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Potential Flood of Banks into Stablecoins Anticipated with Passage of New Bill

By Fhumulani Lukoto

As cryptocurrency evolves, traditional financial institutions are increasingly eyeing stablecoins as a potential avenue for growth and innovation. 

Overview

A recent report by S&P Global suggests that if a new bill aimed at regulating stablecoins passes, it could trigger a significant influx of banks into this burgeoning sector.

On April 23 2024, experts at Bitcoin Synergy shared research proposals outlined in the Payment Stablecoin Act, which was established by the Senate on April 17 2024.

The shared proposal could encourage banks to get involved in issuing United States (US) dollar-pegged stablecoins and potentially spell trouble for large non-US entities that issue stablecoins like Tether.

The rating agency looked to BlackRock’s recently launched BUIDL fund as evidence for the efficiencies and enhanced settlement security of stablecoins in tokenising assets and digital bonds when describing stablecoins as a potential key pillar of the financial market.

Additionally, the Lummis-Gillibrand Payment Stablecoin Act proposed introducing a $10 billion issuance limit on non-bank stablecoin firms, banning unbanked algorithmic stablecoins, as well as requiring stablecoin issuers to hold one-to-one cash or cash-equivalent reserves.

The agency said, “Assuming the bill is approved, and relevant banking regulation follows, the new rules may offer banks a competitive advantage by limiting institutions without a banking licence to a maximum issuance of $10 billion.”

The agency highlighted that introducing a $10 billion issuance on non-bank firms could spell trouble for Tether. S&P Global said, “Tether, the largest stablecoin by outstanding volume, is issued by a non-US entity and therefore not a permitted payment stablecoin under the proposal bill.”

S&P added, “US entities couldn’t hold or transact in Tether, which may reduce demand while boosting US-issued stablecoins.”

S&P suggested that Tether’s transaction activity occurred outside the US and was primarily driven by transactions in emerging markets, retail activity and remittances.

The Rise of Stablecoins in the Financial Sector

Stablecoins, digital currencies attached to a stable asset, such as fiat currency or a commodity, have gained popularity in recent years due to their potential to offer the benefits of cryptocurrencies without price volatility.

These digital assets have become a popular means of facilitating transactions and transferring value across borders, offering speed, efficiency, and lower transaction costs than traditional payment systems.

Regulatory Landscape and the Proposed Bill

Despite their growing popularity, stablecoins operate in a regulatory grey area, raising concerns among policymakers about their potential impact on consumer protection and financial stability.

In response to these concerns, lawmakers have proposed a bill to establish a comprehensive regulatory framework for stablecoins.

The proposed legislation seeks to clarify the legal status of stablecoins, enhance transparency and oversight, and mitigate the risks associated with their use.

Last week, when introducing the bill, Democrat Senator Kristen Gillibrand emphasised that passing a regulatory framework for stablecoins was “absolutely critical to maintaining the US dollar’s dominance, promoting responsible innovation, protecting consumers, and cracking down on money laundering and illicit finance.”

However, not everyone was pleased with the outlined proposals in the bill. Crypto advocacy organisation Coin Center expressed concerns about the bill.

It cited that banning algorithmic stablecoins is a bad policy and characterised it as an unconstitutional act under the protections of the First Amendment.

Implications for Banks and the Financial Industry

The prospect of a regulatory framework tailored to stablecoins could have far-reaching implications for banks and other financial institutions.

According to the S&P Global report, banks closely monitor improvements in the regulatory landscape and are poised to enter the stablecoin market once clear guidelines are established.

Banks could significantly drive the mainstream adoption of stablecoins by leveraging their existing infrastructure and regulatory compliance expertise.

As the debate over regulating stablecoins intensifies, the financial industry stands at a crossroads.

The passage of a new bill aimed at regulating stablecoins could pave the way for greater bank involvement in this burgeoning sector, offering opportunities for innovation and growth.

However, challenges remain, including regulatory compliance, risk management, and competition from non-bank entities.

Nevertheless, with the proper regulatory framework in place, stablecoins can potentially customise the future of finance, with banks poised to play a central role in this transformative process.

Main image by Etienne Martin on Unsplash

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