Standard Chartered joins trials for China’s digital yuan

Standard Chartered has joined the ranks of financial institutions engaging with China’s digital currency efforts, offering exchange services for the digital yuan, also known as e-CNY.

The initiative is being undertaken by the bank’s China division in collaboration with City Bank Clearing Services. This integration will allow customers to access the digital yuan’s interconnection platform, facilitating services such as recharge and redemption.

China’s push to develop a central bank digital currency has positioned the e-CNY as a frontrunner among similar initiatives by other major economies. With transaction volumes reaching 1.8 trillion yuan ($250 billion) by mid-2022, the digital yuan’s adoption and integration into the banking sector are gaining momentum.

Standard Chartered’s move follows earlier developments in the sector, including actions by BNP Paribas to encourage the use of the digital yuan. The French bank has reportedly been working to connect its corporate clients’ wallets with their bank accounts, demonstrating a growing acceptance of China’s CBDC within the global banking community.

Earlier this month, SC Ventures, the fintech investment and venture arm of Standard Chartered, launched a new tokenization platform, Libeara, which facilitates the creation of a tokenized Singapore dollar government bond fund.

This collaboration highlights the growing trend of tokenization in the financial sector, which is attracting attention from major traditional financial players.

This trend is evident as various financial institutions, including HSBC and UBS Asset Management, have recently ventured into tokenization. HSBC has launched a platform for tokenizing physical gold, while UBS Asset Management is piloting a tokenized money market fund on Ethereum. Citi has also introduced Token Services for deposit tokenization.

China’s e-CNY stands out as one of the most advanced central bank digital currency (CBDC) projects among the world’s major economies. While the initial focus of the project is domestic, cross-border trials in Hong Kong have been gaining momentum.

China’s latest stride in its digital yuan pilot involved connecting its CBDC platform with Hong Kong’s FPS. This merger is set to expedite cross-border digital yuan transactions and enhance the interoperability between China’s CBDC and global payment networks.

Beginning its journey as a pilot in 2019, the adoption of e-CNY was initially modest. Fast forward to today, the virtual coin is now being tested across 26 cities, with roughly 5.6 million merchants registered nationwide by last year.

The massive rollout of the digital yuan, evidenced by the 120 million wallets opened, goes beyond just the digitization of currency. There’s a larger narrative in play. The e-CNY represents an avenue to bolster the overseas adoption of the Chinese currency, thereby countering potential risks of Western sanctions. Furthermore, it provides China with a tool to challenge the longstanding dominance of the US dollar in global transactions.