Central bank digital currencies have the potential to dramatically change the roles of fintechs and financial institutions, which is why some of those companies are competing to get involved early.

This week Ant Group, the company behind Alipay, became part of testing for China’s digital yuan, the central bank digital currency that’s closest to launch among large countries. And Swift this week issued a paper with Accenture, which has a bank consulting practice, that argues central bank digital currencies should use existing payment rails such as Swift to support international interoperability.

Swift plans to host a series of trials to gauge potential interactions with CBDCs that operate across borders. Swift, which did not return a request for comment, argues against reinventing the wheel.

“A lot of governments still have to make a decision on CBDCs, but if central banks in Europe or the U.S. were to move forward, there could be significant consequences for the banking system,” said Gwenn Bezard, a co-founder of Aite Group, adding there’s a difference between digital currencies designed for consumer use to make payments at retailers and a wholesale CBDC for interbank transactions.

“The roles of banks could be redefined or reduced with a retail CBDC,” Bezard said. “That’s one reason why the Fed is studying the CBDCs. The Fed is concerned about the impact on the banking system.”

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