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Project Helvetia – BIS and Swiss National Bank say CBDC experiment successful

The Bank for International Settlements’ Innovation Hub (BISIH) Swiss Centre, the Swiss National Bank (SNB) and the financial infrastructure operator SIX say the completion of a joint proof-of-concept experiment that integrates tokenised digital assets and CBDC (Central Bank Digital Currency) has been successful.

Project Helvetia

Project Helvetia – BIS and Swiss National Bank say CBDC experiment successful

Project Helvetia explored the technological and legal feasibility of transferring digital assets through:

  • Issuing a wholesale CBDC onto a distributed digital asset platform; and
  • Linking the digital asset platform to the existing wholesale payment system.

The initiative demonstrates the feasibility and legal robustness of both alternatives in a near-live setup.

However, comparing them reveals benefits and challenges. A wholesale CBDC has potential advantages when settling digital assets. Yet it would raise major policy and governance hurdles.

Linking existing systems to new DLT platforms would avoid many of these problems, but would forgo the potential benefits of full integration. Project Helvetia explored a wholesale CBDC, restricted to banks and other financial institutions.

A retail or general purpose CBDC would address different use cases and have very different policy implications.

Further work is needed; the next steps are to gain a better understanding of the practical complexities and policy implications of wholesale CBDC. Different design choices that allow for trade-offs between risks and benefits need to be explored.

“If wholesale CBDCs are to fulfil their potential as a new means of settlement, their design and implications deserve close study and consideration,” says Benoît Cœuré, Head of the BISIH.

“This is only possible via continued deliberations and experimentations among central banks and with other stakeholders, such as market supervisors and the private sector. Given the speed of digital transformation, central banks – and others – need to learn fast to make informed policy decisions.”

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