UK Launches Digital Currency Task Force to Explore the Future of Money


By Matt Novak

A British ten pound sterling and five pound sterling note are arranged in a photograph in London.Photo: Justin Tallis (Getty Images)

The Bank of England and the UK’s Treasury have launched a task force to explore the use of a national digital currency, the British government announced in several press releases early Monday as part of April 2021 Fintech Week. 

The task force, formally known as the Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) Taskforce, will examine the pros and cons of issuing a new digital form of money that could be used by British consumers alongside cash. But the government is quick to note it hasn’t yet reached a final decision about issuing a digital currency that would potentially compete with cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and ether.

The British government and Bank of England laid out four primary points of interest and goals for the task force, including:

  • Coordinate exploration of the objectives, use cases, opportunities and risks of a potential UK CBDC.
  • Guide evaluation of the design features a CBDC must display to achieve our goals.
  • Support a rigorous, coherent and comprehensive assessment of the overall case for a UK CBDC.
  • Monitor international CBDC developments to ensure the UK remains at the forefront of global innovation.

The new task force will be led by the Deputy Governor for Financial Stability at the Bank of England, Jon Cunliffe, and HM Treasury’s Director General of Financial Services, Katharine Braddick, according to a press release.

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What Do Prime-Age ‘NILF’ Men Do All Day? A Cautionary on Universal Basic Income

by Nicholas Eberstadt and Evan Abramsky

  • On average, prime-age NILF men spend almost 7 1/2 hours a day on socializing, relaxing, and leisure—over 4 hours more than working women, nearly 4 hours more than working men, and over 1 hour more than jobless men looking for work.
  • The rhythms of life for a great many of the prime-age men in America currently disengaged from work is defined not simply by days and nights sitting in front of screens—but sitting in front of screens while numbed or stoned. 
  • Even without a UBI, America has seen an extraordinary increase in the ranks of workless, prime-age men over the past two decades.

The notion of a Universal Basic Income (UBI)—an unconditional minimum income, guaranteed for all without work, or means-testing—is enjoying a vogue. Progressives can support the concept in the name of economic justice. Techies can support it as social insurance against the great impending displacement of workers of which they warn. Even some libertarians can support it as an envisioned firewall against an otherwise expansive social welfare state. 

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The 10 highest-paying IT certifications of 2020

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COVID-19 isolation might be a good time to add to your IT skill set, as we’re seeing several new entries on our annual list of the 10 highest-paying IT certifications. Cloud technology, information security, and project management certs are on the rise this year.

IT is one profession where the optimal skill set is a constantly moving target. We keep track of the ten highest-paying IT certifications on a running bases, and for 2020, we’re seeing some of the highest-paid certifications challenged yet again by new entrants while average salaries are on the rise across the board.

Fortunately, if you’re trapped in your home during the coronavirus pandemic, you’re far from helpless if you want to learn new skills. Many certifications are fully optimized for remote learners with most of the guided lessons, practice sandboxes, and even the certification exam itself being fully available online and on demand. This preparing for and achieving a new certification com pletely viable for people that are working from home.

Hot specializations range from information systems management, networking, cloud computing, project management, and security. Eighty percent of IT professionals say that certifications are useful for their careers, the challenge is determining which area to focus on.

We looked at data provided by professional development solutions and course provider Global Knowledge to determine the highest-paying IT certifications in the world right now. The data is based on what Global Knowledge’s customers are studying as well as the jobs they find after they graduate. We’ve broken down the top choices based on a description of the specialization as well as a corresponding pay range. Cloud and project management certifications currently dominate the top five spots.

Kindly note that these figures change from year to year, so we update this piece whenever Global Knowledge releases new data. Be sure to return to this list to check out which certification tops the rankings the next time you’re thinking of changing career gears. Let’s look at the most in-demand certifications for 2020 and their corresponding salaries.

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The SEC just made crowdfunding way more interesting for small startups

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Tech funding usually happens in one of two ways. In one scenario, a software or service product— think Twitter — usually sells equity to venture capitalists who expect some kind of return on their investment. Hardware products usually go the crowdfunding route, building up a list of pre-orders that they can then use to pay for manufacturing.

