ANZ Is The First Bank In Australia To Mint A Digital Currency

Australia’s ANZ Bank has become the country’s first major financial institution to produce and accept payment of a stablecoin tied to the country’s currency.

ANZ announced on Wednesday that it had successfully produced $30 million worth of its bank-backed A$DC stablecoin using an Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) compliant smart contract deployed through the Fireblocks platform.

The “in-house purpose-built” stablecoin smart contract was developed in collaboration with Fireblocks, Chainalysis, and OpenZeppelin. The coins were passed between the family office and the fund manager, according to ANZ, before being redeemed for cash.

This is the first time an Australian bank (ANZ) has attempted something like this in the country

Specifically, the bank acted on a request by Victor Smorgon Group — the late billionaire’s eponymous family office which was later settled into the office’s Ethereum wallet hosted atop custody infrastructure owned by digital asset fund manager Zerocap. The family office is a client of both the bank and Zerocap.

“In this particular transaction it was 20 minutes end to end, including minting,” said Zerocap’s CEO Ryan McCall. “We ran tests beforehand which took longer as we carefully moved through each step and I would expect future transactions to be even shorter once there is a tested, repeatable process in place.“

The move allowed the family office to avoid having to pay high conversion fees between the Australian dollar-backed stablecoin and Circle’s USDC — a US dollar-backed stablecoin that Zerocap uses to make trades on the group’s behalf.

Given blockchain’s quick settlement times, both parties were able to significantly reduce the risk of slower transaction speeds often associated with traditional finance.

“Stablecoins are a new way for customers to transact and in this case was an efficient and direct way for Victor Smorgon Group to access Zerocap’s digital asset exchange and move funds across a decentralized network,” said ANZ Banking Services Lead Nigel Dobson in the release.

Following years of fence-sitting, banks are now eager to get some skin in the game following a fundamental shift in policy for digital assets in Australia. Commonwealth Bank, Australia’s largest financial institution, began allowing customers the ability to purchase and trade cryptocurrency through its native app towards the end of last year.

Sophie Gilder, managing director of Blockchain and Digital Assets at Commbank, said Monday that the new asset class was “now mainstream” and that the app’s user uptake had been “overwhelmingly positive.”

Australia’s first bank-backed digital dollar was issued in response to Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s demand for the country to investigate a central bank digital currency.

The treasurer and the incumbent Liberal Party are betting that their sounding of the conch shell to crypto advocates across the country will be enough to save them from a predicted defeat in the approaching election in May.

Some debate if some of the world’s major institutions are truly decentralized, presenting alternatives to those currently offered by the private sector. Despite long-term concerns about the dollar backing of its reserves, USDT, or tether, has held up well. Its market valuation just topped $80 billion.

Still, those entering the crypto industry for the first time see the private issuance of stablecoins as a risk and prefer to defer to major institutions whose holdings, they say, can provide a more secure financial experience.

“If digital assets are going to become ubiquitous, consumers and institutions alike need safe rails, said McCall. “Take a look at Tether and the controversy surrounding that; would you rather transact in tether, or a bank-backed stablecoin?

“Also, decentralised systems aren’t going away; the future is multichain and the ecosystem will end up having substantial participation in both centralized and decentralized systems,” he said.

“The ideal outcome would be that investors can opt-in to whichever they choose.”

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