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Consortium to carry out first private digital sterling initiative in UK

The United Kingdom will soon see a first-of-its-kind collaboration between central banks, regulators, commercial banks, and other financial institutions towards exploring a retail central bank digital currency (CBDC) under Project New Era.

The Digital Financial Market Infrastructure (Digital FMI) consortium, formed by several global financial services industry players, has announced that it will conduct the first privately-led pilot test of the digital sterling (dSterling) as part of the project.

The consortium coordinated by paywith.glass, a Dutch financial infrastructure group, includes IBM, Finastra, FinClusive, Ibenera, and several other fintech companies. Boston Consulting Group (BCG) is the group’s consulting partner supported by the U.K.’s Payment Association.

In a press release, the consortium said it aims to reimagine and test new payment rails for the global financial system. With the U.K. as a kick-off point, the consortium intends to launch other private-sector CBDC pilots in multiple jurisdictions worldwide.

“The group will focus on real-world testing to evaluate a future digital currency ecosystem, environment, and economy that includes the coexistence of current forms of money, regulated digital assets (including cryptocurrencies and stablecoins), and Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDC), starting in the U.K. with Project New Era,” the release said.

The dSterling trial will begin in Autumn. Meanwhile, there is no mention of any banks being part of the consortium. Still, rumors have emerged that several banking institutions, including Barclays Bank, may be disclosed during the project launch.

Notably, several consortium members already have experience with blockchain technology and from working on CBDCs, including IBM, which launched its in-house blockchain platform while also working with several central banks.

CBDC gaining more ground in the United Kingdom

Asides from the Digital FMI consortium, work is also done on CBDCs by other agencies in the U.K. The Bank of England (BoE) has also explored the issuance of a digital pound dubbed the Britcoin.

Back in March, the BoE partnered with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to conduct a 12-month-long research project for the CBDC.

Additionally, the Digital Pound Foundation, an independent organization working with several stakeholders, including Accenture, Avalanche, Billon Group, CGI Group, Electroneum, Quant, and Ripple, is also working on implementing “a well-designed digital pound.”

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