The Bank for International Settlements (BIS) has named the inaugural head of its Innovation Hub’s soon-to-open Eurosystem centre.
Raphael Auer is currently principal economist for innovation and digital economy in BIS’s monetary and economic department. He is expected to move into the institution’s growing Innovation Hub team next month in advance of the official launch of the centre, which is expected to officially open in the ‘first half’ of this year and will have a dual location in the German city of Frankfurt and French capital Paris.
Auer is currently doing a great deal of work on central bank digital currencies (CBDCs), stablecoins and cryptocurrencies – a hot topic among financial authorities globally, including in Europe where the European Central Bank (ECB) recently began a two-year ‘investigation phase’ into a potential digital euro.
CBDCs, as well as cybersecurity, green finance, SupTech and RegTech, and ‘next-generation’ financial market infrastructures were mentioned as initial focus areas for the Eurosystem centre a recent virtual event. The ‘BIS Innovation Hub Eurosystem Centre: Setting the Stage’ event (10 December) featured contributions from ECB president Christine Lagarde, Deutsche Bundesbank’s then-president Jens Weidmann and Banque de France governor François Villeroy de Galhau.
Weidmann, who left the Bundesbank at the end of December, told the event’s online audience that the Eurosystem (which comprises the ECB and the central banks of the 19 European Union member states that use the euro) had ‘identified a multitude of project proposals that could serve as a starting point for exchange with the BIS Innovation Hub on how to shape the work programme of the Eurosystem centre’.
Euro area’s ‘vibrant innovation ecosystem’
Switzerland-headquartered BIS launched its Innovation Hub just over two years ago to identify and develop insights into fintech trends, explore the development of tools to improve the functioning of the global financial system and become a focal point for central bank experts on innovation.
The new Eurosystem centre will collaborate with five existing BIS Innovation Hub offices. These are located in the Swiss city Basel (home city of BIS), Singapore, Hong Kong, London and Swedish capital Stockholm (covering the Nordics), as well as the US, home to the recently launched New York Innovation Centre – a partnership between the BIS Innovation Hub network and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. A centre in Toronto is also scheduled to open this year in collaboration with the Bank of Canada to ‘serve as a key platform for central bank innovation in the Western Hemisphere’, according to BIS.
Auer joined BIS, where he has contributed extensively to policy publications and international conferences, in 2015. A dual-national of Switzerland and Austria, he has a PhD in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and has previously worked at the Swiss National Bank (SNB).
“I am delighted that Raphael is joining the Innovation Hub team. His deep-seated knowledge of digital currencies and financial technology, gained through his extensive experience as a policy and research economist, will strengthen the intellectual foundations of the practical experimentations conducted by the Innovation Hub,” said BIS Innovation Hub head Benoît Cœuré. “The Eurosystem centre’s work will be a key part of the Innovation Hub’s growing project portfolio and will connect us with the euro area’s vibrant innovation ecosystem.”
The BIS Innovation Hub’s work programme for 2021-2022 was published almost one year ago. Cœuré said last month that the BIS Innovation Hub was now was running 11 projects in total across its first five centres (excluding New York City) and it was ‘populating them with projects’.
Cœuré proposed for Autorité de la concurrence role
In separate news, Cœuré himself looks set to be shortly leaving the BIS, having been proposed by the French government to be the next head of the Autorité de la concurrence, the country’s competition watchdog.
Subject to approval by the National Assembly (lower house) and Senate (upper house) through their respective committees, he would replace Isabelle de Silva, whose five-year mandate ended last year and is now a councillor of state at the Conseil d’État (Council of State) – France’s highest court for issues and cases involving public administration.
Cœuré has been a frequent speaker at international conferences on the innovative potential of fintech over the past couple of years, but heading the Autorité de la concurrence would bring a somewhat different focus: overseeing mergers and acquisitions, with politically sensitive topics including, for example, the power of US-headquartered technology companies in France’s financial services market.
Cœuré, who is a member of BIS’s executive committee, was a member of the ECB’s executive board prior to joining BIS. From 2013 to 2019 he chaired the BIS’s Committee on Payments and Market Infrastructures (CPMI). Before joining the ECB, he worked at the French Treasury.
‘BIS Innovation Hub Eurosystem centre focus to include cybersecurity and green finance’ – our news story (10 December 2021) on the ‘BIS Innovation Hub Eurosystem Centre: Setting the Stage’ event
‘New York fintech innovation centre director sets out priorities’ – our news story (1 December 2021) on the director of the New York Innovation Centre, Per von Zelowitz, setting out his priorities at a New York Fed-hosted virtual event
‘BIS Innovation Hub centres open in Sweden and UK’ – our news story (16 June 2021) on the opening of the Nordic centre (in Stockholm) and Bank of England-hosted centre
‘CBDCs and SupTech among priorities as BIS Innovation Hub maps out 2021 agenda’ – our news story (23 January 2021) on the BIS Innovation Hub’s current work programme (2021-2022)
‘Bank of England to host fintech “Innovation Hub”‘ – our news story (3 July 2020) on BIS’s announcement of its plans to expand its Innovation Hub network to “create a global force for fintech innovation”