Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDC) are among the strong trends emerging today in the FinTech world. The latest digital currency trends show that turning to the elimination of cash, implementing blockchain, and developing digital wallets are pillars of what might come in the future. A cashless society with billions of financial operations per minute. There are, however, counter actions from major markets. China blocked the usage of crypto, Russia is thinking about it. Where is it all going and what consequences to FinTech will it spawn?

Latest digital currency news (february and march 2022)

A lot is going on lately, so let’s dive into the swirl.

Table of contents

Latest crypto news – Bitcoin’s shortness of breath in context

Bitcoin, an undisputed star of the DeFi market, has caught a dose of reality. In March, Bitcoin’s price rose above and then plummeted below $40,000 after president Joe Biden signed an executive order on cryptocurrency. Bitcoin jumped by 10% to $42,000 but the surge was short-lived; executive order was announced and few things have changed.

 Bitcoin’s weaker form is an element of a bigger picture. White House wants to control cryptocurrencies, especially in the light of the war in Ukraine (more on that later). Before that, Bitcoin has been lagging due to the information that the Federal Reserve will be raising rates to fight inflation. Regulators continued to show interest in stronger control over DeFi currencies. 

With the announcement of a possible government-issued digital currency and similar plummeted rates of Ethereum, which followed a similar pattern, Bitcoin’s condition was weaker since July 2021. With the stock market’s worst month since March 2020, the short perspective is not clear. Although Bitcoin entered 2022 on a relatively high note, the current climate around digital currencies presents some challenges.

Digital currency news – China banned cryptocurrencies but goes with NFTs

In one of the biggest crackdowns the country has ever seen, last year China banned cryptocurrency trading and mining operations. At the same time, China is going with the digital yuan (more in the section about CBDCs) and non-fungible tokens (NFTs). As long as these two are under the control of the communist party, deciding factors seem to be OK with it. 

Chinese state-backed blockchain company called Blockchain Services Network introduced an infrastructure allowing to buy, sell and make NFTs. He Yifan, chief executive of Red Date Technology, a company that provides technical support to BSN, told South China Morning Post that NFTs “have no legal issues in China” so far they are not connected to cryptocurrencies, which became illegal in the country. 

Interestingly enough, through the BSN Network, China will use adopted blockchains from Ethereum and some other currencies that meet local regulatory demands. One of them is the mandate to verify the identities of all digital currency users and give a free pass for the government to intervene in case of any “illegal activities”. Plus, BSN will allow users to buy NFTS only with yuan (soon: digital yuan). Obviously, there won’t be an option to buy or sell them with common DeFi assets used outside of China.

It’s an interesting turning point because up until 2022, NFTs were operating on the verge of a legal grey zone. Signs of change weren’t visible until December 2021, when state-owned newswire Xinhua launched its NFT collectibles

The market seems to be opening up for non-fungible tokens, but it plays by original rules. Another example: companies are not allowed to capitalize on surging NFT interest, and private users can’t resell them

According to He Yifan, BSN actions will solve a major problem with Chinese NFTs. Currently, tokens are hosted by private companies that don’t experience interactions between them. According to his statement for South China Morning Post, BSN will operate across multiple chains to create the state’s largest NFT marketplace.

China can spearhead the global NFT revolution

Or at least be a trendsetter. “Digital collectibles” seems to be an oxymoron there for everything related to NFT. Proof? Both Alibaba and Tencent launched their token platforms back in October 2021. In both cases, NFTs are called “collectible items”. Meaning that it’s something between a fully-blown technology that is understood in the West and Pokemon cards. You can make money out of it, but don’t treat it that seriously. 

The business model is also different. China detaches copyright or “digital property right certification” from any cryptocurrency. What in the West is a law that helps avoid scams or frauds with fake digital coins, in China seems to be irrelevant.

One of the main factors separating Chinese NFT from others can be called professionally-created content and user-created content. There are also four major differences involving the transaction model. They are regarding blockchain, trading currencies, volatility, and copyright. You can read about it in the article on the latest digital currency trends for Campaign.

