Swift reports progress on interlinking central bank digital currencies
18 central and commercial banks encourage continued development after nearly 5,000 CBDC-to-CBDC and CBDC-to-fiat simulations over 12-week period.
Swift has announced further progress on its experimental solution for interlinking Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs), reporting that 18 central and commercial banks found “clear potential and value” in the API-based CBDC connector after a comprehensive review.
The cooperative published the findings of the 12-week period of collaborative sandbox testing, in which almost 5,000 transactions were simulated between two different blockchain networks and with existing fiat-based payment systems. Central and commercial bank participants expressed strong support for the solution’s continued development, noting that it enabled seamless exchange of CBDCs, even those built on different platforms.
Interoperability is a key strategic focus for Swift, and a key challenge for the financial industry as digital currencies develop, Swift said in a statement sent to Financial Nigeria. According to the Atlantic Council, more than 110 countries are currently exploring CBDCs, with almost a quarter expecting to launch within the next one or two years. However, most are focusing primarily on domestic usage, which could lead to a fragmented landscape consisting of ‘digital islands’.
Swift announced last October that it had developed a solution to enable CBDCs to move between distributed ledger technology-based and fiat-based systems using existing financial infrastructure. The sandbox testing was set up so that central and commercial banks could experiment with the solution to validate its effectiveness and share insight to guide its development.
“Our experiments have shown the critical role that Swift can play in a financial ecosystem in which digital and traditional currencies co-exist,” said Tom Zschach, Chief Innovation Officer at Swift. “Our API-based CBDC connector has been proven to be robust across almost 5,000 transactions between two different blockchain networks and traditional fiat currency, and we’re delighted to have the support of our community in developing it further. Many participants have made clear their desire for continued collaboration on interoperability, and this is particularly pleasing.”
Over the coming months, Swift said it will develop a beta version of the solution for payments that can be tested further by central banks. A second phase of sandbox testing will also be held, in which the Swift community can collaborate further with a focus on new use cases, including in securities settlement (such as cross-asset exchange), trade finance, and conditional payments.
Sandbox participants included the Banque de France, the Deutsche Bundesbank, the Monetary Authority of Singapore, BNP Paribas, HSBC, Intesa Sanpaolo, NatWest, SMBC, Société Générale, Standard Chartered and UBS. An additional four central banks were observers, providing input and feedback without participating in the sandbox. Participants processed a total of 4,736 transactions between the Quorum and Corda blockchain networks, and between Corda and a fiat currency.
"As new clearing alternatives arise with CDBCs, it is important that we as a community leverage the safe and transparent utilities and standards built together with Swift,” Bruno Mellado, Global Head of Payments and Receivables at BNP Paribas, said. “This paper shows the path to an industrial approach to access new and innovative ways to transact between parties.”
Lewis Sun, Global Head of Domestic and Emerging Payments, Global Payments Solutions at HSBC, said: “Interoperability is key to realising the potential of CBDCs to deliver real-time cross-border payments. While interest in CBDCs is growing, so is the risk of fragmentation as a widening range of technologies and standards is being experimented with. Our continuing collaboration with Swift, central banks and other commercial banks provides an invaluable platform to innovate solutions that can bring about faster, cheaper and more secure cross-border payments.”
Also commenting on the new development, Stefano Favale, Executive Director at Intesa Sanpaolo, said: “When it comes to CBDCs, interoperability becomes a key enabler to avoiding liquidity traps and creating a network effect. We truly believe that Swift, through its experience and capabilities, is the natural market-neutral candidate to support future digital asset developments.”
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