ECB to Start Wholesale CBDC Settlement Trials in 2024

The European Central Bank wants to see innovative interventions in financial markets – but under existing rules.

AccessTimeIconJun 29, 2023 at 9:04 a.m. UTC

The European Central Bank will start exploratory work for financial market settlement based on distributed ledger technology (DLT) starting in 2024, according to minutes published Thursday.

The central bank is looking at how it can innovate in settling transactions between financial institutions for securities or foreign exchange, while also developing plans for a retail central bank digital currency (CBDC), the digital euro, that could be used by EU citizens.

“The ECB clarified that the envisioned start of exploratory work is in 2024,” testing the use of central bank money in both real and mock wholesale transactions, the document said.

The explorations will be “limited in capacity and time,” and take place on the basis of existing rules – including a new pilot regulation passed by the EU last year, which temporarily relaxes financial-market infrastructure requirements for securities trading using DLT, the document added.

The announcement came at the inaugural meeting of a new industry grouping set up by the ECB last week, as conventional financial players continue to explore crypto and the blockchain technology that underpins it. The ECB’s consultative board is dominated by traditional finance players such as Euroclear and Deutsche Bank, but also includes some DLT-focused initiatives such as HQLAX and Fnality.

The European Commission on Wednesday proposed new laws that could underpin a retail CBDC, including consumer privacy and holding limits to avoid deposits fleeing the banking system.

A recent survey by industry group the Global Financial Markets Association suggested that using crypto-style DLT in financial markets could save $100 billion per year by freeing up collateral and automating processes such as mergers.

Edited by Sandali Handagama.


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Jack Schickler

Jack Schickler was a CoinDesk reporter focused on crypto regulations, based in Brussels, Belgium. He doesn’t own any crypto.