War on Ukraine could be a turning point for cryptocurrency

Digital money should be borderless, but everything that’s “natural”, ended a few weeks ago. At least for some time. On one hand, Ukraine’s supporters raised $54 million in cryptocurrency donations. On the other hand, crypto in Russia faced international sanctions launched by the West. 

Now, at the very core of cryptocurrency lies libertarianism. The idea of quasi-freedom embedded in digital records. With a big country caught of from many technologies and a serious military conflict at the borders of NATO, there’s a question of how independent and fragile at the same time, crypto is.

Especially in the face of sprawling reports and articles, when the amount of energy needed to power up the crypto economy or dig particular currencies, is bigger than entire countries. Which, in the face of rising awareness about environmental, social, and governance (ESG) goals, could be a challenge. 

Cryptocurrency matured from fringe technology to mainstream. Everyone is talking about blockchain and its possible uses (more on that in the section on unexpected usage of this tech). No digital currency news and latest digital currency trends digest can’t go around without at least some notion of crypto being a major social, geopolitical, and market sensation.

The point? Sanctions are one thing, market reality is another. Major Russian banks were cut off from the SWIFT system, but Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao, when asked about freezing all Russian user’s assets, said “we don’t think we have the authority to do so”. So, business as usual?

Perspectives for Central Bank Digital Currencies

Maybe not, since governments are thinking about, if not already implementing, their own digital currencies. A CBDC is issued and regulated by a country’s monetary authority or central bank. In theory, CBDCs promote financial inclusion and simplify monetary and fiscal policies. With time, they can be, at the very least in some cases, a real alternative for today’s alternatives. Like Bitcoin and Ethereum that can suffer the most (due to popularity and volume sizes).

The problem with CBDCs is the same as their nature – digital. A cyber-attack could flatten the economy, creating ripples across industries, markets, and generations of software. Not to mention social generations. People without access to money equals chaos. 

CBDC offers the public broad access to digital money. By being free from credit and liquidity risk, it can appeal to many because it will reduce or even tear down barriers to financial inclusion. It will also lower transaction costs, which is important for unbanked and low-income households. Simplification of distribution channels, along with opportunities for cross-jurisdictional collaboration and interoperability can also be viewed as a plus.

On the downside, CBDC can change the structure of the U.S. financial system, altering the roles and responsibilities of the private sector and central banks. That can alter reserve supplies in the banking system and affect the implementation of monetary policy. Also, the central bank would need to develop mechanisms for guarding customer privacy rights.

Talking about it, also in the context of the war in Ukraine, is one of the latest crypto news out there. Projecting what might come next is difficult, but as we see later, there are no guarantees that the status quo is given once and for all. Who knows if a new major crisis will not spawn a rise of CBDCs across the world? It’s more than probable. 

Unexpected use cases of blockchain

Another latest digital currency trend is to… observe the trends. Of unexpected blockchain usage, that is. There are a few interesting cases.

The IBM-powered project called TrustChain aims to eliminate or at least reduce fraud and theft in the jewelry world. Let’s take gemstones. Establishing value is naturally linked to topics like mining sites, previous owners, price histories, and jewelry makers. Paper trail can be forged or can create a minefield of interpretation. IBM wants to change that.

CannaSOS, a blockchain-enabled social platform allows users to interact with each other and review marijuana varieties.

French hypermarket Carrefour got the “Creative Business Transformation Award” on the International Ad Festival Cannes Lions. The “Act for food” campaign for using blockchain in an unusual way. The company tracks products sold in the markets and eliminates those which had antibiotics and pesticides. 

What do all these changes mean for FinTech?

The democratization of money management is a huge part of the FinTech industry. In the light of recent developments on a global stage, this democratization can be questioned, or even blocked. It can also evolve into something new. Maybe there will be a total elimination of cash, sure looks that way. Maybe CBDCs will be currencies of the future. Or maybe something else will happen.

A new form of crypto, that will cross borders, despite conflicts and local turmoil. At this stage, one thing is for sure. Digital transformation efforts should be at the top of the list for many companies out there.