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BlackRock's Fink says Russia-Ukraine war could accelerate use of cryptocurrencies

Key Points
  • BlackRock CEO Larry Fink said the war in Ukraine could accelerate the adoption of digital currencies by central banks in his annual letter to shareholders Thursday.
  • Fink didn’t mention any specific cryptocurrencies but wrote about the potential of central bank digital currencies.

In this article

Larry Fink
David Orrell | CNBC

Russia's invasion of Ukraine could accelerate the adoption of digital currencies by central banks, according to BlackRock's Larry Fink.

The CEO of the $10 trillion-asset money manager called it one of the "less discussed" outcomes of the war, which began one month ago, in his annual letter to shareholders Thursday.

"The war will prompt countries to re-evaluate their currency dependencies," he said. "Even before the war, several governments were looking to play a more active role in digital currencies and define the regulatory frameworks under which they operate."

Fink cited the U.S. Federal Reserve as an example, which recently published a white paper examining the pros and cons of a potential U.S. central bank digital currency.

"A global digital payment system, thoughtfully designed, can enhance the settlement of international transactions while reducing the risk of money laundering and corruption," Fink added. "Digital currencies can also help bring down costs of cross-border payments, for example when expatriate workers send earnings back to their families."

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After the war began and the U.S. imposed sanctions on Russia targeting its central bank, crypto was thrusted into the spotlight. Transactions on centralized bitcoin exchanges in both the Russian ruble and the Ukrainian hryvnia surged to their highest levels in months after the war began, and stablecoins like Tether showed they can play a more important role as a safe haven asset – or in circumventing sanctions.

BlackRock clients have shown "increasing interest" in digital currencies, including stablecoins and "the underlying technologies" – also known as blockchain – Fink said. The company has been studying the emerging asset class to "to understand how they can help us serve our clients" as a result.

Fink didn't specify any particular digital currencies the company is studying. Digital currency as a group has broken out into several different emerging asset classes in the past year including bitcoin itself, other alternative cryptocurrencies, smart contracts platforms like Ethereum, decentralized finance tokens, central bank digital currencies, stablecoins and NFTs.

The BlackRock CEO has previously spoken with optimism about the future of "digital currencies" but has remained cautious about bitcoin and its volatility. In November he told CNBC's "Squawk Box" he's "not a student of bitcoin and where it's going to go" but added "I do believe there is a huge role for a digitized currency."