The Bank for International Settlements (BIS) together with four central banks has now completed a successful pilot of the use of central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) by commercial banks for foreign exchange transactions across borders, as part of the Project mBridge.
The BIS Innovation Hub Hong Kong Centre partnered with the Bank of Thailand, the Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, and the Digital Currency Institute of the People’s Bank of China for these trials that saw 20 banks in the four countries use the mBridge platform to execute 164 payment and foreign exchange transactions valued at more than $22 million in six weeks, settled directly on the platform.
This experiment was designed to work across various jurisdictions and currencies, to explore the different capabilities of distributed ledger technology (DLT) and the application of CBDC in cross-border payments between commercial banks.
By powering peer-to-peer and instant exchange of multiple central bank digital currencies on one network, Project mBridge strives to resolve the long-standing inefficiencies in the cross-border payments arena and foster bigger financial inclusion and innovation in international payments.
Previous tests with a prototype application showed a considerable improvement in cross-border transfer speed from several days to seconds. Secondly, the cost of these operations for the users can also be cut by up to 50%. At the time it was billed as a ‘game changer’ for nations with limited access to the correspondent banking infrastructure.
Cecilia Skingsley, head of the BIS Innovation Hub, said:
“Financial exclusion is not just a problem for individuals; it is also affecting economies. This project makes important strides towards developing a platform that has the potential to foster more inclusive and efficient payments systems that will benefit those making and receiving payments in different currencies and jurisdictions as well as the overall functioning of the global financial system.”
She also stated that the mBridge project team will continue developing the technology and testing it with an aim of creating a product with adequate features to be used by the early adopters in the coming year and a production-ready system thereafter.