In conversation with Giorgio Andreoli, Director General, European Payments Council
Published: 7 November 2023
By May Moorwood
Digital Content Producer
Only a few days left until MoneyLIVE Payments Europe, and we’ve got another exclusive interview ready for you to enjoy. We spoke to Giorgio Andreoli, Director General at the European Payments Council, about his thoughts on the instant payments landscape right now. From the impact of real-time on the global payments value chain, to the OCT Inst Scheme for international instant cross-border payments and the increased adoption of instant payments: discover Giorgio’s view on today’s evolving instant payments landscape, and gain clarity on the potential challenges to come.
Reaching full instant payments potential: the EPC perspective
In May 2023, the European Central Bank registered that SEPA instant credit transfers in Euro accounted for around 14% of all conventional SEPA credit transfers – reporting a consensus that the full potential of instant payments had yet to be reached. So what does this full potential look like and what is it going to take to get us there? Giorgio gave us a run-down of what the roadmap looks like for instant payment regulation and development – and what we can expect to see when it comes to adoption across different geographies.
“SCT Inst, the European Payments Council’s (EPC) instant payments scheme, has been a major success for the EPC and the European Payment Service Providers (PSPs) industry, and even more so considering it has so far not been mandatory for banks. As of October 2023, there are almost 2,300 PSPs registered as SCT Inst adherents, corresponding to a 62% share of the European PSPs, i.e., banks, e-money institutions, and payment institutions. The share of Instant Payments volumes is growing steadily. We expect to see a further, strong boost in adoption and volumes when the new instant payment regulation is put in place. In fact, there is still a gap of more then 1,000 participants between the SEPA Credit Transfer (SCT) scheme, which has been made mandatory since 2014 by the SEPA end-date regulation, and the SCT Inst scheme which is not yet mandatory. These 1,000+ PSPs which have not yet implemented the EPC instant payments scheme are distributed in an uneven way – with a prevalence of smaller banks and banks in the non-Euro Area countries, for which the demand for cross-border transactions denominated in Euro is lower.”
With regulation soon coming into play and Giorgio’s forecast of resultant adoption and growth, it seems we will soon see instant payments take on a much bigger role in the global payments value chain. So– should we anticipate disruption, and how will instant payments work alongside other products?
“I don’t believe the global payments value chain will be disrupted by instant payments, as history demonstrates that when new payment products are being introduced in the market these usually don’t substitute the older ones but more often complement them. To this extent, we believe the standard Credit Transfer products will keep being used, for example in corporate payments, and in some B2E or B2G use cases. It is true, however, that instant payments are quite a radical innovation especially for merchants and individuals acting in a beneficiary role, allowing for 24x7x365 “instant” transactions. This innovation may enable new use cases and scenarios, e.g., in retail payments and international cross-border payments – both corporate and remittances. To give you an example, McKinsey predicts that as an effect of the new regulation, the percentage share of instant payments on total payment volumes in the Eurozone could transition from a mere 1.5% in 2022 to almost 8% in 2027, i.e., more than 400% increase in market share in 4 years, which in a mature market is a huge achievement.”
When new payment products are being introduced in the market these usually don’t substitute the older ones but more often complement them.
It’s exciting to hear about potential innovation when it comes to instant payments, but it’s equally important to consider what hurdles this growth might present for the industry. We asked Giorgio to talk us through one of the biggest challenges when it comes to instant – fraud and counter-fraud strategies – and to what extent ‘Confirmation of Payee’ as a response to instant payment-related fraud is sufficient.
“Instant payments are executed instantly and can be processed at any time, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Funds are debited from the payer account and made available on the payee account immediately. These characteristics of instant payments bring the challenge of a need for real-time, “always on”, and high-capacity fraud-detection systems. Once credited on a fraudster account (e.g. a “money mule”) the funds can move rapidly to another account outside the SEPA or be withdrawn in cash, therefore disappearing from the radar of anti-fraud tracking systems and competent authorities.
Confirmation of Payee can be a helpful tool in fraud prevention as it reduces the risk of sending money to unwanted, potentially fraudulent, beneficiaries at the early stage of an instant payment. Experience in other countries demonstrates that it is not a silver bullet against fraud such as Authorised Push Payment (APP) scams, however if well designed and implemented is a useful tool within a comprehensive risk-mitigation strategy. Other tools, such as information sharing agreements among PSPs may also be part of an effective fraud mitigation strategy, allowing suspicious IBANs to be shared among PSPs so that fraudulent money flows may be blocked.”
The fact that there is no “silver bullet” to solving instant payment-enabled fraud comes as no surprise in the ever-evolving financial crime landscape. But it does highlight the importance of staying on top of the challenges when it comes to ensuring that instant payments not only reach their potential but do so safely and successfully. This thought in mind, we were keen to hear about the OCT Inst Scheme as just one initiative supporting instant payments realisation, especially when it comes to cross-border payments and international transfers.
“The One-leg-Out Instant Credit Transfer (OCT Inst) scheme is the first non-SEPA scheme produced by the EPC, i.e. the first scheme that may also be used outside the SEPA. The objective of the scheme is to enable international cross-border account-to-account (A2A) (instant) transactions, between a “euro-leg” and a non-euro leg, i.e. a country usually outside the SEPA. This is a very relevant payments sector especially for corporates where the prevalent solutions have been largely proprietary, often based on the correspondent banking concept or some recent evolution of it. As a result, these payments usually take a sizeable amount of time (days); are expensive; and sometimes lack transparency. This is the reason why the G20, the Financial Stability Board (FSB) and other international institutions have been working to improve all these factors, setting quantitative targets and proposing possible approaches, sometimes involving the use of blockchain technologies.
At the EPC, we believe the best approach is to start from the relevant base of PSPs already supporting instant payments in the SEPA area and in other jurisdictions, and leveraging a scheme-based approach, i.e., an approach based on multilateral contractual agreements among participants. It’s relevant to note that such an inherently “multilateral” approach seems more fit with the current global context plagued by fragmentation and regional conflicts than centralised concepts.”
To bridge the gap between the evolving financial crime landscape and the safe realization of instant payments, initiatives like the OCT Inst Scheme offer a promising solution, facilitating international cross-border transactions with greater efficiency and transparency. But as instant payments expand the payments landscape for cross-border payments, bank settlements and the like, we also asked Giorgio to shine a spotlight on the future of retail payments in Europe. What still needs to be done for merchants to increase payments choice and lower costs?
“When talking about retail payments, in most European countries the main choice for consumers today is between using cash or using debit or credit cards at the Point of Interest (POI), both in-store and online. Mobile wallets have been growing rapidly in several European countries, but in most cases their usage especially for in-store payments, is still limited. It has to be noted, however, that in Europe the cost of retail payments for merchants is on average lower than other comparable countries, like in North America, as an effect of the active policy of the European Commission to limit the interchange fee, and the large use in Europe of debit cards.
In the next years we expect the choice of payment means at the POI to increase for consumers and merchants.
In the next years we expect the choice of payment means at the POI to increase for consumers and merchants, with a growing share of retail payments for local wallet initiatives, the commercial launch of new initiatives offering A2A instant payments at the POI, and potentially the introduction of the Digital Euro.”
It’s clearly an exciting time for instant payments, with a lot of change and growth on the horizon for PSPs, merchants and more. If you found Giorgio’s insights helpful, make sure to register your place at MoneyLIVE Payments Europe now, where Giorgio will be opening our day two plenary with his keynote address on ‘The future of payments in Europe’ – with 2 weeks to go, time is running out.
Register your place here
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Director General, European Payments Council