BIS unveils Project Agora to explore the tokenisation of cross-border payments

The Bank for International Settlements (BIS) has announced plans for a public-private partnership between several central banks and the private financial sector to explore the potential benefits of tokenising cross-border payments, labelled Project Agorá.

Project Agorá will see seven central banks from around the world – Bank of England, Bank of France, Bank of Japan, Bank of Korea, Bank of Mexico, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and the Swiss National Bank – work together in partnership with several private sector participants, with the Institute of International Finance (IIF) acting as the convener and intermediary of these enterprises.

At its core, the project aims to explore the integration of tokenised commercial bank deposits with tokenised wholesale central bank money within a public-private programmable core financial platform. Its primary goal, as outlined by the BIS, is to enhance the “speed and integrity” of international payments while also reducing costs.

Cecilia Skingsley, head of the BIS Innovation Hub, explains: “Today, numerous payment systems, accounting ledgers and data registries require other complex systems to integrate them.

“In Project Agorá, we want to explore a new common payment infrastructure that could bring all these elements together and might make the system work more efficiently together on a digital core financial infrastructure.”

The announcement follows the successful conclusion of BIS’ Project Mariana last year, which explored the cross-border settlement capabilities of wholesale central bank digital currencies.