The European Central Bank (ECB) has recruited a senior payments specialist from a Dutch bank for the newly created role of programme manager for its digital euro project.
Evelien Witlox will start at the Frankfurt-headquartered ECB on 1 January 2022, leaving a private-sector role at ING where she is global director of payments.
The institution’s appointment of the Dutch national, who has been a board member of the European Payments Council since 2018, is announced just weeks after the ECB launched its ‘investigation phase’ into a potential digital euro.
The investigation phase is expected to run until October 2023 and is focused on the design and distribution of a potential Eurozone central bank digital currency (CBDC). A decision to launch a digital euro, or not, would follow.
Witlox will join the senior management of the ECB’s Directorate General (DG) Market Infrastructure and Payments, reporting to the DG’s director general, Ulrich Bindseil, and also Fabio Panetta, who is the ECB’s executive board member with responsibility for the institution’s digital euro explorations.
ECB’s 50-strong team for CBDC
The ECB now has about 50 team members working on the digital euro – a number that has grown in recent months as CBDC-related work has been stepped up.
The institution is also being informed on CBDC by meetings of its new ‘Market Advisory Group’ (MAG), which comprises 30 private-sector retail payments specialists. The MAG, whose members are drawn mainly from major European banks but also include retail-sector professionals, recently held its first meeting and will meet at least quarterly. A representative from the European Commission and representatives from Eurosystem national central banks are also participating in the group.
The ECB’s DG Market Infrastructure & Payments has also recently been searching for ‘senior payments industry experts to provide high-level consultancy services’ for the digital euro project.
On CBDC matters the ECB is also liaising closely with other forums, ranging from relevant committees of core European institutions to the Euro Retail Payments Board (ERPB) – the Eurosystem’s forum for institutional dialogue on retail payments.
The Eurosystem, which comprises the ECB and the central banks of the 19 EU member states that use the euro, also proposes to engage with the public and merchants through surveys and focus groups on CBDC.
Witlox is currently responsible for ING’s worldwide payments products and also a member of the Amsterdam-headquartered company’s management council (its top 200 managers).
The European Payments Council (EPC), which is formed of 77 members (including ING) that are either payment services providers (PSPs) or associations of PSPs, aims to harmonise payments in the ‘Single Euro Payments Area’ (SEPA) – the EU initiative to simplify euro-denominated bank transfers. Witlox is one of 29 EPC board members.
Prior to joining ING she was general manager for product management and innovation at Equens SE (now equensWorldline), a Netherlands-headquartered payments processor, and from 2014 to 2016 was a member of the board of the European Automated Clearing House Association (EACHA). She spent about six years at ING earlier in her career.
Central bankers worldwide were urged to ‘roll up their sleeves’ and ‘accelerate work on the nitty-gritty’ of CBDC design a couple of months ago by Bank for International Settlements (BIS) Innovation Hub head Benoît Coeuré.
Speaking at a conference, Coeuré – a regular speaker at international events on the topic of CBDC – described how central banks worldwide were “stepping up efforts to prepare the ground for digital cash”.
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‘D€: unanswered questions (and quirks) amid Europe’s CBDC “nitty-gritty”’ – our analysis (20 September 2021) of eurozone central banks’ digital currency explorations to date