Outgoing European Central Bank (ECB) executive board member Benoit Coeure will lead a new unit at the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) focused on financial technology like digital currencies, the group announced Monday.
Coeure was tapped to run the BIS' new "Innovation Hub," which was set up earlier this year to understand how technology is affecting central banks around the world. The effort comes as big tech companies like Facebook and Apple are expanding rapidly into financial services.
The BIS, known as the central bank of central banks, is based in Basel, Switzerland. It is owned by 60 central banks including the U.S. Federal Reserve, the ECB and the People's Bank of China.
"I look forward to bringing my expertise to the global central banking community at this time of rapid technological change," Coeure said in a press release Monday. "We must make the best use of innovation to support financial stability and promote financial inclusion."
Coeure has served as a member of the ECB's executive board since 2012, where he was in charge of market infrastructure and payments and the oversight of payment systems. The French economist also led the Group of Seven working group on stablecoins and has been a leading voice on how technology is shaping the world's payments infrastructure.
In a speech in September, Coeure said Facebook's proposed cryptocurrency project called libra has been a "wake-up call" for central banks around the world.
"The demand for fast, reliable and cheap cross-border payments is bound to grow further in coming years," he said. "Policymakers and central banks should respond to these challenges."
Lawmakers, policymakers and regulators around the world have piled on criticism of libra citing risks like financial stability, money laundering, terrorism financing and data privacy. Some EU officials have vowed to block the effort entirely saying a stablecoin backed by a consortium of companies puts sovereign currencies at risk. The goal of the cryptocurrency project, according to Facebook and the non-profit Libra Association overseeing its rollout, is to provide a faster, easier payments for users around the world.
Coeure's eight-year term at the ECB expires December 31, and he will begin the new role at the BIS January 15, 2020, the group said.