There was growing unease when the government added another £250 billion to the Pounds Sterling money supply between March and November 2020 to keep the British economy afloat during the pandemic.
And the knock-on effect of rampant money printing has already started to surface, with inflation now tipped to reach 4% before the close of the year (double the central bank’s target). Compound that with near-zero interest being offered on bank savings accounts, and it’s understandable savers feel they’re caught in a lose-lose banking environment. There are major long-term implications of the huge government debt and quantitative easing, but a review of money itself shows solutions at hand.
Cameron Parry, the Founder & CEO of the mainstream alternative banking platform and physical-asset digital monetary system, Tally, shares his thoughts on how the future of savings lies in physical asset-based Currency
The way we look at money: Pounds for Peanuts
By definition, money should comprise three essential elements; a reliable store of value, a good medium of exchange, and a functional unit of account. So, how does the Pound Sterling stack up?
There’s no doubt that Britain’s government-issued debt-based (fiat) currency, Pounds Sterling, is an excellent medium of exchange. Everyone accepts Pounds in exchange for goods and services, with the confidence they can use Pounds as payment for other goods and services later.
The same can’t yet be said for cryptocurrencies. Given Pounds are easily divisible and measurable, Sterling also makes for a terrific unit of account. But when it comes to holding its value, Pounds might as well be rebranded peanuts because its purchasing power is diluted as the government continues to ‘print’ more and more currency, and inflation inevitably starts to run.
The argument for non-fiat currencies
Until the 1970s, the US Dollar was pegged to physical gold (and the British Pound pegged to the US Dollar), which ensured an anchor of accountability and value for government-issued currencies. However, in 1971, the US cut the dollar loose, allowing the government to pump newly-created currency into the money supply without restraint. Since then, the argument for non-fiat currencies has been growing.
Thanks to technology and deregulation, only recently has the private sector been able to step up and deliver a mainstream alternative to fiat currency for retail bank customers.
When Bitcoin launched back in 2009, it forced regulators to accept that in a free and democratic society, non-government-issued currency must be legally usable as a medium of exchange between law-abiding, willing participants. And the popularity of cryptocurrencies has been on the rise ever since, with 5% of Brits currently estimated to hold some form of crypto. However, cryptos tend to be extremely volatile, and whilst that makes them attractive to day traders, it does not deliver the stability required for most people to use cryptos as everyday money.
The evolution of money: What’s next?
The breakthrough for the mainstream public appears to be a currency based on a physical asset. Although it is relatively new, the advantage is its ability to be a reliable (and easily understood) store of value. For example, the price of a barrel of oil or bar of physical gold is set by global markets on principles of supply and demand, meaning its value cannot be manipulated through an arbitrary decision to ‘print’ more in the way fiat currency supply is inflated through policy decisions such as quantitative easing.
Of course, storing value in physical assets is not a new concept; just think about all the property moguls and art collectors out there. But you cannot pay for a pint of milk with part of a Picasso.
However, by tying a currency to a physical asset that is proven to hold its value over time, asset-backed money provides consumers with safer long-term purchasing power. The advent of apps enabling people to trade between currencies and precious metals worldwide indicates a growing demand to hold cash-like assets instead of fiat currency.
For example, France’s VeraCash lets customers buy and store gold or silver, whilst Canada’s Goldmoney extends the offering to include platinum and palladium bullion. What makes Tally unique is that it’s not just moving money in and out of precious metals. It is money in its own right, money anchored to physical gold and the world’s first non-government issued currency to be accessible in a personal banking account with individual IBANs.
For people in countries with a volatile or fast devaluing fiat currency (e.g. Argentina, which had an inflation rate of 42% p.a. last year), the potential of physical asset-based currencies is obvious. Still, even in the UK, no one enjoys the feeling of losing 4% p.a. from the value of their money.
Innovation away from the current banking system
Beyond fiat currencies, the incumbent banking system also proves problematic for the general population, especially those actively saving in traditional bank accounts. While many people believe it is the banks’ job to safeguard their money, this is far from their business model.
Banks are designed to make money from lending, using people’s savings as the fractional security on the much larger loans they write. Yet, if banks hold too much debt and too little security in an unstable economy, and the bank finds itself teetering on bankruptcy, banks now have the power to take their depositors’ savings to prop themselves up (in exchange for shares in said bank).
In this current climate, it’s understandably hard for depositors and savers to see a way out.
But thankfully, when there’s a problem that affects many people, innovation from the private sector is usually forthcoming. And in this case, those that took a deep dive into the fiat currency fractional-reserve banking trap have come up with a solution. Full reserve banking with physical asset-based currencies, meaning money in a bank account that protects and benefits the customer, not the bank.