The next stage real-time evolution is here

The next stage real-time evolution is here

By Dome Scaffidi, Senior Principal Solution Consultant, Immediate Payments, ACI Worldwide

Fragmentation resulting from multiple Pan European Immediate Payments schemes is a challenge but solutions exist  

We are facing a proliferation of Pan EU Instant Payment Services in Europe. Most industry players and experts are aware of the dangers of fragmentation and the reasons why this issue needs to be addressed. Even though the new schemes are Pan European, the problem lies in getting them all to communicate and connect with one another.

When the of Centre of Professionals asked me to speak at Payments Forum 2018, I decided to focus on Liquidity Risk, leveraging TTP’s and avoiding potential fragmentation that will arise from the various Pan European SEPA Instant schemes.

Financial institutions who are interested in expanding their business into other markets and regions have a big analysis piece to undertake to understand which IP service guarantees the highest reachability before any major decisions can be taken. We also need to be aware that in most cases there is the need to join more than one IP service to get maximum coverage. However, identifying which service to join is just the ‘tip of the iceberg’, the next step consists in conducting an analysis of the “rules of the game” for each service. This is the real challenge, even though all Pan EU Instant services are compliant with the SCT-INST rulebook, financial institutions should consider other aspects like local regulation, sanction screening, multiple currencies, and one of the most troublesome aspects – the liquidity layer. The liquidity layer is not covered by the rulebook, but instead is regulated by the different CSM mechanisms.

Liquidity in the Real-Time Era

Ensuring you have control of your liquidity in the real-time world is of paramount importance and is an essential element of implementing real-time payment solutions. There is a direct link between the fragmentation of Pan EU instant services and the liquidity, in fact most of these services require their own technical settlement account. Indeed, this absence of a centralised LQ position means that treasurers must spread the liquidity across several accounts, risking being able to achieve the RTGS minimum reserve requirements and making it near impossible to be compliant with the BASIL III intraday liquidity principles. If that wasn’t bad enough, the treasurer’s ‘bread & butter’ of generating interest on funds held is hampered by having to place funds in multiple non-interest bearing accounts. However, there is a solution.

TIPS, The ECB initiative – A Hero Solution

SEPA & SEPA Inst have many of the same characteristics, including fragmentation across its services. The difference is those knights in shining armour – the European Central Bank. Often perceived to be more of a hindrance than a help, they have a clear strategy to dispel this reputation. This comes in the form of creating a solution that supports financial institutions by helping them be more efficient and competitive through offering new services based on the new real-time business model.

How can TIPS help?

TIPS is a new solution launching in November 2018 across Europe. This is incidentally exactly one year on from the SEPA Inst launch that coincided with Il Salone Dei Pagamenti in 2017. The key liquidity benefit is being able to concentrate all Technical Settlement accounts in one Dedicated Target2 account named TIPS. This enables treasurers to consolidate their liquidity, still be part and under the jurisdiction of Target 2 and be subject to the RTGS minimum reserve requirements. Another benefit is related to the nightmare of providing forecasts for 24/7/365 real-time payments because the scheme operates outside traditional working hours (night time, bank-holidays, weekends). This poses a liquidity dilemma because it is difficult to reserve the right quantity of funds to settle immediate payments and invest the rest. This problem is reduced with TIPS because apart from the Traget2 Security settlement, there is nothing to settle when traditional Target2 is offline, a financial institution can simply reserve all their liquidity for TIPS in one consolidated account. This reduces fragmentation and gives the treasurer more leeway, whilst enabling them to still control limits, set CAPS and benefit from all the services TIPS provides.  The key is to start implementing TIPS now so that you are prepared for the November launch. You can do this by using solutions that are already compatible with TIPS such as ACI’s solutions. It is important for innovative banks to ACT NOW, as it takes at least 6 months for integration to TIPs internally.

From adoption to innovation – Transitioning from an old banking legacy system which is heavily siloed

The recipe for success lies in finding the right ingredients for modernisation. Anytime we are faced by changes in regulation or requests from our colleagues it always seems frustratingly to be urgent – this could be due to specific deadlines internally or industry wide. We are also often under pressure because of limited budget or a fight for fund allocation from other parts of the business. This frequently results in decisions being taken with a short-term solution in mind– the infamous Elastoplast or Band-Aid solution depending on your geography. A bank will often use their 40-year-old legacy system to solve the problem to save time and reduce costs. However, this short-term strategy does not prepare the bank for the fast pace that real-time and payments as-a-whole is setting. Banks need to take a long-term view and invest in a solution that allows them to fulfil any internal request or market expectation now and in the future.

According to a new White Paper ACI is going to launch in April in collaboration with KPMG, use of straight-through processing (STP) to streamline processes and minimise costs is one of the fundamental initiatives that a Financial Institutions should undertake to decommission inefficient payment systems, reconcile disparate infrastructure, promote automation in back office processes and replace high unit-cost options such as checks and cash with efficient, low-cost real-time payments.

It is time for financial institutions to stop being so short-sighted and stand up for taking a long-term view on becoming more and more dynamic where new upgraded applications/solutions are needed. There is only one option to deal with this – a sustainable solution, able to be quickly integrated with your Bank’s legacy system, that allows a gradual and progressive system modernisation, breaking down silos that have characterised your Bank’s core-system for 40 years. I accept that some banks chose a tactical implementation of real-time a few years ago because they were unsure of volumes and how much in demand real-time would be for their customers. However, we now know that your customers want everything ‘NOW’ and that 40% of consumers and 74% of SMEs in Europe will actively switch banks if they aren’t offered real-time payments. Banks need to implement real-time payments strategically, so they offer the speed, convenience and innovation that their customers demand and this will also open-up new revenue streams through added services supplied by TTPs.


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