Currency Research Global Payments Week 2024

Posted on Apr 25, 2024 by Jean-Michel Godeffroy, Chair, Central Bank Payments Conference and Matthew Hunt, Chair, Global Payments Summit

Header for CR Global Payments Week 2024 Interview

A high-profile delegation of central bankers and innovators in the payments industry will be heading to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, this June for the Currency Research Global Payments Week 2024. To find out more about the themes guiding the events — the Central Bank Payments Conference (CBPC) and the Global Payments Summit (GPS) — we caught up with event chairs Jean-Michel Godeffroy and Matthew Hunt.

Central Bank Payments News (CBPN): Jean-Michel, you’ve chaired the Central Bank Payments Conference for eight years now. Can you briefly share your thoughts on how the payments landscape has evolved since the first event took place in Amsterdam in 2017?

Jean-Michel Godeffroy (JMG): Looking back, my immediate impression was that the topics covered in the CBPC programme have changed considerably since 2017. But after revisiting the summary of the inaugural event in Amsterdam, I realised that the main priorities are still there in this year’s programme: cyber-resilience, financial inclusion, faster payments, and the so-called “digital currencies.” Even artificial intelligence was presented in the 2017 conference: it was the last item and seemed very futuristic at the time.

Each year the agenda items are different, but the main trends are still there. Of course, CBDC was not on the agenda eight years ago but it is, to a large extent, a follow-up to the “digital currencies” issue. And if the efficiency of cross-border payments was also absent in 2017, it is clearly related to the move to instant payments. In a nutshell, central bank priorities change slowly, but progress on each of those priorities justify that the conference topics are different every year.

CBPN: How do you ensure that the conference agenda is relevant for most central banks?

JMG: The preparation of the next Central Bank Payments Conference starts soon after the previous one. Through personal contacts with high-level central bankers, who are often former colleagues of mine at the European Central Bank, in the Eurosystem, and in the Committee on Payments and Market Infrastructures, I gain an understanding of the main topics discussed within central banks. I also participate in selected payments conferences to identify global trends which may affect central banks. For example, in the last SIBOS, three topics were extensively discussed: CBDC, AI, and tokenisation. It is therefore no surprise that these topics will be discussed during this year’s CBPC, with a stronger central banking focus.

The process is interactive. I first discuss a draft programme with my Currency Research (CR) colleagues and then with a number of central bankers — the final agenda reflects these interactions.

CBPN: Who should attend the CBPC, and what can delegates expect from their participation?

JMG: Of course, as chairman, I hope that participants are attracted first by the relevance of the conference programme and by the quality of our speakers and panelists. But I also know that conferences like ours are attractive for the networking opportunities they offer. There are very few opportunities to meet high-level central bankers in a relaxed atmosphere, and clearly, this is also a reason to attend.

The conference is not limited to central banks; anyone interested in understanding central banks’ views on payment systems could, and perhaps should, attend. We tend to have a good participation from private payment system operators, while commercial banks are beginning to realise the opportunities our conference offers them.

CBPN: Can you elaborate on the global nature of the CBPC?

JMG: It is very simple: there are roughly 200 central banks in the world and every year more than 25 percent of them attend our conference. Since 2017, more than 50 percent of the world’s central banks have participated in at least one CBPC. Those who have never attended are typically from very small countries. Twenty-eight speakers have already confirmed their participation in the conference this year, coming from Europe, Asia, North America, Africa, South America, and Australia.

CBPN: Do sponsors have an influence on the conference programme?

JMG: I’d like to make it very clear: during my career, I have participated in many conferences where I had the impression that sponsors “bought” a speaking slot. Therefore, one condition I put forward before accepting the chair’s responsibility was that this would not be the case at the CBPC. Fortunately, this was also a matter of policy for CR. This being said, several key institutions in the world of payments support our conference and, when appropriate, we do not hesitate to ask them to provide a high-level speaker or panelist.

CBPN: Thank you for sharing, Jean-Michel. And over to Matthew — this is your second time chairing the Global Payments Summit — what are some of the top developments in payments that you’ve observed over the last two years?

