ICAEW chart of week: Banknotes

My chart for ICAEW this week celebrates the launch of King Charles III banknotes by looking at the number and value of Bank of England banknotes in circulation, highlighting the continued popularity of the £20 note.

Banknotes | 
ICAEW chart of the week | 

Column chart showing value of banknotes in circulation | 

384m x £5 = £1.9bn | 
1,277m x £10 = £12.8bn | 
2,646m x £20 = £52.9bn | 
295m x £50 = £14.8bn |

6 June 2024. Chart by Martin Wheatcroft FCA. Design by Sunday. 

Source: Bank of England, ‘Banknote statistics, 29 Feb 2024’. 
Excludes Scottish and Northern Irish banknotes. 

© ICAEW 2024

My chart this week is in honour of the new King Charles III banknotes that have just started to enter circulation. These will match the design of the existing Sir Winston Churchill £5 notes, Jane Austen £10 notes, JMW Turner £20 notes, and Alan Turing £50 notes, but with the King’s image replacing that of the late Queen Elizabeth II.

As the chart illustrates, the Bank of England reports that there were £82.4bn of its banknotes in circulation on 29 February 2024, comprising 384m £5 notes worth £1.9bn, 1,277m £10 notes worth £12.8bn, 2,646m £20 notes worth £52.9bn, and 295m £50 notes worth £14.8bn. 

The chart excludes £4.6bn in high value notes issued to Scottish and Northern Irish banks that in turn print their own banknotes.

The new King Charles III banknotes (or ‘Charlies’ as they may come to be called) were issued for the first time on 5 June 2024 in relatively small numbers. The Bank of England says that they are only going to put them into circulation as old banknotes wear out or to meet demand, which could take a long time given that polymer banknotes are much more hardwearing than old paper banknotes.

On average there are approximately 6 x £5, 20 x £10, 40 x £20 and 4 x £50 in circulation for each person living in the UK. Although many of these will be sitting in cash registers and bank vaults, there are still a large number sitting in drawers or down the back of sofas, or even – perhaps surprisingly in today’s ‘cashless’ world – in wallets and purses.

Of course, these are not the only currencies that will feature the King, with Canada recently announcing that Charles’ image will feature on the next Canadian $20, with New Zealand expected to follow in due course. However, Australia has decided to not to put the King on the next Australian $5, the last remaining Australian banknote to still retain an image of the late Queen.

Fortunately, Bank of England banknotes remain exchangeable forever, so if you damage any of your existing banknotes, you can always just pop down to Threadneedle Street to ask for a replacement. Although probably not immediately, as the queues for the new Charlies are likely to be quite long.

This chart was originally published by ICAEW.

ICAEW chart of the week: IMF Special Drawing Rights

My chart this week looks at the reserve currency assets that comprise the 660.7bn SDRs issued by the International Monetary Fund.

IMF Special Drawing Rights

Treemap chart showing the breakdown by currency of the 660.7bn SDRs in issue x $1.33 per SDR = $880bn.

USD: $383bn
EUR: €246bn = £261bn
CNY: ¥726bn = £105bn
JPY: ¥8,888bn = $66bn
GBP: £53bn = $66bn

Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) are reserve assets issued by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the ‘international central bank’ for central banks. 

Just as national central banks create money by issuing currency in exchange for debt, the IMF creates its own form of ‘international money’ in the form of SDRs, balanced by long-term debt owed to the IMF by its member countries. 

To date, the IMF has issued 660.7bn SDRs, most recently in August 2021 when 456.5bn SDRs were issued to provide additional liquidity to member countries during the pandemic.

Countries are able to exchange the SDRs they are issued with for the underlying currencies that make up each SDR, providing them with international liquidity when they need dollars, euros, yuan renminbi, yen or pounds sterling or – in many cases – just dollars. According to the latest five-year currency weightings determined in July 2022, 1 SDR should be exchangeable for 0.57813 US dollars, 0.37379 euros, 1.0993 Chinese yuan, 13.452 Japanese yen and 0.08087 UK pounds. 

The chart illustrates what this means for the total of 660.7bn of SDRs in issue, which as of 5 Dec 2022 was calculated to be worth approximately $880bn in total based on a value of $1.33 per SDR. The total comprised $382bn in US dollars, €247bn in euros (worth $261bn at 5 Dec 2022), ¥726bn Chinese yuan ($105bn), ¥8,888bn Japanese yen ($66bn) and £53bn in UK pounds ($66bn).

In effect, 43.4% of the currency basket making up each SDR was US dollars, 29.7% was euros, 11.9% was Chinese yuan, 7.5% was Japanese yen and 7.5% was UK pounds.

Despite SDRs being an ‘international reserve asset’ that central banks and member countries can use to manage their own currencies, the IMF insists that SDRs are not a currency in their own right. Instead, it stresses that SDRs are merely an ‘accounting unit’ to be used for IMF transactions. However, despite these protestations, the IMF has concluded that SDRs are the functional currency for the purposes of its financial statements prepared in accordance with International Financial Reporting Standards.

The strength of the dollar means that SDRs at $1.33 each are worth $56bn less than the blended average rate of $1.42 each when they originally issued. This is because the non-dollar components of the currency basket, especially the euro and sterling, have fallen in value in relation to the US dollar in recent years.

At less than a trillion dollars, SDRs may seem quite small in comparison with the vast flows of money around the world. However, their importance to the international monetary system cannot be understated, keeping the financial wheels turning and providing central banks (especially those in smaller nations) with essential liquidity when they need it most.

This chart was originally published by ICAEW.