Study “The Programmable Euro: Review and Outlook”

Key results of our study

  1. Business processes in Germany’s real economy and in the financial sector are becoming increasingly complex, with automation and digitalisation taking centre stage. Current payment infrastructures such as the SEPA or TARGET2 systems cannot fully address the needs of new business models because complex data synchronisation processes lead to system discontinuities, and counterparty risks arising from the asynchrony between delivery and payment cannot yet be entirely avoided. Accordingly, there is a growing demand for payment solutions that eliminate the inefficiencies of current infrastructures and lay a foundation for promising business models.
  2. A timely solution in the form of a programmable euro is essential to promote innovative business models for Germany as an industrial location, and the private sector is called on to develop it. We should not wait for the development of a digital euro by the European Central Bank (ECB), which is unlikely to occur before 2026.
  3. A programmable euro developed using Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) by institutions in the private sector would meet the requirements of the real economy and the financial sector and address the limitations of the current monetary system. Potential configurations for this are (1) stablecoins issued by (as yet) unregulated companies, (2) tokenised commercial bank money issued by financial institutions, (3) tokenised e-money issued by e-money institutions, and (4) trigger solutions combining conventional payment infrastructures and DLT.
  4. This study demonstrates how euro payment solutions based on DLT can address inefficiencies in the current payment system and enable innovative business models. It describes specific use cases and recommends actions for the proactive support of corresponding innovations. DLT infrastructure enables, among other things, immediate, secure, and automated transactions. In future, DLT-based payment solutions will supplement traditional payment systems to keep pace with the increasing digitalisation of business processes.
  5. A programmable euro supports numerous innovative use cases for the financial sector and the real economy. Within the manufacturing industry, business models involving pay-per-use and tokenisation can contribute to effective liquidity management and create new lines of business. The decentralised nature of DLT also implies that efficiency gains can be achieved in supply chain management, as parties need not trust one another but only the underlying technology. In the energy industry, smart contracts enable the automated and efficient purchase and sale of electricity. The financial sector profits from DLT-based digital securities and from more efficient securities settlements and interbank payment processing. Furthermore, DLT also harbours enormous potential for the insurance sector. For all of these DLT applications, a programmable euro would represent an efficient payment option, enabling micropayments and digital DvP transactions (among others), providing the building blocks for the industry of the future.
  6. To promote the development of the programmable euro, it is essential to remain in close consultation with all relevant stakeholders, including policymakers, financial supervisory authorities, financial sector organisations, private companies, and consumers. Cross-company collaboration within industries is also necessary to guarantee the standardisation, interoperability and fungibility of the payment solutions. In particular, the interoperability of the various DLT protocols should be a focus for all parties since the potential of DLT can only be fully realised through services that can be used interoperably. The European business community should agree on a common solution so that the euro can remain a global means of payment. To this end, a far-sighted, transparent and technology-neutral legal framework for the programmable euro is essential. Key points include the compatibility of the programmable euro with data protection provisions, contract law and securities law. The resulting legal certainty is required to gain the trust of investors and advance practical projects involving the programmable euro, and is advocated by this study and by the Finanzplatz München Initiative (Munich Financial Centre Initiative — FPMI).

Remarks

The study contains 74 pages and can be downloaded here (direct link to PDF).

About the authors:

Prof. Dr. Philipp Sandner is head of the Frankfurt School Blockchain Center (FSBC) at the Frankfurt School of Finance & Management. In 2018, he was ranked as one of the “Top 30” economists by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), a major newspaper in Germany. Further, he belongs to the “Top 40 under 40” — a ranking by the German business magazine Capital. The expertise of Prof. Sandner, in particular, includes blockchain technology, crypto assets, distributed ledger technology (DLT), Euro-on-Ledger, initial coin offerings (ICOs), security tokens (STOs), digital transformation and entrepreneurship. You can contact him via mail (email@philipp-sandner.de), via LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/philippsandner/), or follow him on Twitter (@philippsandner).

About the Frankfurt School Blockchain Center:

The Frankfurt School Blockchain Center (FSBC) is a think tank and research center primarily focusing on the implications of blockchain technology for companies and businesses. In addition to the development of blockchain prototypes, the center offers a platform for the exchange of knowledge and thought for decision-makers and startups as well as technology and industry experts. The FSBC sets new research impulses and develops education programs for students and executives. The center concentrates primarily on the areas of banking, energy, mobility, and the manufacturing industry.

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Jonas Gross

Jonas Gross

Jonas Gross is Chairman of the Digital Euro Association (DEA) and Head of Digital Assets and Currencies at etonec. Further, Jonas holds a PhD in Economics.