The Bank for International Settlements (BIS) and four central banks have 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 Project mBridge.
The BIS Innovation Hub Hong Kong Centre joined forces with the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, the Bank of Thailand, the Digital Currency Institute of the People's Bank of China and the Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates for the trials, which saw 20 banks in the four jurisdictions use the mBridge platform to conduct 164 payment and foreign exchange transactions totalling over $22 million over six weeks, settled directly on the platform.
The experiment was designed to operate across different jurisdictions and currencies, to explore the capabilities of distributed ledger technology and the application of CBDC in cross-border payments between commercial banks.
By enabling peer-to-peer and instant exchange of multiple CBDCs on a single network, Project mBridge aims to solve long-standing inefficiencies in cross-border payments and foster greater financial inclusion and innovation in international payments.
Earlier experiments with a prototype application demonstrated a substantial improvement in cross-border transfer speed from multiple days to seconds. Second, the cost of such operations for users can also be reduced by up to half. At the time it was billed as a 'game changer' for countries with limited access to the correspondent banking network.
"Financial exclusion is not just a problem for individuals; it is also affecting economies," says Cecilia Skingsley, head of the BIS Innovation Hub. "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 adds that the mBridge project team will continue building the technology and testing it with a view to producing a product with enough features to be used by early adopters in the year ahead and a production-ready system thereafter.