Russian plans to involve banks in two-tier digital rouble system

MOSCOW, April 1 (Reuters) - Russia’s central bank on Thursday said it is leaning towards a two-tier system for a digital rouble, with banks opening digital wallets with the regulator and serving as intermediaries for customers and companies.

Large central banks across the world are stepping up efforts to develop digital currencies to modernise financial systems, speed up payments and counter a possible threat from cryptocurrencies.

Russia’s central bank first floated the idea of the digital rouble last October, saying it could be issued on top of existing cash and non-cash roubles to facilitate payments. It has since had to allay fears from banks that the introduction might hurt their profits.

“We are leaning towards model D, which will allow us to keep the two-tier system we have and give an additional advantage to citizens, companies and the state in terms of speeding up settlements, heightening their security, reducing costs and increasing financial accessibility,” said Ivan Zimin, head of the central bank’s financial technology department.

This scenario sees the central bank create a digital currency platform and give individuals and companies access through banks and other financial institutions.

“The wallet will not be tied only to the credit institution which first opened it,” Zimin said, adding that accessing one’s wallet through another organisation would be possible after certain financial control checks.

“In our view, this really increases accessibility and lowers ‘payment slavery’,” he added.

The bank has not yet provided clarity on the technology it plans to use for its digital platform, but Zimin said distributed ledger technology, best known for powering Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, was one of the elements being used. (Reporting by Elena Fabrichnaya; Writing by Alexander Marrow; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)