The Front of Schweizerische National Bank

Swiss central bank completes pilot for CBDC settlement with commercial banks

The Swiss National Bank (SNB) has successfully completed a pilot test in which it integrated its wholesale central bank digital currency (CBDC) settlement with commercial banks. The bank partnered with the Bank for International Settlements and five commercial banks on the pilot.

Under Project Helvetia, SNB has been testing a wholesale CBDC for settlement in Switzerland for the past few years. In the first phase, the bank explored the feasibility of integrating its wholesale CBDC into a decentralized ledger technology (DLT)-based financial markets infrastructure.

In a press release this week, SNB revealed that it had completed phase 2 of Project Helvetia, in which it had demonstrated that it’s possible to integrate the wholesale CBDC into existing core banking systems. 

In the second phase, SNB had partnered with the BIS and SIX, Switzerland’s principal stock exchange. It also linked up with five commercial banks whose settlement systems integrated the wholesale CBDC—Credit Suisse, Citi, UBS, Goldman Sachs, and Hypothekarbank Lenzburg.

SNB conducted the experiment in the fourth quarter of 2021. It explored the “settlement of interbank, monetary policy and cross-border transactions on the test systems of SIX Digital Exchange (SDX), the Swiss real-time gross settlement system – SIX Interbank Clearing (SIC) – and core banking systems.”

Despite the major breakthroughs on Project Helvetia, in both this phase and the 2020 phase, SNB is adamant that it has yet to make a decision on whether it will issue a digital Swiss franc. 

“To continue fulfilling their mandates of ensuring monetary and financial stability, central banks need to stay on top of technological change. Project Helvetia is a prime example of how to achieve this. It allowed the SNB to deepen its understanding of how the safety of central bank money could be extended to tokenised asset markets,” Andréa M Maechler, a member of the governing board of SNB commented.

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