The world according to Coinbase frames cryptocurrency in an unsurprisingly optimistic light: It’s the “money of tomorrow”, a form of payment that is more efficient, transparent and fair.
The problem is some experts keep saying crypto isn’t real money.
Speaking at MoneyLive Summit in London, Coinbase’s head of business development for EMEA, Peter Stilwell, set out his vision for the asset.
Speaking to a gathering of the U.K.’s biggest names in the finance and banking industry, he argued crypto has all the hallmarks of money.
Looking back at previous iterations of value exchange, from swapping goods for valuable items and then precious metals, before switching to paper and later plastic, he argued that network payments are merely the next frontier.
Using the example of Bitcoin, he told audiences digital currency meets all of his benchmarks: fungibility, divisibility, scarcity, security and verification.
However, as he completed his argument that crypto should be viewed as real money, he was swiftly shot down by the European Central Bank’s program director for the digital euro, Evelien Witlox, who was next on stage.
“In our view, cryptocurrencies are not money because there’s nothing behind them,” she said. “We have a slightly different view to the previous speaker.”
She sought to draw a line between crypto and the potential digital Euro, saying the latter was more stable with rates staying “roughly” the same across longer periods of time, as opposed to being prone to fluctuation.
Asked if the digital Euro would render crypto obsolete, she added: “It’s not up to us to say, but we believe that it’s important to have a very stable solution for people to pay with.”
Her sentiments echo that of ECB President Christine Lagarde, who told Dutch television in May last year that she’s concerned about people “who have no understanding of the risks, who will lose it all and who will be terribly disappointed, which is why I believe that that should be regulated.”
Call for regulation
Like Lagarde, Witlox suggested that more people need to understand the risks around crypto and that regulation is necessary.
Coinbase’s Stilwell agreed, saying a number of challenges still stand in the way of crypto becoming a major tender.
He explained: “We’re going to need regulation to protect consumers, while at the same time not stifling innovation. Events over the last 12 months really laid bare the need for clear, strong, workable regulatory frameworks and for the need for global coordination.
“It’s going to be very dangerous if we end up with a massive patchwork of regulatory requirements which stifle innovation and mean that this—an inherently global product—is unable to flourish.”
Stilwell added there are also “too many” people still falling victim to fraud.
Earlier this week it was revealed that Coinbase is being sued for allegedly telling a man who claimed he lost $96,000 on its site to fraud that it wasn’t the company’s problem.
According to the filing, Ferguson’s account was emptied mere hours after being accessed by a new device and from an IP address that had never been associated with his account.
A spokesperson for Coinbase told Fortune: “Coinbase also encourages customers to take measures to secure their personal accounts and information outside of Coinbase. We educate our customers on how to avoid cryptocurrency scams and report known scams to appropriate law enforcement authorities.”
Stillwell continued: “As an industry, we need to keep investing in making sure consumers feel safe and comfortable engaging with cryptocurrencies, otherwise we’ll never really reach that widespread adoption.”
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