Recently, however, a new Securities Exchange Commission ruling allows small companies to crowdfund equity raises, albeit in ways the aim to keep small investors safe from financial sharks. Using something called Regulation Crowdfunding, the companies were able to raise up to $1.07 million from non-accredited investors (aka you and me). Now, thanks to an update in the rules, they can raise up to $5 million in the same way hardware startups can raise millions on Kickstarter, but instead of delivering a product, these Reg Crowdfunding companies deliver profits or equity.

What this means in practice is that the alternative stock market just got a whole lot bigger. Because nearly any company can run a Regulation Crowdfunding round, you can buy a part of a small company in the same way you can invest in Apple or Amazon. Further, the SEC is “removing investment limits for accredited investors” and is now taking into account salary or net worth when it comes to limiting investments by non-accredited investors, meaning it can approve your investment to a certain income level.

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Venture capital at a crossroads : Change or be forgotten

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Railway crossroads serve as a reminder that trains are not the premier form of transportation they once were. The same could happen to venture capital.

Heading into the COVID crisis, Silicon Valley had reached a consensus that venture capital was going to get hit hard. In March, as the market crashed with alarming speed, new investments came to a grinding halt, and the IPO market froze completely, it seemed the most dire predictions were coming true. Today, after navigating months of uncharted waters, it is clear these doomsday expectations could not have been more wrong. However, if the industry doesn’t tread carefully, its short-term gains could pave the way to long-term self-destruction.

Venture capital in 2020 has not slowed down, it has accelerated. Whether you look at median valuation, deal count, early stage rounds, late stage mega-rounds, or IPOs, third quarter metrics across the board have raced back to historic highs. The rebound has been fueled by continued favorable macro conditions, such as tech’s outperformance in the public markets, low interest rates, regulatory tailwinds, and the fact that entrepreneurship historically outperforms in economic recessions.

The real momentum, however, stems from the much-needed structural innovation that thrives in disruption. For an industry that claims to invest in the future, it has been a long time since VC funds have been forced to innovate. Whether it is AngelList’s rolling funds, the rise of YC-style accelerators for new fund managers, or the booming popularity of direct listings and SPACs, COVID has proven to be a platform shift not only for technology, but for venture capital itself.

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JPM Coin debut marks start of blockchain’s value-driven adoption cycle

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Despite its centralized design, JPM Coin’s real life utilization represents a step toward the mainstream adoption of blockchain technology.

JPM Coin debut marks start of blockchain’s value-driven adoption cycle.

On the heels of PayPal announcing its decision to enter the crypto sector early next year, Bitcoin (BTC) has continued its strong performance and has been hovering around the $13,500 mark for nearly a week now. In this regard, the payment giant’s foray into the crypto market has been hailed as a game changer, especially when it comes to improving the mainstream perception of the digital asset industry as a whole.

Not only that, JPMorgan Chase announced that its native digital currency offering — the JPM Coin — has finally been deployed for mainstream use by one of the firm’s technical associates. The token is designed to facilitate JPMorgan Chase’s various cross-border monetary transactions.

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Electric cars cost less to own- Consumer Reports agrees with us

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 We’ve been publishing “total cost of ownership” comparisons — well, forecasts — for years here on CleanTechnica. Actually, the first ones I published were probably 7 years ago or so. As electric car technology (esp. battery technology) has improved, the comparisons have gotten more and more compelling. Nowadays, any of the most advanced, most competitive electric vehicles on the market should easily outperform their gasoline-powered class competitors while costing less (unless you drive very little). Consumer Reports agrees.

Also, whereas I have to couch my analyses in paragraphs of disclaimers and notes about assumptions and disclaimers about notes about assumptions or else I’ll get chewed out by people who think I’m being too friendly to electric vehicles, Consumer Reports just blurted it out with almost no nuance in the very beginning of its press release:

“Owning a plug-in electric vehicle today will save consumers thousands of dollars compared to owning a gas-powered vehicle, according to a new analysis by Consumer Reports comparing electrics to CR’s top-rated vehicles, as well as the best-selling, most efficient, and best-performing gas-powered vehicles on the market.”

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China’s Yuanfudao claims global edtech valuation crown

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Yuanfudao has ascended to become the most valuable private edtech company in the world.

