XC Platforms: The Future Landscape of Cross-Border Payments?

The financial landscape is
undergoing a transformative evolution, with technology, governance mechanisms,
economic forces, and policy actions shaping the trajectory of money. From metal
coins to fiat currencies, and paper letters of credit to account-based systems,
the history of money has witnessed significant changes. As cash usage declines
globally, digital innovation is taking center stage, offering new opportunities
for the evolution of money.

In the current era,
technological advancements such as cryptography, tokenization, and
programmability are paving the way for the next phase of financial innovation.
Banks are exploring deposit tokenization, central banks are experimenting with
digital currencies, and fintech companies are innovating across various
dimensions of money and payments.

This shift is not confined to
domestic realms; it extends to cross-border payments, a foundational aspect of
the global financial system. Challenges persist in the form of limited
infrastructure, sporadic governance, expensive recourse, and risky settlement
assets. However, the international community is actively seeking solutions.

The
IMF unveiled a paper
building on last year’s XC (Cross-Border Payment and
Contracting) platform proposal, introducing a visionary concept that could
reshape cross-border payments on a global scale. This proposal envisions a
trusted ledger, akin to a “digital town square,” where digital
versions of central bank reserves can be efficiently traded among participants.

Exploring Cross-Border
Payment and Contracting Platforms: A Vision for the Future

In this landscape, a novel
class of platforms, according to the IMF, termed XC platforms, emerges as a
potential game-changer. These digital town squares operate under local rules
and laws, offering a trusted single ledger for efficient exchange of digital
representations of central bank reserves in any currency. The platforms are
designed to replicate basic financial contracts in a privacy-preserving manner,
fostering collaboration among public and private sector participants under
robust governance, standards, and rules.

XC platforms bring scalability,
safety through central bank reserves, interoperability among national
currencies, increased competition, efficiency in financial contract trading,
and innovation through programming. Importantly, they rest on transparent and
rule-based governance, supporting the stability of the international monetary
system.

XC Platform: An
Evolution of Wholesale CBDCs

The XC platform goes beyond a
mere settlement asset; it serves as a comprehensive infrastructure, providing a
centralized ledger for cross-border payments. It eliminates the need for
multiple wholesale central bank digital currency (CBDC) projects, allowing
commercial banks, payment providers, and central banks to collaborate
seamlessly. While a distributed ledger (DLT) is a possibility, the report
highlights that a centralized database could also power this transformative
platform.

XC Operation:
Tokenizing Existing Central Bank Money

Crucially, the XC platform
doesn’t introduce a new settlement asset or currency. Instead, it relies on
tokenizing existing central bank money through ‘representations.’ Central banks
provide tokenized escrow certificates, similar to CBDCs but limited to the XC
platform. These certificates, representing property rights, significantly
reduce counterparty risk, enhancing the safety and efficiency of cross-border
transactions.

Three Layers of XC
Platforms:

The proposal outlines three
essential layers of the XC platform:

  1. Settlement Layer (the Ledger): This layer serves as the foundation,
    providing a secure and efficient ledger for cross-border transactions.
  2. Programming Layer for Smart Contracts: Enabling conditional payments and
    programmability, this layer ensures flexibility without compromising the base
    ledger, aligning with the preferences of many central banks.
  3. Information Layer: Safeguarding personal information, this
    layer facilitates compliance and currency controls without granting central
    banks access to sensitive data.

Advantages and Shortcomings
of XC Platforms

XC platforms offer several
advantages, including low technological barriers for central banks,
compatibility with legacy systems, and reduced counterparty risk. However, the
proposal acknowledges challenges, particularly regarding foreign entities
trading tokenized domestic central bank reserves without direct supervision by
the domestic central bank. The concept of escrow certificates aims to address
this challenge.

Macro-Economic Benefits
and Future Prospects

The macro-economic benefits of
improved cross-border payments are noteworthy. Lower transaction costs for
small and medium businesses, reduced remittance costs for poorer households,
enhanced liquidity in certain exchange rate corridors, and improved monitoring
of capital flows are among the potential advantages. Additionally, greater
payment integration and transparent governance can counter fragmentation
pressures.

As countries contemplate these
XC platforms, flexibility is paramount. The platforms can apply to low-value
retail payments, remittances, or any payment flow, with gains increasing as the
number of participating countries grows. While XC platforms leverage novel
technologies, they are designed to be compatible with existing payment systems
and arrangements, offering a multicurrency system without imposing a single
settlement asset.

In conclusion, the blueprint for XC platforms presents a
vision aligned with domestic and international policy goals, offering a
potential solution to the challenges faced by cross-border payments. The debate
around this blueprint is crucial
for refining the idea and providing a roadmap
for countries to explore, collaborate, and innovate in the ever-evolving
landscape of finance.

