Article
Should Europe develop into a token economy?

Should Europe develop into a token economy?

January 19, 2023

Where we stand today and where we want to be by 2025

Tokenisation has the potential to become the backbone of Europe’s economy in an even more digital world. It will be a key driver for change in many areas like the industry by merging supply chains, finance and logistics into a single seamless process, the financial sector by allowing new forms of financing, asset allocation and processing, the private life as well as the public sector.

To date, however, an underestimation of the future importance, hesitance about driving the innovation, the lack of a deeper understanding of the underlying technologies (like Distributed Ledger Technology – DLT) and a diffuse, unclear legal and regulatory framework lead to piecemeal development that could squander much of this vast economic potential.

Abstract globe with curves
"The token economy is coming, of that there is no doubt. The question is: Does Europe want to be a laggard, just as has happened with other areas of the digital economy, or become a front-runner and driver of the token economy?"
Portrait of Sebastian Maus
Partner
Berlin Office, Central Europe

The Tokenise Europe 2025 report

In summer 2022, Roland Berger moderated a series of working sessions with experts in tokenisation and organized bootcamps with selected representatives of the top management of the TE25 members listed above/in the sidebar. The findings and outcomes have been condensed into an in-depth report which, while not representing any official position on the part of the European Commission, does reproduce the consolidated view of a broad range of European market participants.

What would a tokenised Europe look like?

Looking beyond its own 2025 timeline in which the activation for Tokenise Europe needs to happen, the report outlines a target scenario for the year 2030, in which tokenisation affects many areas in our personal and professional life. This vision is illustrated by a “day-in-your-life” example which highlights some of the applications and benefits of tokenisation in everyday life. From breakfast to bedtime, from transport to payment and identification, from work to leisure, we discover how tokens will have streamlined and revolutionised every aspect of our life by the end of the current decade.

What is tokenisation – and why is it important?

From this exhilarating peek into the future, the report steps back to address the fundamental questions that underpin the scenario: What is tokenisation? And why is it so important for Europe’s economic transformation and digital sovereignty?

The TE25 report provides the following definition: “A token represents a (tangible or intangible) asset in a digital form combined with information and assignable digital rights, all of which are connected in a programmable and heavily automated manner.” It also notes that tokens “can be possessed, owned and transferred via distributed ledger technology and are stored in wallets”. Logically, therefore, tokenisation is the process of creating this system of asset representation. Exploring the many and varied assets that can be represented by tokens and the wide range of stakeholders in this development, the report stresses the need for key players – including (and especially) governments – to work closely together.

An analysis of recent development in tokenisation around the world reveals widely varying motivations and objectives in different countries and regions. While developed economies are mostly targeting economic efficiency gains, emerging countries consider tokens as a way to solve some basic social challenges such as financial inclusion. Political and economic differences influence countries’ approaches to tokenisation, with examples ranging from the Americas to Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

"If Europe wants to play a key role in the token economy, we need a concerted effort for education, awareness, and communication and should start with specific need for action for each stakeholder group, legislators, financial institutions, corporates, and citizens. It's a marathon, no sprint, but the time to start is now!"
Portrait of Sebastian Steger
Partner
Berlin Office, Central Europe

A deep dive identifies Europe in particular as comparatively risk-averse, which creates numerous obstacles to a flourishing token economy. Here, the report focuses on what factors may cause Europe to lag behind: The importance of a consistent legal framework is emphasised, alongside the facilitating role of central banks and other financial institutions. Other factors include a lack of perceived urgency (and thus priority on top management agendas) in pushing the token economy, cultural traits, and a poor general understanding – bordering on scepticism – regarding distributed ledger and blockchain technology as a whole. The report concludes that Europe currently lacks first movers and must merge the interests and capabilities of many stakeholders if it is to move forward quickly at this critical time.

This widespread reluctance is contrasted with the palpable and substantial benefits Europe stands to gain – in everything from supply chains to IoT applications, from finance to logistics – from a rich and robust token economy. A compelling case is made that tokenisation will strengthen both Europe’s sovereignty and its ability to compete as the global economy increasingly goes digital.

What can European stakeholders do in practice?

Having discussed the rationale for tokenisation, the varied approaches pursued in the world today, Europe’s particular challenges and the potential rewards of a coordinated and concentrated response, the TE25 report addresses the specifics of what action European players can take now to accelerate the development of a flourishing token economy. All stakeholders, it affirms, must engage in education, awareness, and communication activities, for which a practical five-step approach is proposed. Beyond these steps, the report also details the individual roles and responsibilities that must be assumed by governments and regulators, central banks, financial institutions, companies of all sizes and private citizens. In conclusion, it appeals to governments and regulators, citing four concrete actions that are needed to move Europe towards a driver in the global token economy.

Go here to read the full, unabridged Tokenise Europe 2025 report.

What is Tokenise Europe 2025

The Tokenise Europe 2025 (TE25) initiative concludes that it is time to go beyond “token gestures” and to have a planned and concerted effort in the areas of education, awareness and communication and to start with specific need for action of each stakeholder group. To this end, TE25 brings key players in the token space – legislators, financial institutions, corporates of all sizes, and individual citizens – together with the aim of establishing Europe as a front-runner in the token economy. Co-organised by the European Commission, the German Banking Association (BdB) and Roland Berger, the initiative already boasts more than 20 active members representing different sectors across Europe (see sidebar/box).

Members of the Tokenise Europe 2025 initiative

Alastria
Banco Santander
BBVA
Blockchain Founders Group
CashOnLedger
Centiglobe
Commerzbank
Daimler Truck
Deutsche Bank
European Blockchain Association
Evonik
Iberpay
ABI/Associazione Bancaria Italiana
Liechtenstein Banking Association
National Road Office of Liechtenstein
Nyala
PayperChain
Renault Group
Repsol
Simoldes
VP Bank
Worldline
Zimpler

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Further readings
Portrait of Sebastian Maus
Partner
Berlin Office, Central Europe
+49 211 4389-2259
Portrait of Pierre Samaties
Partner
Dubai Office, Middle East
+971 44 46-4080
Portrait of Sebastian Steger
Partner
Berlin Office, Central Europe
+49 30 39927-3488
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