swiss national bank
Bern, Switzerland - April 15, 2019: Decorative inscription on the Swiss National Bank. marekusz / Shutterstock

The Swiss National Bank has completed the second phase of its “Project Helvetia”, testing the integration of a wholesale CBDC into the back-office systems of different commercial banks, the Swiss central bank said in a press release on 13 January.

According to the announcement, the CBDC tests took place during the fourth quarter of 2021, and were conducted in partnership with the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) and financial infrastructure service provider SIX. The experiment also included five commercial banks, namely Citi, Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, Hypothekarbank Lenzburg, and UBS. Andrea Maechler, member of the SNB governing board, said in a statement:

“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.”

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Project Helvetia focuses on solving operational, legal, and policy-related issues regarding CBDC settlements, and has been designed to prepare central banks for a future with DLT-based financial assets. The tests involved issuing a wholesale CBDC — used to settle interbank transfers and wholesale transactions — on a DLT platform operated by a private company.

Phase two of the project involved exploring the settlement of domestic interbank and monetary policy transactions between the Swiss central bank and commercial banks, as well as cross-border transactions between a Swiss bank and Citigroup in London. While these tests have put Switzerland ahead of others when it comes to CBDC research, it remains unknown if the country is even planning to release such a currency.

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