speaker time

Finance Seminar2019-17)

Topic: Digital Platform Currencies

Speaker: Yang You, Harvard University

Time: Friday, 31 May, 12:15-13:30

Location: Room 217, Guanghua Building 2


Can massive online retailers such as Amazon and Alibaba issue digital tokens that potentially compete with bank debit accounts or even government flat currency? This paper explores whether by issuing digital tokens usable for in-platform purchases, platforms might be able to generate a significant surplus, as well as develop a base that might be leveraged into broader use outside the platform. A number of digital currencies that have been launched in recent years embody this kind of vision as a critical element to anchor more extensive use. We develop a simple canonical model that allows one to explore a number of possible ways tokens could be issued, bundled, and priced, as well as the extent to which they could incorporate memory (physical currency being memoryless). Our central finding is that issuing tokens can yield significant profits by tapping into low-interest consumers. However, unless introducing tradability creates a significant convenience yield, platforms can earn higher revenues by making the tokens nontradable. Hence, if platforms have any comparative advantage in issuing tradable tokens, it has to come from other sources such as increasing returns to information collection.


Yang You is a Ph.D. Candidate in Economics at Harvard University. Yang's current research focuses on three topics in financial economics and development economics: 1. Imperfect market participation and irrational expectation in financial markets, 2. New technology in the finance industry, 3. Culture and social value formation and its implication in corporate finance and development economics.

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