SWIFT and Accenture on Wednesday published a paper on central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) in cross-border payments as part of broader digital asset innovation to help the financial community prepare for the possibility of moving payments in new forms of currency internationally.
More than half the world's central banks are actively exploring the use of CBDCs, a development that could lead to profound change in the global payments ecosystem.
The joint paper from SWIFT and Accenture explores the practicalities of such a shift - from the ways in which CBDCs would move across jurisdictions to the integration of CBDCs into the mix of currencies that already exist - and details what is required for CBDCs to be a viable solution in international payments.
According to the paper, interoperability will be key to their success, and while CBDCs present new challenges and opportunities, continued exploration of CBDCs are likely to leverage existing payments rails where possible, new solutions will become an extension of current infrastructure.
To that end, SWIFT is undertaking a deeper dive into CBDCs through thought leadership and experimentation over the coming months. This includes trials to see how SWIFT's evolving platform and renewed focus on transaction management services under its new strategy to enable instant, frictionless payments across 4 billion accounts globally - agnostic of standards, technologies and currencies - could interact with the cross-border use of CBDCs.
In collaboration with the community, SWIFT intends to explore its role further - both as a carrier of authenticated information about CBDC transactions, as it does today for fiat currencies, and as a carrier of actual CBDC value in whatever form it is issued.
Thomas Zschach, Chief Innovation Officer, SWIFT said: "Making payments infrastructure based on CBDCs efficient and interoperable with the broader economy presents some new challenges, but the majority are the same as those faced by existing payment solutions.
As a co-operative that is neutral and currency agnostic, with reach across 11,000 institutions in more than 200 countries, and oversight by central banks globally, SWIFT is well placed to engage closely in the debate and any future evolution of money.
David Treat, a senior managing director at Accenture, who leads its Blockchain and Multi-Party Systems practice globally said: "Central Bank Digital Currency has emerged as an important new tool in the global push to modernize financial infrastructure to meet the needs of our increasingly digital and connected world.
As an integral part of the financial services infrastructure, SWIFT plays a critical role in illustrating the possible strategic moves its members may undertake as CBDC begins to transform the financial services landscape. We welcome this partnership and are eager to continue to drive responsible and valuable innovation together."
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