LONDON — British authorities are exploring the possibility of creating a new digital currency that Treasury chief Rishi Sunak indicated could be known as “Britcoin.”
The Bank of England and the Treasury said Monday that they will work together to assess the benefits of a central bank digital currency, at a time when cash payments are generally on the decline, partly as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
The bank said the new currency, if it comes to pass, would be a new form of digital money for use by households and businesses and would exist alongside cash and bank deposits, rather than replacing them.
Digital currencies, which are only available in digital or electronic form, are already being explored or even implemented in several other countries, with many proponents drawing inspiration from the success of Bitcoin and other so-called cryptocurrencies. However, digital currencies, like the one being considered in the U.K. are different in a key sense to Bitcoin as they are issued by state authorities.
Currently, only the Bahamas has such a currency, though China is trialing it in several cities. Sweden has indicated it could have its own digital currency by 2026, while the European Central Bank has indicated an electronic euro might be created within four years.
The new British task force is part of a series of measures that Treasury chief Sunak hopes will help the U.K.’s financial technology sector.
“Our vision is for a more open, greener, and more technologically advanced financial services sector,” he told a fintech conference. “And if we can capture the extraordinary potential of technology, we’ll cement the U .K.’s position as the world’s preeminent financial center.”
Promoting Monday’s announcement on Twitter, Sunak was brief.
“Britcoin?,” he posited.