The Swiss National Bank (SNB) and SIX Digital Exchange (SDX) have announced Helvetia Phase III, a pilot for wholesale central bank digital currency (wCBDC). Built on earlier Project Helvetia phases I and II launched by the Bank for International Settlements’ (BIS) Innovation Hub, the pilot will see the first issuance of real Swiss Franc wCBDC for settling digital bond transactions.
Six banks will be involved in the pilot: Banque Cantonale Vaudoise, Basler Kantonalbank, Commerzbank, Hypothekarbank Lenzburg, UBS, and Zürcher Kantonalbank. According to a press release from SNB, the participating organisations will be carrying out transactions on SDX’s regulated DLT platform as intermediaries for issuers and investors. The tokenised bonds will be settled against wCBDC on a delivery-versus-payment basis. The pilot will run from December 2023 to June 2024.
One of three
SNB announced in March this year that it would “examine three models for settling the cash leg of tokenised asset transactions”. One – the one to be tested in Helvetia Phase III – focuses on “the issuance of wCBDC for settling tokenised assets”. Another would examine “the linking of settlement systems for tokenised assets with the existing Swiss Interbank Clearing (SIC) payment system”. The third “involves the use of private, bankruptcy-protected token money that is backed by central bank money”.
In addition to using SDX’s platform, Helvetia Phase III will use the infrastructure of SIC for tokenising central bank money, and that of SIX SIS, the national CSD, for integrating with the traditional bond settlement infrastructure. The pilot will also explore the trading and settlement of repo transactions with wCBDC using SIX Repo and SDX test systems.
SNB has clarified that ”the upcoming pilot does not constitute a commitment on the part of the SNB to introduce wholesale CBDC on a permanent basis. Rather, the SNB aims to test the various models for settling tokenised assets”.