In brief

  • A former Trump advisor believes the coronavirus has hastened the move towards digital wallets.
  • These would bring many benefits such as quicker access to government aid.
  • But he notes that it might not be any time soon.

Gary Cohn, a former director of the US National Economic Council, believes that “the slow rise of digital currency has been given a gigantic boost” by the coronavirus pandemic. 

In an op-ed in the Financial Times yesterday, Cohn, who is also on the advisory board of blockchain fintech startup Spring Labs, commented that the move away from physical forms of cash to digital payments has been hastened by the coronavirus pandemic. 

Cohn, also a former Trump advisor and Goldman Sachs COO, has cottoned on to the problem that has plagued Bitcoiners for over a decade: “now our system uses coins and paper and plastic notes based on faith of the central banks.” And digital payments companies, said Cohn, mix together customer funds.

That’s got him wondering: what if “central banks around the world created digital currencies,” and gave each citizen individual digital wallets? This would provide those forlorn unbanked with “broader access to online services and markets and help them avoid payday lenders and cheque-cashing services.” Amid the coronavirus pandemic, those with digital wallets might be able to access government aid quicker. 

Cohn was an advisor to President Trump. Image: Shutterstock.

And there are other benefits, too: if businesses relied on digital ledgers, “this would make it more difficult for employees or middlemen to skim off cash because customers would pay the seller’s digital wallet directly.” 

Sure, he acknowledges,”there are privacy implications to the government having access to individual and corporate wallets that would have to be considered,” but “think about how much quicker and efficient the tax process could be.”

He does not expect a seismic shift straight away. He points out well established facts: that Sweden’s Riksbank is in its early stages of testing its e-krona; the Marshall Islands’ cryptocurrency is still fledgling; and regulators hated the Libra kind-of-stablecoin project led by social media network site Facebook.

Count Cohn among the converted.