As China ramps up digital yuan piloting, three major state-owned banks have released their e-CNY usage data along with their semi-annual reports, with tens of billions of yuan combined circulating through the banks’ systems.

China Construction Bank said that as of the end of June, it had helped set up 7.23 million personal e-CNY wallets and nearly 1.2 million corporate wallets, handling a total of 18.9 billion digital yuan (US$2.9 billion) worth of transactions, according to its interim report.

Bank of Communications, another state-owned bank, had opened 1.16 million personal digital yuan wallets and 130,000 corporate wallets, with total e-CNY transactions reaching 2.5 billion yuan (US$390 million), Qian Bin, the bank’s executive vice president, told the press on Friday following the release of the bank’s mid-year results.

Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) also stated its latest e-CNY implementation status. The bank said in its semi-annual report that as of the end of June, it had opened 3.56 million personal digital yuan wallets and 700,000 corporate wallets, with the number of signed merchants reaching 140,000, though it did not elaborate on the amount in e-CNY transactions it processed.

In a bid to further its digital yuan development, Postal Savings Bank of China has also added a new department dedicated to e-CNY business at its head office, local media Beijing Business Today reported.

Meanwhile, an ICBC branch in Shenzhen has recently launched what could be the nation’s first e-CNY consumer loan pilot, according to a report from industry media Home Credit Consumer Finance Co. Ltd., a Tianjin-based consumer financing company, has joined hands with the ICBC branch to roll out the consumer lending option.

At least one customer at a mobile vendor was able to obtain a consumer loan with e-CNY, and Home Credit directly made payment from the company’s digital yuan wallet to the merchant’s, the local media reported.

Wider adoption

The banks’ moves fall in line with the central bank’s digital yuan development policy that encourages wider adoption. In a white paper released last month, the People’s Bank of China (PBOC), the country’s central bank, said e-CNY would obtain programmability from “deploying smart contracts that don’t impair its monetary functions” and which could “facilitate business model innovation.”

The July white paper said e-CNY trials had seen nearly 21 million personal wallets opened and transactions worth a total of around 34.5 billion yuan (US$5.3 billion).

Earlier this month, an additional 13 banks started to allow their customers to recharge their wallets directly in the e-CNY app, bringing the total number of banks supporting such a feature to 19. The new banks offering a top-up feature include China Merchants Bank, China Citic Bank, Shanghai Pudong Development Bank and Ping An Bank.

The PBOC’s operations office in Beijing also said in its work plan for the second half of the year that it was accelerating its efforts to develop e-CNY payment scenarios for the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics.

With the digital yuan getting stronger momentum through the government and banks, observers have said the state’s push on e-CNY adoption is increasingly looking like a soft launch.

“The possibility of relying on a high penetration of smartphones, a digital-savvy population and favorable government policies represents all factors that have played a major role in drastically reducing the testing time and quickly moving to a rollout stage,” Matteo Giovannini, a senior finance manager at ICBC, told Forkast.News last week.

In addition to giving away red envelopes for testing, the digital yuan has been put to use on many occasions. For example, Dalian Commodity Exchange, one of China’s four futures exchanges, paid storage fees to a delivery warehouse in the form of e-CNY, in a move that appeared to be the first time applying the digital currency in futures trading, according to the exchange.

The northwestern province of Shaanxi, known as an essential spot for China’s Belt and Road initiative, has also built the province’s first toll lane that supports digital yuan payments. Xi’an, the capital city of Shaanxi province, has been one of the joint points of the economic routes connecting the world’s second-largest economy with Europe, Africa and the rest of Asia.