Spain’s central bank to experiment with wholesale CBDCs

Spain’s central bank, the Bank of Spain (BDE) said it intends to launch an experimental program to begin testing wholesale Central Bank Digital Currencies (CDBCs) and is seeking collaboration proposals from local finance and technology institutions.

The bank will focus on three main areas with the program that seeks to simulate the movement of funds, experiment with the liquidation of financial assets, and analyze the benefits and drawbacks of introducing a wholesale CBDC to its current processes and infrastructure according to a translated Dec. 5 statement.

A wholesale CBDC refers to a digital currency typically for use by banks to keep reserves with a central bank, as compared to a retail or general-purpose CBDC that’s open to use by the public.

The program is “exclusive” to the BDE and it stated it was unrelated to work being undertaken in the European Union researching the use of a digital euro.

Interested parties wishing to participate in the program must meet the minimum requirements set by the bank and disclose the “economic means” they’re willing to commit to the project in an application process which closes on Jan. 31, 2023.

In its reasoning for undertaking the program, the BDE said the study of CBDCs can help determine to what extent they can contribute to “adapting to the needs and demands of an increasingly digital society.”

It also noted CBDCs are being “analyzed and experimented” on within a number of jurisdictions mainly focusing on a retail application, however, it stated more companies are delving into those “of a wholesale nature or interbank.”

Related: Some central banks have dropped out of the digital currency race

Brad Jones, the Assistant Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) said on Dec. 8 at a central bank conference that a retail CBDC could result in people avoiding commercial banks entirely and potentially displace the Australian dollar.

The RBA’s Australian dollar eAUD CBDC trial released on Aug. 9 has seen over 80 financial entities proposing use cases according to Jones but noted banks could face liquidity issues if a CBDC becomes the preferred source of holdings.

The Bank of Thailand (BOT) is also expecting to launch a pilot of a retail CBDC before the end of 2022, with a testing environment limited to 10,000 people.

This comes after the Bank of China launched the first trial of its e-CNY in April 2020, now the most widely adopted CBDC in the world, having marked $14 billion worth of transactions during its pilot phase.