French central bank pilots blockchain-based CBDC for debt market

Led by Belgian financial services firm Euroclear, the latest French CBDC trial involved a system by tech giant IBM.

The central bank of France continues actively exploring a central bank digital currency (CBDC), completing a significant trial of a blockchain-based CBDC in the country’s debt market.

Over 500 institutions in France have participated in a 10-month experiment testing a CBDC issued by Banque de France for government bond deals, The Financial Times reported Oct. 19.

The CBDC trial was led by Belgium-based financial services firm Euroclear and used a system developed by American technology giant IBM. The CBDC test also involved the French public debt office alongside the central bank and a consortium of major financial companies operating in France, including firms like BNP Paribas, Crédit Agricole CIB, HSBC and Société Générale.

As part of the trial, the participants traded government bonds and security tokens, settling them using a CBDC supplied by the central bank. The project tested use cases of a CBDC in a range of everyday activities, such as issuing new bonds, using them in repurchase agreements, as well as paying coupons and redeeming deals.

“We have together successfully been able to measure the inherent benefits of this technology, concluding that the central bank digital currencies can settle central bank money safely and securely,” Euroclear executive Isabelle Delorme said.

According to Soren Mortensen, global director of financial markets at IBM, the project “went well beyond previous blockchain initiatives” because it successfully trialed “most central securities depository and central bank processes” while cutting off existing interim steps like reconciliation between market intermediaries.

Related: G7 leaders issue central bank digital currency guidelines

After launching an experimental CBDC program in March 2020, the central bank of France has been consistently testing various CBDC use cases. In June, Banque de France tested a CBDC to simulate the settlement and delivery of listed securities in collaboration with Swiss cryptocurrency bank SEBA. Previously, the central bank piloted a CBDC to issue $2.4 million worth of simulated shares using a private blockchain platform.

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