The financial landscape is
undergoing a transformative evolution, with technology, governance mechanisms,
economic forces, and policy actions shaping the trajectory of money. From metal
coins to fiat currencies, and paper letters of credit to account-based systems,
the history of money has witnessed significant changes. As cash usage declines
globally, digital innovation is taking center stage, offering new opportunities
for the evolution of money.

In the current era,
technological advancements such as cryptography, tokenization, and
programmability are paving the way for the next phase of financial innovation.
Banks are exploring deposit tokenization, central banks are experimenting with
digital currencies, and fintech companies are innovating across various
dimensions of money and payments.

This shift is not confined to
domestic realms; it extends to cross-border payments, a foundational aspect of
the global financial system. Challenges persist in the form of limited
infrastructure, sporadic governance, expensive recourse, and risky settlement
assets. However, the international community is actively seeking solutions.

The
IMF unveiled a paper
building on last year’s XC (Cross-Border Payment and
Contracting) platform proposal, introducing a visionary concept that could
reshape cross-border payments on a global scale. This proposal envisions a
trusted ledger, akin to a “digital town square,” where digital
versions of central bank reserves can be efficiently traded among participants.

Exploring Cross-Border
Payment and Contracting Platforms: A Vision for the Future

In this landscape, a novel
class of platforms, according to the IMF, termed XC platforms, emerges as a
potential game-changer. These digital town squares operate under local rules
and laws, offering a trusted single ledger for efficient exchange of digital
representations of central bank reserves in any currency. The platforms are
designed to replicate basic financial contracts in a privacy-preserving manner,
fostering collaboration among public and private sector participants under
robust governance, standards, and rules.

XC platforms bring scalability,
safety through central bank reserves, interoperability among national
currencies, increased competition, efficiency in financial contract trading,
and innovation through programming. Importantly, they rest on transparent and
rule-based governance, supporting the stability of the international monetary
system.

XC Platform: An
Evolution of Wholesale CBDCs

The XC platform goes beyond a
mere settlement asset; it serves as a comprehensive infrastructure, providing a
centralized ledger for cross-border payments. It eliminates the need for
multiple wholesale central bank digital currency (CBDC) projects, allowing
commercial banks, payment providers, and central banks to collaborate
seamlessly. While a distributed ledger (DLT) is a possibility, the report
highlights that a centralized database could also power this transformative
platform.

XC Operation:
Tokenizing Existing Central Bank Money

Crucially, the XC platform
doesn’t introduce a new settlement asset or currency. Instead, it relies on
tokenizing existing central bank money through ‘representations.’ Central banks
provide tokenized escrow certificates, similar to CBDCs but limited to the XC
platform. These certificates, representing property rights, significantly
reduce counterparty risk, enhancing the safety and efficiency of cross-border
transactions.

Three Layers of XC
Platforms:

The proposal outlines three
essential layers of the XC platform:

  1. Settlement Layer (the Ledger): This layer serves as the foundation,
    providing a secure and efficient ledger for cross-border transactions.
  2. Programming Layer for Smart Contracts: Enabling conditional payments and
    programmability, this layer ensures flexibility without compromising the base
    ledger, aligning with the preferences of many central banks.
  3. Information Layer: Safeguarding personal information, this
    layer facilitates compliance and currency controls without granting central
    banks access to sensitive data.

Advantages and Shortcomings
of XC Platforms

XC platforms offer several
advantages, including low technological barriers for central banks,
compatibility with legacy systems, and reduced counterparty risk. However, the
proposal acknowledges challenges, particularly regarding foreign entities
trading tokenized domestic central bank reserves without direct supervision by
the domestic central bank. The concept of escrow certificates aims to address
this challenge.

Macro-Economic Benefits
and Future Prospects

The macro-economic benefits of
improved cross-border payments are noteworthy. Lower transaction costs for
small and medium businesses, reduced remittance costs for poorer households,
enhanced liquidity in certain exchange rate corridors, and improved monitoring
of capital flows are among the potential advantages. Additionally, greater
payment integration and transparent governance can counter fragmentation
pressures.

As countries contemplate these
XC platforms, flexibility is paramount. The platforms can apply to low-value
retail payments, remittances, or any payment flow, with gains increasing as the
number of participating countries grows. While XC platforms leverage novel
technologies, they are designed to be compatible with existing payment systems
and arrangements, offering a multicurrency system without imposing a single
settlement asset.

In conclusion, the blueprint for XC platforms presents a
vision aligned with domestic and international policy goals, offering a
potential solution to the challenges faced by cross-border payments. The debate
around this blueprint is crucial
for refining the idea and providing a roadmap
for countries to explore, collaborate, and innovate in the ever-evolving
landscape of finance.