BIS demonstrates feasibility of cross-border wCBDCs using DeFi

Ellie Duncan
29 Sep 2023

The Bank for International Settlements (BIS) has concluded Project Mariana, which tested the cross-border trading and settlement of wholesale central bank digital currencies (wCBDCs) between simulated financial institutions.

BIS and the central banks of France, Singapore and Switzerland – the Bank of France, Monetary Authority of Singapore and Swiss National Bank – said the project “successfully tested” trading and settlement of hypothetical euros, Singapore dollars and Swiss francs.

The test made use of new decentralised finance (DeFi) technology concepts on a public blockchain.

Project Mariana was jointly developed by three BIS Innovation Hub centres, the Swiss, Singapore and Eurosystem hub centres, alongside the central banks and launched in November 2022.

According to BIS, the project relied on three elements, including a common technical token standard provided by a public blockchain to facilitate exchange and interoperability between the different currencies, and “bridges” for the seamless transfer of wCBDCs between different networks.

It also required an Automated Market Maker (AMM), which the BIS describe as “a specific type of decentralised exchange to trade and settle spot FX transactions automatically”.

BIS has confirmed that the DeFi elements tested in the project, specifically AMMs, could form the basis for a new generation of financial market infrastructures.

“Project Mariana pioneers the use of novel technology for interbank foreign exchange markets,” said Cecilia Skingsley, head of the BIS Innovation Hub.

“It successfully demonstrated that it is feasible to exchange wholesale CBDC across borders using novel concepts such as automated market makers.”

She added: “Bringing together a diverse team of software engineers, policy, and FX experts across three Innovation Hub centres and central banks was key to this success.”

Project Mariana is the Innovation Hub’s first cross-centre project.

None of the three central banks involved in the project have indicated they intend to issue a wCBDC, or that they endorse DeFi.