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Distributed Ledger Technology: role and relevance of the ECB

Speech by Yves Mersch, Member of the Executive Board of the ECB, 22nd Handelsblatt Annual Conference Banken-Technologie, 6 December 2016.


Today’s discussions have revolved around digitalisation and new technologies and how they might change the banking business of tomorrow. Roy Charles Amara, a researcher and scientist, once said that “we tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run”. The internet is a case in point. Some of the wilder predictions during the “hype” phase never came to pass. That said, no one can deny how powerfully it has insinuated itself into our daily lives, fundamentally changing how we communicate and process information, and no one can know where it will take us next.

Whether or not we will overestimate distributed ledger technology (DLT) in the short run and underestimate it in the long run remains to be seen. However, I am sure we can agree that DLT currently stands in the limelight. A lot has been said about the potential impact of DLT on the roles and services of central banks. In particular, questions related to whether or not central banks should move central bank money to DLT and whether there is a need for issuing central bank digital currency. Consequently, I think it’s time to frame the discussion.


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