Carney gives Facebook a cautious welcome


Pound Coins

Bank of England President Mark Carney is expected to give a cautious greeting to Libra, the Bank of England's chairman, in an important speech on Thursday.

He will say that he could substantially reduce costs and increase financial inclusion, but he needs regulation.

Carney must also announce that non-banks will be able to hold Bank of England accounts.

And it will highlight concerns about climate and sustainability.

Mark Carney gave a quick and positive reaction to Facebook's plan, unveiled last week, which will undoubtedly please Mark Zuckerberg and his partners.

However, while Mr. Carney will say that he has an open mind, he is not offering an open door.

Unlike social media, where regulation is struggling to recover after the mass adoption of billions of users, Carney is vowing to ensure that regulations for risk protection, including data privacy and money laundering, are ready in advance.

Libra aims to be a currency that can be transferred via social media with its value based on a basket of real-life currencies instead of so-called cryptographic currencies whose value is not tied to existing exchange rates.

Libra, says Carney, may be systemically important – and will be regulated accordingly.

This is a significant speech in many ways and can be seen as the time when the old bank of England actually wore their digital pants.

Bank of England Accounts

Lower headline than Facebook but possibly more important was the announcement that the Bank of England will allow non-banks to have an account with them.

All the commercial banks that we, as bank customers, have their own account with the Bank of England, where they store their reserves.

Allowing non-banks – for example, payment companies like Square and Worldpay – to have their own account, could make payments faster, cheaper, more reliable and more available to people outside the traditional banking system .

When I asked the Bank employees what the existing High Street banks thought – there were some ironic smiles – one of them said, "I'm sure they will have a point of view and they will want to express it."

Climate Concerns

The governor said that the most important future risk is that of climate change.

This is his favorite subject and the Bank of England will be among the first regulators in the world to include the cost of future climate change (floods, droughts, crop failures, property damage) when assessing whether financial institutions are strong enough to survive a crisis.

Mark Carney has just over six months in office.

With this speech, he is paving the way for future proof of the financial system he has overseen for almost a decade.


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