SWIFT’s new central bank digital currency platform could be ready in 1-2 years
By Cassie B. // Apr 08, 2024

The worldwide bank messaging network SWIFT has announced it has a new platform in the works that will help connect the different central bank currencies that are being developed by various nations to its existing financial system.

They recently carried out a six-month trial that included 38 central banks, settlement platforms and commercial banks in what was one of the biggest global collaborations of its kind so far. The goal was to see whether the CBDCs of different countries could be used together despite being built on different protocols and underlying technologies.

They found that it will be feasible to use different CBDCs for highly complex trade and foreign exchange payments. Instead of needing to set up thousands of connections for each counterparty, banks will be able to use one main global point of connection for managing digital asset payments once the interlink solution is in place.

Some of the countries that took part in the trial were France, Czech Republic, Thailand, Singapore, Australia and Germany; others that participated requested anonymity. Commercial banks that took part included Deutsche Bank, Citibank, HSBC and two banks from China.

SWIFT boasts a network that can be used in more than 200 countries. It is used by more than 11,500 banks and funds and sends trillions of dollars each day.

According to SWIFT Head of Innovation Nick Kerigan, their tests demonstrate that banks will be able to use their existing infrastructure for a range of CBDC-related transactions. He added that the results have been so positive that the project is now moving from the experimental stage to something that is much closer to reality.

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"We are looking at a roadmap to productize (launch as a product) in the next 12-24 months," he said.

Some countries, like Jamaica, Nigeria and the Bahamas, have already started using their own CBDCs, while China has been carrying out real-life trials using their e-yuan. A digital euro project is also being tested by the European Central Bank.

SWIFT made headlines when it cut off most of the banks in Russia from the network in 2022 as part of Western sanctions against the country for its actions in Ukraine. Could something like this happen with their new CBDC system?

According to Kerigan, it could theoretically occur, but he did not think this possibility would stop countries from joining. He also foresees other uses for SWIFT. For example, Boston Consulting Group has forecast that $16 trillion in assets may be tokenized by 2030. This means that stocks, bonds and similar assets will be transformed into digital chips for issuing and trading in real time.

He stated: "If we can plug in any number of networks (into the SWIFT system) it becomes a much more scalable option for the industry."

CBDCs will be forced on people around the world soon

SWIFT’s efforts in this realm are a strong sign that CBDCs are going to play an increasingly prominent role moving forward, despite the numerous reservations many people have about the potential repercussions of using such currencies.

In a press release, Santander Bank’s Head of Swift and CIB Payments, Carmen Rey, said: “This initiative solves the need to ensure interoperability in the future CBDC ecosystem by leveraging on existing connections. This will help to facilitate access and usage of CBDCs in the new complex world of digital payments.”

With 90 percent of the world’s central banks currently exploring some type of digital version of their currency and payment systems like SWIFT working overtime to find ways to facilitate payments using CBDCs, a future where governments have unprecedented control over people’s lives is right around the corner.

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