The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) today announced 15 finalists for its “Global CBDC Challenge” — a competition to develop retail Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) solutions to improve payment services and promote financial inclusion.

Fast facts

  • According to MAS, the Global CBDC Challenge attracted over 300 submissions from more than 50 countries, with over half from Asia. The finalists, which include financial institutions, fintechs and technology solution providers, will now go through an “Acceleration Phase” to develop their solutions and will present them at the Singapore FinTech Festival taking place in November.
  • The finalists are: Australia’s ANZ Banking Group; Bitt, a Barbados-based blockchain payment company that partnered with the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank to launch the DCash digital currency; Citibank in Singapore; cLabs; Consensys; Extolabs; Giesecke+Devrient advance52; HSBC Bank; IBM; IDEMIA; Criteo; IOG Singapore; Soramitsu; Standard Chartered Bank; and Singapore-based payments start-up Xfers.
  • The initiative was launched in June in partnership with the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the United Nations Capital Development Fund, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, the United Nations Development Programme, and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. It calls on companies around the world to provide solutions for retail CBDCs — intended for individuals and businesses — to address 12 problem statements related to CBDC instruments, distribution and infrastructure.
  • The shortlisted submissions feature collaborations by different industry players such as Ethereum blockchain developer ConsenSys and payment services giant Visa, which are partnering to build a Visa retail CBDC payment module supported by ConsenSys’ blockchain infrastructure. Separately, Singapore’s Xfers is partnering with SEBA Bank on a hybrid CBDC for personal and transaction data protection, while providing the necessary monitoring to prevent illicit activities on the public network.
  • “The Global CBDC Challenge aims to discover and develop retail CBDC solutions that will benefit the global community. We are encouraged by the strong interest from established financial institutions and emerging FinTechs alike,” said Sopnendu Mohanty, MAS’ chief fintech officer, in a statement. “The quality of proposals received from the global innovation community was impressive. There was a healthy diversity of solution approaches across the different problem statement categories.”
  • Apart from the global retail CBDC competition, Singapore’s central bank is also collaborating with the BIS Innovation Hub on “Project Dunbar” — a wholesale CBDC initiative for cross-border payments involving financial institutions.
  • “We are convinced that CBDC will progressively replace banknotes, in the same way as banknotes replaced commodity money in the past century,” Charles d’Haussy, APAC managing director for ConsenSys, told Forkast.News in an email. “We are therefore very excited to be among the 15 finalists of the MAS Global CBDC Challenge. We look forward to the next stage to demonstrate secure offline retail payments from a large variety of devices, such as cards, phones or wearables, maximising financial inclusion in the long run.”

See related article: BIS: cooperation essential for CBDCs to improve cross-border payments