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Pandemic accelerates need to consider digital currency: Bank of Canada

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OTTAWA (Reuters) - The COVID-19 pandemic is accelerating the public’s use of online services and that means the Bank of Canada must move more quickly to research how a central bank digital product would work, a top official said on Wednesday.

The Bank of Canada has been exploring and building capacity for products like a central bank digital currency (CBDC), but there has been no specific time frame for launching one, Deputy Governor Tim Lane said during a panel discussion on the future of money.

“The main point, I think, is this is all looking a lot more urgent because of the speed with which technology is evolving,” said Lane.

“With COVID, we’ve seen an acceleration of the shift of activities online and that suggests if we want to be ready to develop any kind of digital central bank product, we need to move faster than we thought was going to be necessary,” he said.

A digital currency would act like cash and streamline transactions by avoiding a need to use a payment card for online purchases.

Lane has previously said that the Bank of Canada could launch a CBDC if a private cryptocurrency were to make serious inroads, creating privacy concerns.

Global central banks are putting together rules and working on their own digital currencies to address the prospect of private cryptocurrencies, like Facebook Inc's FB.O planned Libra stablecoin.

Lane told the panel that a number of stakeholders need to be consulted on issuing a CBDC, including banks and financial institutions, along with technology companies.

“Certainly we’re talking to a number of companies that have products that they are developing or also are advising in these things,” he said.

On Tuesday, financial leaders of the world’s seven biggest economies said no stablecoin operation should start until it is properly regulated.

Reporting by Julie Gordon in Ottawa, additional reporting by Steve Scherer; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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