Singapore’s Central Bank Concludes Distributed Ledger Trial

The Republic of Singapore’s central bank and financial regulatory authority, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), has released its findings from Project Ubin, a distributed ledger technology (DLT) trial “which places a tokenized form of the Singapore Dollar (SGD) on a DLT.” The post-trial analysis by MAS details its effort to understand the monetary policy and legal ramifications of implementing digitized SGDs into the countries real time gross settlement (RTGS) platform called the MAS Electronic Payments System (MEPS+).

Phase One of Project Ubin involved building an interbank transfer system on a private Ethereum network. The prototype transfer software developed for Project Ubin was extrapolated from pre-existing source code initially developed by Project Jasper, the Bank of Canada’s digital currency experiment. Singapore-based BCS Information Systems was fundamental in the end-to-end integration between the privatized Ethereum network being utilized by Project Ubin and the MEPS+ test environment via a customized common payment gateway.

Lessons learned from the experimental trial largely focus on technicalities related to credit and liquidity risks. Per the report, “An appropriate legal structure is required to ensure that the transfer of Digital SGD is equivalent to a full and irreversible transfer of the underlying claim on the central bank’s currency. This would ensure that there is no credit risk associated with the creation, distribution, use or redemption of Digital SGD.” Possible solutions for mediating credit risk on future rollouts of Project Ubin onto MEPS+ include the creation of a money market for Digital SGD where banks can borrow from one another without posting cash to the MAS. Options like this are advantageous for helping to optimize MAS liquidity requirements, but the report concludes further study into particular credit risk implications is needed.

There were also concerns about liquidity, which center around a future where a Project-Ubin-like DLT coexists alongside conventional payment systems like MEPS+. Futuristic scenarios in which banks have to decide how and when to allocate their liquid funds to one system or the other were identified. This could potentially create risk since the competing platforms might steal liquidity from each other, consequently forcing companies to adjust their liquidity strategies to compensate. These advanced liquidity management techniques were also recognized as needing further study.

MAS’s study in use-case feasibility is essential to understanding how nationally backed crypto currencies would function on a distributed ledger, and identifying its potential benefits and financial impact on surrounding ecosystems. The exploration into DLT’s ability to improve transactions of domestic securities and cross boarder payments will undoubtedly be studied further by other actors seeking to sharpen their cutting edge in the emerging Fourth Industrial Revolution.    

MAS’ Project Ubin initiative was aided significantly by Deloitte and member institutions from the R3 consortium, that specialize in DLT integration. Project Ubin fits into the island city’s larger Smart Financial Centre initiative, which aims to position Singapore as a global FinTech hub.