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April 1st seems to be a landmark date for UK financial regulation – in 2013, the first day of April saw the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority appear. This year the date also will have particular significance for the financial services sector, for the payments industry in particular.
The Payment Systems Regulator (PSR), the new economic regulator for payment systems, today confirmed how it will regulate the industry from 1 April 2015. It has also published a policy work programme setting out priorities for the year ahead.
The PSR’s aim is to make payment systems work well for the people and organisations that use them, and deliver greater choice, innovation and competition.
Payment systems let people pay a deposit on a house, withdraw money from a cash machine, transfer money via smartphone, receive salaries into bank accounts, and much more. They are vital to the UK’s financial system and process in the region of 21 billion transactions worth around £75 trillion a year.
Hannah Nixon, managing director of the PSR, commented:
“Today marks a new start for payment systems. Our approach will bring change to the industry, injecting competition and innovation where it is needed most, and will put the interests of the people and businesses that use payment systems front and centre.
“True, long lasting change will be difficult, but we have the powers and the people to make it happen. Our challenge now – the challenge we share with industry – is to work together to deliver it.”
Today’s publication confirms the three ‘pillars’ of the new PSR’s work:
- A new and inclusive strategy setting process that really involves users of these systems for the first time. This will be done by setting up a Payments Strategy Forum to develop a long term vision for how payment systems should develop and identify priority areas for the industry to work together where appropriate to deliver this vision;
- Increasing transparency around how decisions are made, and who is making them. We will shine a light on the control and governance of payment systems, challenge payment system operators to explain how they have listened to people and organisations that use payment systems, and check that operators are really taking payment systems in a direction that meets people’s needs; and
- Improving the way people and businesses gain access to a payment system – whether directly or indirectly – to be clearer and fairer and in a way that fosters innovative and competitive solutions for customers using payment systems.
As well as confirming its final policy, the PSR has published draft terms of reference for two market reviews and announced a card payment systems programme of work. The two market reviews will look at ownership and competitiveness of infrastructure provision; and the supply of indirect access to payment systems. This work will help the PSR gather important evidence to help it make robust decisions that make a real difference to those who use payment systems.
The PSR’s agenda complements work by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Competition and Markets Authority to deliver a more competitive banking industry in the best interests of consumers and the economy.
The new watchdog, whose upcoming launch was first announced in the spring of 2014, has been putting the final touches to its organization before the official start of operations. In January 2015, the regulator added three senior executives – Carole Begent, Mark Falcon and Louise Buckley to its ranks.