A$DC – First Australian dollar stablecoin minted by ANZ Bank
On March 24 2022, Australian media (Eyers, 2022) reported that ANZ Bank had created a stablecoin linked to the Australian dollar to reduce risk and improve transaction speed and cost for one of its clients to purchase digital assets.
This was a landmark transaction for the digital economy, as this is the first time an Australian bank has minted a digital asset linked to the value of the Australian dollar.
In this case, the ‘transaction’ was a proof of concept test case which involved ANZ minting a stablecoin, backed dollar for dollar by an AUD denominated deposit lodged with ANZ by its client, in a quarantined bank account. The stablecoin was then transferred to a digital currency exchange, and to a global digital asset custodian. A separate group provided anti-money laundering assurance for regulatory purposes and another group audited the capabilities of the coin and certified its existence on the blockchain and issuance to the highest security standards.
As this was a proof of concept, the client did not actually transact to purchase digital assets in this instance. The ‘transaction’ was unwound by reversing the process and ultimately ‘burning’ the stablecoin (i.e. removing it from the blockchain) and returning the customer’s fiat currency held in the quarantined ANZ bank account to them.
The next step to finalise prior to an actual transaction being facilitated is for the bank to arrange relevant licensing and ‘prove’ the process to exchange the AUD stablecoin for a USD denominated stablecoin to facilitate the purchase of digital assets by their client.
Potential for broader application
An interesting feature of ANZ’s stablecoin is that it is programmable for different use cases, such as execution and automation of different elements of smart contracts, making the scope for use in due course potentially limitless.
As an example, the bank is separately working on a use case that automates payment of excise duty to a digital wallet with the Australian Taxation Office when stock moves from a manufacturer to a wholesaler in a client’s supply chain.
A key element of the ANZ stablecoin is that it is issued by a regulated approved deposit-taking institution in Australia, which provides a layer of trust and gives clients confidence in the security standards surrounding issue and use of the coin. In the proof of concept transaction, the client’s fiat currency remained securely in the Australian banking system, while the stablecoin was utilised to move value through various elements of the transaction chain.
These types of transactions are only in the early stages of development in Australia, and accordingly are currently only potentially available to our largest institutional businesses. As the technology becomes more familiar over time, it is expected that they will become more mainstream and available to a wider range of users.
How can SW assist?
SW is working with a number of clients in the digital asset space in preparation for regulation of the sector in Australia following issue of the Bragg Report in October 2021 (Senate, 2021).
We anticipate that a licensing regime for the sector could be introduced as early as the end of 2022, and that it will include the establishment of capital adequacy requirements, auditing and responsible person tests, together with anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing regulation, in line with recommendations from the Report.
For advisory, tax or accounting assistance with your digital assets, reach out to your SW contact or the SW Digital Assets team to see how we can assist you.