April 22, 2020
TABLE OF CONTENTS
The Federal Reserve announced the development of a new interbank 24x7x365 real-time gross settlement service with integrated clearing functionality to support faster payments for financial services in the United States, to be called FedNowSM. This service would allow real-time clearing and settlement at the time of the transaction resulting in a real-time payment. This means an immediate transfer of funds from one bank (sender) to another bank (receiver).
This may sound familiar because The Clearing House (TCH) has a real-time payments (RTP) service already in the market today, which has been live since November 2017. TCH’s RTP service is gaining traction, announcing an increase in transaction value limit to $100,000 (versus $25,000) effective February 2020.
So why another service? The Federal Reserve pointed to the comments they received in response to their Request for Comment (RFC) from the market indicating the desire for a second option for real-time settlement in the U.S. One of the major pieces of feedback from the RFC responses was the concern that only one option would create economic security issues if the singular service were ever unavailable. For these reasons, among others, The Federal Reserve decided to move forward in creating its own solution and plans to go live with this solution by 2023 or 2024.
This may seem like a threat to TCH’s RTP offering; however, current automated clearing house (ACH) operations indicate those assumptions could be unfounded.
Both TCH and The Federal Reserve operate ACH services in the U.S. today, and essentially share the market, providing a benefit for all U.S. players as well as both TCH and The Federal Reserve. Real-time payment services could see the same result. TCH does have an incumbent advantage as its RTP service is already a couple of years ahead of the Federal Reserve’s offering, and will be 6-7 years ahead by the time FedNow is launched.
There may be a market for both services in the U.S.; however, financial institutions will have to weigh speed-to-market, considering FedNow still has 3-4 years before it’s available. Other factors will also come into play for each institution considering a real-time offering, such as:
One of the other major unanswered questions is that the FedNow service has not indicated a timeline for interoperability with TCH’s RTP offering but has said it will not be a priority for the initial launch. This will definitely affect market adoption and the drive for the ubiquity of real-time payments, which is incredibly important.
One of the biggest concerns that many institutions have with the Fed’s announcement is the expectation that it will significantly slow down the adoption of real-time payments. This will lead to significant fragmentation, as the end-consumer ultimately has to deal with the confusion over which, if any, RTP scheme is being used by the entity receiving the funds.
Until these systems are interoperable, there will be customer confusion. Also, now that the Fed’s plans are known, there will undoubtedly be many financial institutions waiting for the Fed, and thus not offering real-time payments to their customers for at least three years.
Given all of these factors, it will be interesting to see how each institution evaluates its decision on when and how they offer a real-time capability.
Learn more about real-time payments with Levvel’s 2021 Real-Time Payments Market Insight Report.
Senior Financial Services Consultant
Vice President, Strategy
Chris is a Senior Financial Services Consultant who works across a variety of companies and industries to create strategic payments advantages. He has over eight years of experience in managing emerging payments and digital platforms and served as a subject matter expert in tokenization, digital product management, real-time payments, Zelle, and open banking. Chris spent five years at BBVA Compass, most recently leading business-efforts in the launch of Google Pay and Samsung Pay, as well as managing their mobile wallet offering. The last three years have focused on tokenization, Zelle, and real-time payments strategies within organizations of different sizes and needs. He currently resides in Charlotte, NC with his wife and three children.
Greg is the Vice President of Strategy at Levvel where he is responsible for leading client engagements and building relationships with customers ranging from top-10 banks to payments enablers to start-ups. With over 15 years in financial services, Greg previously spent 7 years at Bank of America, most recently leading product & business teams in the launch of Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Samsung Pay. Prior to Bank of America, Greg held a variety of financial services roles at eSpeed / Cantor Fitzgerald and Reuters. Greg holds an M.B.A. from the Darden School at the University of Virginia and a B.S. from the College of William and Mary. He currently resides in Charlotte, NC with his wife and three children.
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