The Chairman of the Swiss National Bank announced on Monday, June 26th, that an experimental pilot program will be initiated for the issuance of a Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC). This program aims to test real transactions with market participants, by launching and testing the CBDC on SIX exchange. According to Chairman Thomas Jordan, this is not merely an experiment, but rather an opportunity to create a real value equivalent to bank reserves. He revealed this at the Point Zero Forum conference.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic has in certain cases accelerated the collapse of cash, central banks throughout the world are researching digital versions of their currencies to prevent leaving digital payments to the private sector. This will be a wholesale CBDC project as opposed to a retail CBDC project. The project will facilitate cross border interbank transactions.
A wholesale CBDC pilot test was concluded by the Swiss National Bank, the Bank for International Settlements [BIS], and the exchange SIX last year.
These three organizations collaborated on the test CBDC project called Helvetia. Participating in the effort were several other well-known commercial banks, including Citi, Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, Hypothekarbank Lenzburg, and UBS.
The experiment was run in the fourth quarter of 2021, and it concentrated on interbank settlements and monetary policy. In addition, cross-border transactions on the SIX Digital Exchange test systems, SIX Interbank Clearing, the Swiss real-time gross settlement system, and core banking systems were also evaluated.
The chairman further stated that while the usage of retail CBDCs was more challenging to regulate, he was worried about the possible consequences they could have for the financial system. We don’t rule out never introducing retail [CBDCs], but we’re being a little bit cautious right now, he added.
At another panel in the zero point forum SNB governor Andrea Maechler said that she does not see cash disappearing in Switzerland despite the technology. She added “It is the one way that retail households can hold central bank money,” she said. “That feature needs to be maintained irrespective of the technology”.