Russian banks may be the main losers from the introduction of a digital ruble while retailers will save on acquiring fees, analysts have predicted. The benefits for consumers using the new digital currency are not that obvious as they may not be paid any interest or cashback.
Launch of Russia’s Digital Ruble Said to Result in Losses for Banking Institutions
Commercial banks may lose up to 50 billion rubles annually (almost $715 million) when a digital version of the ruble is introduced, according to a forecast produced by financial experts at Yakov and Partners, the former Russian division of management consultancy McKinsey.
Meanwhile, retail chains could potentially increase their income by up to 80 billion rubles each year, believe the authors of the research, quoted by the Russian edition of Forbes. At the same time, consumers may receive no interest on their balances or cashback for their transactions.
The specialists see the digital ruble occupying a niche in the domestic retail payments market, taking over part of the share of card payments. Banks’ losses will be mostly due to shrinking revenues from the commission they get for processing such payments. Retailers will profit from saving on the acquiring fees and from instant payments that faster than card transfers.
The benefits for consumers are not guaranteed as the concept of the Russian central bank digital currency (CBDC), an electronic cash, does not envisage the accrual of interest on the holdings, unlike bank deposits. They will also likely lose the cashback that banks currently pay for operations with their cards, the report notes and elaborates:
The digital ruble has no obvious advantages in terms of convenience in everyday use, and international experience shows that the reduction in the cost of acquiring does not lead to price reductions or slowdown in price growth, only to an increase in retailers’ profits.
The digital ruble, issued by the Bank of Russia, is supposed to become the third form of the Russian national fiat, after cash and electronic money. It is meant to be used as a means of payment and a store of value but it is not aimed at replacing deposits or bank payments.
The project was first announced in October 2020 and a prototype was finalized in December, the following year. The pilot phase started in January of 2022, with the monetary authority planning to begin trials with real transactions and users in April 2023 and aiming for full launch in 2024. A bill on the digital ruble was submitted to the Russian parliament this past January.
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Lubomir Tassev is a journalist from tech-savvy Eastern Europe who likes Hitchens’s quote: “Being a writer is what I am, rather than what I do.” Besides crypto, blockchain and fintech, international politics and economics are two other sources of inspiration.
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