Secretive Digital Fiat Project Emerges With New Partner as CBDC Chatter Grows

As central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) march into view, a privately-run version of digital fiat is adding a key tech partner.

Utility Settlement Coin (USC), the blockchain-based payments system involving commercial and central banks, will be working with ConsenSys-backed startup Adhara, CoinDesk has learned. Adhara was behind Project Khokha, which used enterprise blockchain client Quorum to see how zero-knowledge proofs performed with the South African Reserve Bank (SARB).

The move is one of only a handful of public overtures by Fnality, the company that oversees the development of USC. Fnality raised $64.5 million in June 2019 from 14 shareholders including banking giants Barclays, Santander, BNY Mellon, ING and others.

“We think adding Adhara is going to really help us. They’ve got experience of doing some of this type of stuff in other places,” said Fnality CEO Rhomaios Ram.

The sensitive nature of Fnality’s discussions with central banks means it likes to keep a low profile. To date, USC’s only known technology partner was London-based Clearmatics Technologies. (Clearmatics, which uses a fork of ethereum, played a key part in the inception of USC, along with Swiss lender UBS, back in 2015.)

“At Fnality we are pursuing a multi-partner strategy,” Ram said. “Part of that is associated with risk and part of that is associated with we want more people involved in this ecosystem.”

The USC is commercial bank money, as opposed to a pure CBDC, which is issued and backed by the domestic central bank and carries sovereign risk. However, the design of USC allows it to carry some of the characteristics of central bank money because the cash collateral backing the USC is held at a domestic central bank.

As stated in a mandate to its shareholder commercial banks, Fnality’s plan is to represent five currencies on its blockchain – USD, euro, JPY, GBP and CAD – and solve the so-called “cash on ledger” problem, allowing wholesale banking transactions to…

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