The Bank of England announced yesterday that they have appointed a company called Accenture to act as the Technology Delivery Partner for the Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) Service Renewal Programme.
Accenture offer a wide range of strategy and consulting services. They are a known blockchain integrator who work with a number of ecosystems including R3, Hyperledger, Ethereum, and Ripple.
The Bank of England advise that the renewed system will be delivered in 2022 and it's upgrade is necessary as the "RTGS is a critical piece of national infrastructure and the backbone of UK payments. It settles an average of £685 billlion each working day."
According to Sulabh Agarwal, a managing director at Accenture who leads its global payments practice, “The RTGS Renewal Programme will enable the Bank of England to enhance its critical infrastructure in one of the most important initiatives for the U.K. payments system. The rise of digital and instant payments in recent years has dramatically changed the way we pay, reflecting changes in the needs of households and companies. The renewed system will enable financial institutions to access a more modern and secure payments platform which is fit for the future.”
While the official press release avoided any direct reference to any specific blockchain or Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) platform, news outlets such as Yahoo Finance were quick to name Ripple as the beneficiary.
Indeed, previous Bank of England trials with Ripple do suggest they are the leading contender to provide the payment rails for the RTGS.
In 2017, the Bank of England completed a proof of concept trial with Ripple where they successfully explored "...the synchronised movement of two different currencies in two different simulated Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) systems using the Interledger Protocol."
At the time, the Bank made it known that they thought DLT was "...not sufficiently mature to support the core RTGS system..." however they also plainly stated that "...the learnings from this exercise with Ripple have reinforced the Bank’s intention to ensure its new RTGS system is compatible with DLT usage in the private sector, and has highlighted areas where we would like to conduct more exploratory work."
Speaking prior to the trial in 2016, we find Victoria Cleland - who is the Executive Director for Banking, Payments and Innovation at the Bank of England - speculating on central bank digital currencies (CBDC) and whether "Could, and should CBDC be delivered using DLT..."
The latest announcement will undoubtedly spark further debate around the rollout of CBDCs and will probably eventually focus on the settlement layer that will be used to facilitate cross-border payments where national currencies - rather than true decentralised cryptocurrencies - are the means of payment... XRP bagholders have already placed their bets on the outcome.