Matthew Hunt (MH): It’s been a fascinating time in the payments industry, as there are many innovations and developments to discuss. For instance, while real-time retail payments have been around for a while now, the rollout continues globally and new challenges are presenting themselves including fraud, consumer protection, and the future of legacy bulk payment systems.

Following work from the international central banking community at the Bank for International Settlements, there is renewed industry focus on cross-border payments. Progress has been made, but I still think we have a lot of work to do to truly crack this — particularly in the area of foreign exchange. Emerging market payment systems seem to be at the cutting edge, and I am looking forward to finding out what we can learn from Asia.

Again, while digital assets and CBDCs are not a particularly new innovation, I see really interesting initiatives that have emerged recently — in particular, the Regulated Liability Network programmes starting up around the world. This is key, because they move us on from hype and help us to start thinking about how new digital asset payment systems might evolve alongside traditional payment rails. We will discuss all of this in Kuala Lumpur!

CBPN: How is the GPS different from the Central Bank Payments Conference? What can central bank attendees expect to take away from the event?

MH: What we are aiming for here is for the GPS to bring more of a commercial sector focus to payment system evolution. Looking at the Global Payments Week as a whole, therefore, it starts with the central bank focus at the CBPC and moves on to wider industry angles at the GPS. Of course, many of the issues that come up are similar — taking the example of digital assets, these may affect both central banks and commercial banks in a profound manner.

Many delegates will benefit from attending both conferences to gain a better understanding of the different angles that the public and private sectors are approaching these challenges from. In particular for commercial organisations, this will be vital as they work on their strategy in response to various market developments.

CBPN: What single payments innovation do you think will have the greatest impact in the next half-decade?

MH: It’s always hard to pick a winner in this way, but I think there is too much energy behind the digital assets discussion to be ignored. This emerged some years ago when people started to discuss blockchain, Bitcoin, and distributed ledger technologies, but at that time I thought these were solutions looking for a problem. What really excites me now is that projects like the Regulated Liability Network are starting to show us what the use cases of DLT might actually be and how these could lead to the development of a new payment system to sit alongside the existing rails. That is really exciting.

CBPN: What is the biggest risk you see confronting the payments industry over the coming years?

MH: Fraud is a major issue today, but also a significant risk for the future. As the payment system innovates, sadly, criminals find ways of innovating alongside it — this is how Authorised Push Payment fraud came to be such a big issue for real-time payment systems. Whilst some progress has been made around prevention and refund rules, I think there is a lot more to be done. My hope is that AI and big data analytics can stop a lot of these frauds happening in the first place, but it is vital to understand that this is not just an issue for the banking and payments industries. Many of these frauds are initiated via advertisements on social media and I think the host companies need to do more to identify dishonest adverts and take them down.

Closely related to this, but a distinct issue, is the question of consumer protection for retail purchases. At the moment, not enough users understand the different levels of protection that exist across different payment types like cards and bank transfers. In particular with vulnerable customers, education can be a real challenge and my view is therefore that all retail payment systems need to offer some degree of protection.

CBPN: What advice would you give to anyone considering attending the conferences?

MH: Network and engage. The nature of our conferences means that it is easy to find new contacts, including speakers, during the breaks and various events. Whilst the stage presentations are fascinating, I have always found that it is the conversations in the margins that generate the best ideas.

The Currency Research Payments Week 2024 will take place from 10–14 June in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, starting with the 8th Annual Central Bank Payments Conference on 10–12 June, followed by the Global Payments Summit from 12–14 June. See the conference website for more details on the program, speakers, and registration.

About the Chairs

Jean-Michel Godeffroy is a senior international consultant. Prior to his retirement, he had been director general at the ECB for sixteen years, in charge of payment systems and securities settlement. He chaired the high-level payment system committee of the Eurosystem and was a member of the Committee on Payments and Securities Settlement (now CPMI). He has chaired the Central Bank Payments Conference since its creation in 2017.

Matthew Hunt is currently a strategic advisor to Deloitte and Mastercard as well as the chair of GPS. Previously Matthew was Deputy CEO of Pay.UK — which runs the interbank retail payment network in the UK — and before that he was at the Bank of England for 12 years in various payments industry roles.

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