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UK government announces industry group to lead digital pound debate

Joint forums set up by HM Treasury and the Bank of England for a Central Bank Digital Currency include representatives from big tech firms, fintechs and incumbent banks

The UK government has given details of the membership of two forums leading discussions over a digital version of the pound.

This follows the establishment of a taskforce launched by HM Treasury and the Bank of England in April 2021 to coordinate the exploration of a potential Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC). The taskforce is co-chaired by the deputy governor of the Bank of England, Jon Cunliffe, and the Treasury’s director general of financial services, Katharine Braddick.

As well as the taskforce, two new forums were set up by the Treasury and the Bank to guide the process: the technology forum comprises experts in the banking sector and technology companies, while the engagement forum aims to convene key stakeholders in industries such as financial services and retail, as well as independent organisations and trade bodies.

The technology group includes names from the startup scene, such as Dominic Black, money collective tech lead at digital bank Monzo, Sean Mullaney, head of product and engineering for EMEA payments at payments firm Stripe, as well as companies from other segments of the ecosystem, represented by members such as Simon Brayshaw, head of technology at online retailer Asos and Mark Shaw, director of global payments strategy at Spotify.

Members of the technology group to discuss the digital pound also include several representatives of incumbent firms looking into emerging technologies, such as Patrick O’Donnell, vice-president for blockchain and digital assets at Mastercard, and Lee Braine, managing director for research and engineering at Barclays. Tech companies such as Oracle and IBM are represented in the group, as well as academics and heads of entities focused on initiatives such as open banking and alternative finance.

The engagement forum includes leaders from the technology sector, including Jorn Lambert, chief digital officer at Mastercard, and senior executives such as Anne Boden, CEO at Starling Bank, and Arun Kohli, chief operating officer for EMEA at Morgan Stanley, as well as chiefs from companies such as John Lewis, academics and heads of several independent organisations.

At the time the taskforce was launched in April, the Bank of England said the digital pound would be a new form of digital money, to be used by end-consumers and businesses, coexisting with cash and bank deposits. Both the Treasury and the Bank said they have not yet decided whether to introduce a CBDC in the UK.

Discussions over a digital currency in the UK are not new. In 2018, the Parliamentary Treasury started to debate the potential opportunities and risks associated with the UK adoption of cryptocurrencies and the technology that underpins them.

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