The digital currency company Ripple and a consortium of banks announced on Thursday a successful trial involving international payments that stands to reduce settlement costs by 60%, and spur further attempts to integrate new technology into the financial system.
The trial took place between San Francisco-based Ripple and R3, a financial innovation consortium backed by dozens of banks. The announcement on Thursday involved 12 of those banks, including Barclays (BCS) and BMO (BMO), which used Ripple’s currency known as XRP to provide liquidity for cross-border settlements.
Ordinarily, when a bank wishes to acquire currency in another bank in a different country, it relies on so-called “nostro accounts” in which the banks holds its foreign exchange assets such as British pounds or Japanese yen. It also involves paying the foreign bank in another currency, such as U.S. dollars, using a separate account. This process can be time-consuming and expensive as banks must find and acquire the requisite liquidity to settle the transactions.
That’s where Ripple comes in. The banks can use its digital currency, which can be acquired instantly, to expedite settlement liquidity. (It’s important to note that Ripple’s digital payment network, unlike bitcoin, does not only transmit its native digital currency, but can also be used to move traditional fiat currencies back and forth.)
“It’s not on a transaction by transaction basis—instead, it involves using XRP as backstop if there’s a shortage in a day,” says Nilesh Dusane, Ripple’s head of Global Sales. He adds that the availability of XRP as a backstop means banks need to tie up less capital for settlement purposes, and can instead deploy it for other purposes. Dusane tells Fortune it will also reduce the cost of using and maintaining nostro accounts by 60%.
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The Ripple-R3 trial, however, represent just that—a trial. In order to integrate this into day-to-day banking, the companies will have to persuade regulators to begin using XRP as part of their settlement operations.
Todd McDonald, one of the co-founders of R3, says he anticipates the approval process will go smoothly since both R3 and Ripple have been working closely with regulators as they develop their technology.
Neither company, though, would provide a specific date by which they expected to be using XRP as part of everyday settlement operations.
Unlike other recent innovations in the field of fin-tech, the Ripple-R3 cross-border trial does not center around blockchain technology, which is also used by both companies, but whose primary feature is on providing a secure ledger system. Instead, the announcement reflects the potential for integrating new digital currencies into the financial system.
The news of the cross-border payments trial comes one month after Ripple announced a $55 million Series B round led by SBI Holdings, and new investors including Standard Chartered, Accenture Ventures, and SCB Digital Ventures.