SYDNEY (Reuters) - The Reserve Bank of Australia, like some other major central banks, has stepped up research into running its own digital currency, but remains unconvinced of the merits, its payments chief said on Thursday.
The comments, made at a financial services conference, follow an Australian Senate report last month that called for laws to be changed in ways that were more amenable to digital currencies.
Most major economies are now considering whether to issue a central bank digital currency (CBDC) - an internet-only cash equivalent that is different to cryptocurrency since it is not de-centralised - although none have done so yet, said Reserve Bank of Australia head of payments policy Tony Richards.
However, "given the possibility that the balance could shift towards a case for issuance of retail CBDCs, the Bank has been stepping up its CBDC research", Richards said in a speech at the Australian Corporate Treasury Association.
Noting that the European Central Bank and Sweden appeared to be the most advanced of the major economies to consider a role for CBDCs, Richards said the U.S. Federal Reserve was more cautious.
"Reserve Bank (of Australia) staff have also not been convinced to date that a strong policy case has emerged in Australia for a CBDC," he said.
"Australia's existing electronic payments system already provides households and businesses with a wide range of safe, convenient and low-cost payment services."
Amid the rush to internet-only money, which has been spurred along partly by the shift toward online living during the pandemic, Australia's biggest bank also said this month that it was offering some cryptocurrency trading services via its smartphone app.
(Reporting by Byron Kaye; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)