In the years before electronics, cash meant Federal Reserve notes. The Fed, in deference to the fact that it still needs to order currency to be manufactured by the Treasury, still reports how many of its notes are in the vaults of banks and "issued and outstanding" in the world. But that number no longer has much direct relevance to the question of banking reserves. When the banks report their Liquidity Coverage Ratios, the calculation is "net cash" but that number is composed of the following components:

(1) Unsecured wholesale funding - unsecured debt and institutional deposits

(2) Secured wholesale funding - repurchase agreements and securities lendings

(3) Retail deposits - brokered and transactions deposits, certificates of deposit

(4) Derivatives and commitments

(5) Contingent funding

Currency itself is no part of the "net cash" figure. For those of us in the bleachers enjoying the Giants' return from the dead, the focus on cryptocurrencies is as puzzling as the Dodgers' inability to acquire a bullpen. Why would cash in any form - digital or printed - be the financial problem that requires a brave new technological world for its solution?

anonymous writes: 

Strictly speaking, LCR is one of a long list of capital adequacy tests, and not a reflection the optimum amount of physical currency on hand at the branches. In any case, vault cash is now largely comprised of ATM lockboxes spread across a wide geographic area. If an institution needs to depend on vault cash to settle immediate capital calls, pay off depositor withdrawals, to maintain reserves, or to comply with any of the other testing regimes, then they've probably already failed one or more metrics, such as NSFR.

Incidentally, if you're wondering why any institution would purchase negative yielding instruments, the HQLA (high quality liquid assets) component of bank capital adequacy testing is the reason.

another anonymous commenter adds: 

Are you evaluating solely the currency utility of cryptocurrencies? The below doesn't seem to touch on a store of value. Also, I'm not clear on where you say e-money if you mean digital dollars or cryptocurrencies.

With regard to interest, you mean other than disintermediation of banks? This seems like a worthy goal in itself. Maybe a bit retro, it is my understanding that some time ago it was common not to trust the banks at all and keep cash at home. As a virile youth, I would not know how much of that is apocryphal. In any event, that option has been largely taken off the table as cash becomes part of a the shame and suspicion culture. Future transactions will stay entirely in bank accounts from deposit to spending.

With that in mind, I'd argue financial privacy is another large driver. As nations move down the path of digitizing their currencies and eliminating physical cash (even though India reversed course for now), the tracking and sharing of every transaction and financial habit becomes more thorough. I've noticed that my Chase Sapphire Preferred card happily shares all of my local transactions with Square and I get emailed offers from local businesses I've never shared information with. In my cryptocurrency fantasies, I would love a future where I could buy a movie ticket online anonymously by just paying with a QR code. Instead I end up logging in or filling out pages of personal information (carefully deselecting all optional email promotions) only to have my information profitably shared behind the scenes.

Additionally there is, of course, the innovation itself. The new concept of distributed digital scarcity hasn't found it's limits. That probably interests only a few of us, but it's enough to keep spurs to the development even in people's spare time.

I'm guessing a bit on your question and the answers and may have missed the mark so I'll stop here. To me there are so many interesting points on the topic, that I don't understand why others aren't equally fascinated.





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