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Wiebe Ruttenberg

1 October 2012
The European Central Bank (ECB) carried out a study of the social and private costs of different payment instruments with the participation of 13 national central banks in the European System of Central Banks (ESCB). It shows that the costs to society of providing retail payment services are substantial. On average, they amount to almost 1% of GDP for the sample of participating EU countries. Half of the social costs are incurred by banks and infrastructures, while the other half of all costs are incurred by retailers. The social costs of cash payments represent nearly half of the total social costs, while cash payments have on average the lowest costs per transaction, followed closely by debit card payments. However, in some countries, cash does not always yield the lowest unit costs. Despite countries' own market characteristics, the European market for retail payments can be grouped into five distinct payment clusters with respect to the social costs of payment instruments, market development, and payment behaviour. The results from the present study may trigger a constructive debate about which policy measures and payment instruments are suitable for improving social welfare and realising potential cost savings along the transaction value chain.
JEL Code
D12 : Microeconomics→Household Behavior and Family Economics→Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
D23 : Microeconomics→Production and Organizations→Organizational Behavior, Transaction Costs, Property Rights
D24 : Microeconomics→Production and Organizations→Production, Cost, Capital, Capital, Total Factor, and Multifactor Productivity, Capacity
O52 : Economic Development, Technological Change, and Growth→Economywide Country Studies→Europe
22 April 2016
Over the last decade, information technology has contributed significantly to the evolution of financial markets, without, however, revolutionising the way in which financial institutions interact with one another. This may be about to change, as some market players are now predicting that new database technologies, such as blockchain and other distributed ledger technologies (DLTs), could be the source of an imminent revolution. This paper analyses the main features of DLTs that could influence their potential adoption by financial institutions and discusses how the use of these technologies could affect the European post-trade market for securities. The original protocol underlying DLTs has its roots in the anarchic world of virtual currencies, which operate outside the conventional financial system. The public debate on DLTs has also been very much focused on the revolutionary potential of the technology. This paper concludes that, irrespective of the technology used and the market players involved, certain processes that feature in the post-trade market for securities will still need to be performed by institutions. DLTs could, however, stimulate a reorganisation of financial markets, which could in turn: (i) reduce reconciliation costs, (ii) streamline the post-trade value chain, and (iii) allow more efficient use to be made of collateral and regulatory capital. It should, nevertheless, be remembered that research into DLTs and their uses is at an early stage. The scope for financial institutions to adopt DLTs and their potential impact on mainstream financial markets are still unclear. This paper discusses three potential models of how market players could adopt DLTs for performing core post-trade functions. The DLT could be adopted either: (i) in clusters, (ii) collectively, or (iii) peer to peer. The evaluation of the three adoption models assumes that they are all equally compatible with the regulatory framework. It shows that, assuming this to be the case, they would each have different advantages and costs.
JEL Code
G21 : Financial Economics→Financial Institutions and Services→Banks, Depository Institutions, Micro Finance Institutions, Mortgages
G23 : Financial Economics→Financial Institutions and Services→Non-bank Financial Institutions, Financial Instruments, Institutional Investors
L15 : Industrial Organization→Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance→Information and Product Quality, Standardization and Compatibility
O33 : Economic Development, Technological Change, and Growth→Technological Change, Research and Development, Intellectual Property Rights→Technological Change: Choices and Consequences, Diffusion Processes