Unbundling Banking, Money, and Payments

Unbundling Banking, Money, and Payments

Dan Awrey

Series number :

Serial Number: 
565/2021

Date posted :

February 08 2021

Last revised :

February 08 2021
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Keywords

  • banking • 
  • Money • 
  • payments • 
  • payment systems • 
  • financial safety net • 
  • financial infrastructure • 
  • financial innovation • 
  • platforms • 
  • Cryptocurrency • 
  • central bank digital currency • 
  • CBDC

For centuries, our systems of banking, money, and payments have been legally and institutionally intertwined.

The fact that these three—theoretically distinct—systems have been bundled together so tightly and for so long reflects a combination of historical accident, powerful economic and political forces, path dependence, and technological capacity. Importantly, it also reflects the unique and often under-appreciated privileges and protections that the law bestows on conventional deposit-taking banks. These privileges and protections have served to entrench banks as the dominant suppliers of both money and payments: erecting significant barriers to entry, undermining financial innovation and inclusion, spurring destabilizing regulatory arbitrage, and exacerbating the “too-big-to-fail” problem. Against this backdrop, the recent emergence of a variety of new financial technologies, platforms, and policy tools hold out the tantalizing prospect of breaking this centuries-old stranglehold over our basic financial infrastructure. The essential policy problem, at least as conventionally understood, is that creating a level legal playing field would pose a serious threat to both monetary and financial stability. This Article demonstrates that this need not be the case and advances a blueprint for how we can safely unbundle banking, money, and payments, thereby enhancing competition, promoting greater financial innovation and inclusion, and ameliorating the too-big-to-fail problem.

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