More Russian Banks Say They’ll Join Digital Ruble Pilot – CBDC Advances?

More Russian Banks Say They’ll Join Digital Ruble Pilot – CBDC Advances?

A one-ruble coin rests on Russian paper banknotes.
Source: Vladimir/Adobe

More Russian banks will join the digital ruble pilot, with Center-invest Bank, which mainly operates in the nation’s south, set to trial the CBDC next year.

Per Rostov Gazeta, Center-invest Bank has “signed a digital ruble [partnership] agreement with the [CBDC’s] operator, the Central Bank.”

The move will see the Rostov-on-Don-based bank join a “second group of banks” that will let clients use the coin in real-world scenarios.

A view of the city of Rostov-on-Don, Russia.
Rostov-on-Don, Russia. (Source: Alexxx1979 [CC BY-SA 4.0])

This group, the media outlet wrote, is now “preparing systems and protocols” to “test operations with the digital ruble.”

A “first batch” of Russian banks, including heavyweights like VTB, began piloting the coin with 600 of their clients and employees in 11 cities nationwide in August.

Since then, the Moscow Metro has begun accepting digital ruble payments.

The “first batch” of 13 banks also includes the likes of Rosbank.

But – crucially – the Cental Bank was dealt a blow when Sberbank pulled out just prior to the CBDC pilot launch.

Sberbank is arguably Russia’s biggest bank, and its parent company is one of the nation’s most powerful and lucrative firms.

There are currently no indications that Sberbank will request to join the second group of banks, with the financial institution remaining tight-lipped about its CBDC intentions.

The Center-Bank move is significant due to the bank’s nature.

A branch of the Russian bank Center-Bank in Volgograd, Russia.
A branch of the Russian bank Center-Bank in Volgograd, Russia. (Source: Redboston [CC BY-SA 4.0])

While Center-Bank is not strictly a regional bank, it is headquartered outside the Russian capital.

The financial institution caters mostly to Southern Russian customers and firms.

This could be an indication that Russia may look to follow the Chinese CBDC playbook.

In China, larger state-run banks were the first to join the digital yuan pilot, followed at a later date by regional banks.

The identity of the rest of the second batch of banks is still yet to be officially confirmed.

But the Central Bank has previously confirmed that this second group will join the pilot sometime in 2024, and will be comprised of 16 banks.

A senior Center-Bank executive stated:

“The introduction of a [Russian] digital currency is a qualitative shift in the field of global payments. By taking part in the digital ruble pilot, we will get the opportunity to be one of the first banks to experience all the advantages of using digital currencies.”

The executive added:

“[Joining the pilot] will help us [improve] our future payment infrastructure and offer our clients new products and services.”

The bank was founded in 1992 by a group of then-recently privatized Southern Russian companies.

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