The Bank for International Settlements (BIS) conducted a survey of 86 central banks to determine their level of activity in developing digital currencies (CBDCs) and readiness to launch government-owned stablecoins.

BIS found that 94% of central banks are exploring the benefits of their own digital currencies, with most regulators working with both retail and wholesale CBDCs. The Central Bank’s retail digital currencies are expected to be used for government payments, personal transactions, e-commerce and point-of-sale payments. Wholesale CBDCs are intended for interbank settlements and cross-border transfers.

One in three central banks is focused exclusively on retail CBDCs that will be available to individual users, and only 2% are creating wholesale CBDCs. Half of the central banks surveyed are working on proof-of-concept, and about 30% of the central banks have already moved on to pilot projects.

In 2023, advanced economies saw a sharp increase in activity with wholesale CBDCs. Of these, 81% have already passed proof of concept, up from 60% a year earlier. Emerging markets saw a slight increase, from 37% to 39%. In particular, the researchers mentioned central banks that have recently begun working on a pilot project for wholesale CBDCs: Central Bank of the Philippines (Project Agila), Swiss National Bank (SNB) (Project Helvetia Phase III), Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) , the European Central Bank (ECB) and the South African Reserve Bank.

Overall, the number of countries planning to launch retail CBDCs over the next five years has almost halved, from 11 in 2023 to 6 in 2024. Central banks named the most popular features of retail CBDCs: storage limits, compatibility with internal payment systems and the ability to separate from bank accounts. Regarding the launch of wholesale CBDCs, the numbers remained unchanged: nine central banks are ready to launch their own digital currency in the next five years.

Previously, BIS analysts said that stablecoins cannot be called a reliable way to store wealth, as they often lose their connection to fiat currencies. BIS recently noted that mass adoption of stablecoins is hampered by the lack of uniform regulatory rules across countries.