CBA focusing on central bank digital currency

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CBA focusing on central bank digital currency

As the bank deepens its crypto studies.

The Commonwealth Bank of Australia will be focusing its efforts on central bank digital currency over the coming year as it scales out its cryptocurrency offering.

Only last year did CBA become the first major Australia bank to allow customers to buy, sell and hold cryptocurrency assets in a pilot, via its CommBank app in partnership with Chainalysis and Gemini.

Speaking at the Blockchain Australia event, managing director of blockchain and digital assets at CBA Sophie Gilder said now there is a "full spectrum of customer needs that we would like to fulfil, but in a measured and steady manner" given current government regulation.

"Things move a little slower for larger institutions than for many of the agile institutions [that] I can see in front of me," Gilder said.

"Our big focuses for the coming year are in relation to programmable currency or CBDC's, huge potential there to remake what you can do in financial services.

"I'm really excited to see that develop, I've been watching that space for some time. I wish that that was around when we issued a bond on blockchain so that you had the payment rails as well.  

"We managed to demonstrate that origination and distribution was much much smoother, but we couldn't do the efficient settlement leg, which is frustrating - my backgrounds install, I'd like to see DVP [delivery versus payment] so that's one area."

The bank is already part of the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) proof-of-concept, alongside NAB, Perpetual and ConsenSys Software to explore the potential use and implications of a wholesale form of CBDC using distributed ledger technology (DLT).

Gilder said "tokenization of all sorts of assets, both real and digital" was another area "with a long way to run".

"There's a lot of markets today that haven't changed much for 30 years - it's time.

"But once again, that'll be a gradual change because there's a lot of money moving through these markets, and we have to get it right."

Gilder added the major bank is "expanding my team, it's going to double in the next few months" and "increasing our investment in this space significantly" as CBA hopes "to do quite a lot this year".

CBA has already been "observing this space for some time" with about 900,000 customers already transferred money to crypto exchanges over the last two years, according to Gilder.

Since the launch of it cryptocurrency offering last year, Gilder said "we're trying to start small and make sure that we get it right."

"Another unusual thing that we're doing, unusual for this market anyway, is in the absence of a comprehensive regulatory environment we're using the existing regulatory framework.

"So we've issued Commbank crypto as a regulated financial product and we've done that because we want to elevate the disclosure standards, we think that's absolutely critical for customer trust.

"That is different in the market, but basically feedback so far has been very positive… we're looking to scale and to add additional features this calendar year."

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