Professor Daniel Hodson, chairman of the CityUnited Project, was speaking after the Bank of the England and the Treasury confirmed the launch of a new task force aimed at looking at the feasibility of an e-pound - a concept swiftly dubbed “Britcoin” by Chancellor Rishi Sunak. Prof Hodson told Express.co.uk: “This is a superbly timed announcement by the BoE, but the initiative must be supercharged given its importance.
“Our proposal provides the UK with a golden opportunity to provide leadership to the Western world in moving quickly to the starting block in what is bound to become an inevitable feature of international finance.”
Digital currencies are already being explored or even implemented in several other countries.
Such a move bring benefits in the way cross-border payments are made, as well as take advantage of a general decline in cash payments, experts claim.
The launch of a digital pound would not mean the abolition of physical money, advocates are at pains to stress, with banknotes and coins serving as an ‘analogue’ alternative to a digital currency payment.
The CityUnited Project, which last week submitted a number of proposals and recommendations to Taskforce on Innovation, Growth and Regulatory Reform (TIGGR) chaired by Iain Duncan Smith MP - with the central one being a commitment to launching a digital currency.
In addition, the think tank today published a Bluffer’s Guide to a Digital Currency, offering insights into a concept its economists predict will become increasingly central to the world’s economy in the years to come.
Vice-Chairman Leigh Evans said: “We have the resources, the technical knowledge, the organisation and the people to do the job. A brilliant and hugely important first mover advantage is within our grasp. Let’s get on with it.”
Meanwhile, speaking in a personal capacity, Peter Randall, a fintech entrepreneur, suggested Britcoin was now an inevitability.
He explained: “A 21st century digital economy needs a 21st century digital currency. Costs to users will fall, payment speeds will increase and it will further reinforce the leading position of the UK as the global financial service destination.
“It’s great news that the City as represented by the Bank of England and other stakeholders has picked up the opportunity alongside the CityUnited Project who have provided access to experts, a forum for challenge and a deep belief in the efficiency and depth of expertise that exists within the Square Mile.”
Mr Sunak today told a financial industry conference: "We're launching a new taskforce between the Treasury and the Bank of England to coordinate exploratory work on a potential central bank digital currency (CBDC).
"The consultation process aims to deliver a rulebook that is fair, outcomes-based and supports competitiveness, whilst ensuring the UK maintains the highest regulatory standards."
He subsequently tweeted the single word "Britcoin" in reply to Treasury’s announcement of the task force.
A statement issued by the Bank of England said: "The Government and the Bank of England have not yet made a decision on whether to introduce a CBDC in the UK, and will engage widely with stakeholders on the benefits, risks and practicalities of doing so.”
Governor Andrew Bailey has previously said bitcoin, the best known cryptocurrency, fails to act as a stable store of value or an efficient way to make transactions, making it ill-suited to serve as a currency and a risky bet for investors.
Central banks also took a dim view of efforts by Facebook to set up its own digital currency.
Even so, cryptocurrencies have received growing interest from mainstream financial institutions, and bitcoin hit a record high of almost $65,000 on April 14, up tenfold in the space of a year.
China is a front-runner to launch a CBDC. Last week the European Central Bank said it was studying an electronic form of cash to complement banknotes and coins but any launch was still several years away.