 The Beijing-based company captured a $15.5 billion valuation after closing a $2.2 billion round—climbing past India’s online learning platform, Byju, to take its place as the world’s most valuable private edtech company, according to PitchBook data.

“Yuanfudao is poised for high growth as it offers products from preschool to secondary education, which in theory, can support a child’s educational journey from the very beginning all the way through adulthood,” said Ryan Vaswani, an emerging tech analyst at PitchBook.

The company’s online education platform has about 3.7 million students in China using its suite of products, which include live tutoring, online question banks and a math problem-checking app.

Tencent led the first add-on to the company’s Series G with participation from Hillhouse Capital, Boyu Capital and IDG Capital. DST Global, which has also backed Chinese ridesharing goliath Didi Chuxing, led the second portion of the round. In March, Yuanfudao reportedly raised $1 billion at a $7.8 billion valuation.

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How Blockchain will End Commercial Banks

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Daniel Masters, CoinShares executive chairman

JP Morgan’s former global head of energy trading, Daniel Masters, was among the first traditional investors to get into bitcoin, helping craft the value proposition that many institutional investors now embrace. COINSHARES

As much as bitcoiners and crypto enthusiasts try to deny it, bringing in converts from traditional finance is the best way to legitimize and publicize the industry in the eyes of many investors.

One of the earliest executives to take the leap was CoinShares executive chairman Daniel Masters. After a long and distinguished career as a commodities trader with JP Morgan and elsewhere, he serendipitously stumbled upon bitcoin after the commodities supercycle ended following the global financial crisis. Masters immediately saw the potential of bitcoin and blockchain, and he realized that his background as a technologist and commodities trader was tailor-made to make him an ambassador for this new industry to a net set of individual and institutional investors.

At the same time, through building his crypto investment management company, he was able to look into the future of this industry and see what developments lie ahead, as well as upcoming clashes between crypto insurgents and entrenched financial incumbents. Forbes sat down with Masters to get his thoughts on the future of this industry.

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The Pandemic Plutocrats : How Covid is creating new fintech billionaires

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In 2015, Nick Molnar was living with his parents in Sydney, Australia, and selling jewelry from a desktop computer in his childhood bedroom. Hocking everything from $250 Seiko watches to $10,000 engagement rings, the 25-year-old had gotten so good at online marketing that he had become Australia’s top seller of jewelry on eBay, shipping thousands of packages a day.

That same year, he teamed up with Anthony Eisen, a former investment banker who was 19 years his senior and lived across the street. They cofounded Afterpay, an online service that allows shoppers from the U.S., U.K., Australia, New Zealand and Canada to pay for small-ticket items like shoes and shirts in four interest-free payments over six weeks. “I was a Millennial who grew up in the 2008 crisis, and I saw this big shift away from credit to debit,” the now 30-year-old Molnar says today. Either lacking credit cards or fearful of racking up high-interest-rate debt on their credit cards, Molnar’s generation was quick to embrace this new way to buy and get merchandise now, while paying a little later.

Five years later, Molnar and Eisen, who each own roughly 7% of the company, have become billionaires—during a pandemic. After initially tanking at the start of lockdowns, shares of Afterpay—which went public in 2016—are up nearly tenfold, thanks to a surge in business tied to e-commerce sales. In the second quarter, it handled $3.8 billion of transactions, an increase of 127% versus the same period a year earlier.

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‘We were shocked’: RAND study uncovers massive income shift to the top 1%

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The median worker should be making as much as $102,000 annually—if some $2.5 trillion wasn’t being “reverse distributed” every year away from the working class.

Just how far has the working class been left behind by the winner-take-all economy? A new analysis by the RAND Corporation examines what rising inequality has cost Americans in lost income—and the results are stunning.

A full-time worker whose taxable income is at the median—with half the population making more and half making less—now pulls in about $50,000 a year. Yet had the fruits of the nation’s economic output been shared over the past 45 years as broadly as they were from the end of World War II until the early 1970s, that worker would instead be making $92,000 to $102,000. (The exact figures vary slightly depending on how inflation is calculated.)

The findings, which land amid a global pandemic, help to illuminate the paradoxes of an economy in which so-called essential workers are struggling to make ends meet while the rich keep getting richer.

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