On 3 April 2024, the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) together with a group of central banks announced plans to join forces with the private sector to explore how tokenisation of wholesale central bank money and commercial bank deposits on programmable platforms can improve the monetary system.

The project, named Project Agorá, will bring together seven central banks: Bank of France (representing the Eurosystem), Bank of Japan, Bank of Korea, Bank of Mexico, Swiss National Bank, Bank of England and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. They will seek to work in partnership with a large group of private financial firms.

Project Agorá builds on the unified ledger concept proposed by the BIS and will investigate how tokenised commercial bank deposits can be seamlessly integrated with tokenised wholesale central bank money in a public-private programmable core financial platform. The aim is to enhance the functioning of the monetary system and provide new solutions using smart contracts and programmability, while maintaining its two-tier structure. The BIS notes that a primary area of exploration will be to increase the speed and integrity of international payments, while lowering costs.

Next steps

The BIS plans to issue a call for expressions of interest to private financial institutions to join Project Agorá. It is envisaged that several regulated financial institutions will participate representing each of the seven currencies. Specific instructions and requirements will be issued in due course.