Ripple’s push to become a global value transfer solution has recorded a significant boost with news that the Saudi British Bank (SABB) has joined the Ripplenet under an ongoing Saudi central bank pilot program. The program which began in 2018 aims to examine the feasibility of blockchain technology as a reliable solution for cross-border payments and remittances.
Based in Riyadh, SABB is a prominent Saudi bank with a significant minority shareholding owned by HSBC Holdings PLC. Though the bank itself is yet to issue an official statement confirming the partnership with Ripple, a statement credited to Ghada Al Jarbou, SABB Head of Global Liquidity and Cash Management on January 22 appears to confirm that the Ripplenet integration went live at the end of December 2018.
Behind the scenes, Hints From SABB and Ripple
It will be recalled that on October 23, Ripple’s South Asia and MENA Managing Director Navin Gupta posted a tweet alluding to a payments technology collaboration between Ripple and SABB, though no further information was forthcoming for some time.
— Navin Gupta (@navinblockchain) October 23, 2018
Earlier this month, however, an unknown Twitter user “@BankXRP” posted a screenshot of a quietly-released report published by SABB’s minority shareholder HSBC published on January 22. The report, titled “Blazing a transformation trail: Saudi Arabia’s new digital frontier” explicitly named SABB as one of three Saudi banks tapped by the country’s central bank to test Ripplenet integration for the purpose of trialling a blockchain-based cross-border settlements solution.
The report also named Al-Jarbou as the source for this information, adding that the integration went live at the end of December and is currently ongoing. It further named the other two banks involved in the Saudi Ripplenet trial as the National Commercial Bank of Saudi Arabia (NCB) and Al Rajhi Bank (ARB).
It will be recalled that in February 2018, Coingape reported that Ripple went into a partnership with the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) to enable Saudi banks explore blockchain-based cross-border payments and potentially save up to $400 million in the process when compared to current transfer methods.
While the partnership expressly ruled out the prospect of hasty or immediate nationwide adoption of Ripple or other blockchain technology solutions pending the completion of an observation period, Saudi banks are understood to be bullish on the potential outcome of the project. They stand to save an estimated 50 percent of their current remittance costs, which in addition to boosting their profitability is also expected to improve their customer numbers and transaction volumes.
For now, though, Saudi Arabia remains generally cautious on cryptocurrency, and crypto trading is considered illegal in the country.