The Swiss National Bank (SNB) is to issue a wholesale central bank digital currency (CBDC) on Switzerland’s SIX digital exchange as part of a pilot, the central bank’s chairman said at a conference in Zurich on Monday.
“This is not just an experiment, it will be real money equivalent to bank reserves and the objective is to test real transactions with market participants,” Chairman Thomas Jordan said at the Point Zero Forum.
Jordan said the pilot project, which will start “soon”, was intended at the moment to be for a limited time.
Central banks across the world are studying digital versions of their currencies to avoid leaving digital payments to the private sector, as the decline of cash has accelerated in some cases due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As opposed to wholesale CBDCs which use tokenised securities, the SNB has long been cautious about the use of public, or retail, CBDCs.
Jordan said he was concerned about potential risks retail CBDCs could have for the financial system, while the use of them was more difficult to control.
“We do not exclude that we will never introduce retail [CBDCs] but nevertheless we are a little bit prudent at the moment,” he said.
Despite exploring digital currencies, the SNB does not see cash disappearing in Switzerland, the central bank’s governor Andrea Maechler said speaking on a separate panel at the Zero Point Forum.
“It is the one way that retail households can hold central bank money,” she said. “That feature needs to be maintained irrespective of the technology”.