retail central bank digital currencies — which are still being explored by more than half of surveyed central banks — financial regulators are more interested in clarifying matters related to “holding limits, interoperability, offline options and zero remuneration”, the document reads.

The Bank for International Settlements

The BIS, headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, serves as a bank for central banks and aims to foster international monetary and financial cooperation. Its recent survey highlights the cautious approach many central banks are taking towards retail central bank digital currencies, reflecting a preference for the potential efficiencies and innovations offered by wholesale versions.