Digital currencies’ rise to power: the case study of Brazil, Sweden, and Switzerland

Are digital currencies the wave of the future? Sweden, Switzerland, and Brazil move towards digitalized financial systems, exploring new possibilities of adapting to the ongoing FinTech revolution. E-krona, Swiss franc stable coin, and Pix system are all national responses to the growing cryptocurrencies’ market.

The potential of digital currencies is undeniable: the number of Blockchain wallets has grown over 4 times in the span of the last 3 years, from 10,98 million in late 2016 to 44,69 million by the end of 2019.[1] Powered by people’s enthusiasm, the planet of digital currencies attracts the attention of national banks all around the world. This month, Swedish and Swiss national banks decided to step into the future with the plan to create their own digital currencies, while Brazil came up with its own payment network Pix to lower costs of the national financial system and smoothly transition into the world of Fintech. Governments can no longer ignore the technological revolution, so they join it instead.

Inspired by Blockchain technology, Sweden has started working on its own version of digital currency: e-krona. The pilot project is expected to run for a year and finish by the end of 2021.The Riksbank’s goal is to discover how e-krona could function in Swedes’ everyday life. Envisioned as a user-friendly, secure alternative to cash, it is set to work with cards and smartwatches to guarantee maximum comfort at minimum difficulty. The technical aspects of the project draw from Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT), used also by Blockchain. The exact process of creating e-krona is yet to be decided, and there is no fixed date for its debut. The Riksbankwants to understand the inner working of e-krona before issuing it, so the one-year project is mainly the market research. In all certainty, there is a need for a fintech solution in Sweden, where cash is slowly fading into obscurity, replaced by smartphone applications.

Sweden is not the only country, which announced the creation of its own digital financial system this week. Brazil, where 18% of surveyed people have already had experience with cryptocurrencies[2], is an immense market for fintech innovation. The central bank of Brazil decided, however, to take matters into its own hands and test a brand-new payment network – Pix. To offer the optimal coverage and easily blend into the Brazilian financial landscape, the system will be used by all major financial institutions, including the country’s biggest banks, effectively becoming integrated into 90% of all active bnks accounts in the country.

Pix is set to operate through an application, which allows for instant money transfer and QR code scanning. The tests have just officially begun, but in nine months’ time – November 2020 – Pix may be open to the public for the first time if things go right. The officials’ plans are definitely ambitious: the mass adoption of the system is scheduled for 2021. In fact, the president of the Brazil’s central bank, Campos Neto, acknowledged the need for the new payment methods in the digital age, saying that “the world demands a payment instrument that is cheap, fast, transparent and secure” and he called Pix one of the most important projects of the year, stating that it would be the Brazilian answer to bitcoin and cryptocurrencies. Designed to enable a wide range of transactions, including paying government fees, and mandatory for the country’s major financial players, Pix might be Brazil’s digital future in the making.

In the midst of the fintech revolution, Switzerland doesn’t remain a passive bystander. Swiss Central Bank announced plans for its pure digital currency to dive into the digital future on its own terms. While the project’s exact details and likely launch is unclear, Swiss transition into to the digitalised banking continues in 2020, with the launch of Swiss Digital Exchange (SDX) planned for the end of the year.

As the increasing number of governments acknowledge the need for new banking systems, the future of digital currencies looks bright. With Brazil’s ambitious plans to accelerate its own fintech transformation, Sweden’s hopes to offer its citizens the institutional replacement of obsolete cash, and Switzerland’s slow but inevitable financial adaptation, the world is ready to move into the post-cash era and redefine the way we view money.

[1] See Number of Blockchain wallet users worldwide from 3rd quarter 2016 to 4th quarter 2019”, Statista

[2] See “How Common is Crypto?”, Statista