Voice of the Industry

Europe can reform the payments industry by unlocking the full potential of Open Banking and Instant Payments

Thursday 12 December 2019 09:30 CET | Author Oana Ifrim | Voice of the industry

Michael Steinbach, CEO equensWorldline: To make the most of the combination of Open Banking and Instant Payments, we need to make Instant Payments the new normal

As you might know, the European payments market has been reformed several times in the recent past by non-European players. This situation has had a detrimental effect on European financial institutions, as they lost market share because they were insufficiently aware of customers' need for cross-border solutions. 

This is the reason that the current European point-of-sale market is dominated by Mastercard and Visa, while PayPal leads the ecommerce market, leaving domestic banking solutions behind. Meanwhile, we see that non-bank players like WeChat and Alipay are producing pan-European mobile payment solutions. They can be seen as a new threat to the banking sector. 

Boost European financial institutions

The European Central Bank (ECB) has previously expressed its concern about the fact that there are no European companies competing in the battle for global payment solutions. This is badly needed if we, as a continent, do not want to rely on non-European payment providers. With user-friendly pan-European payment solutions, we can guarantee the integrity of payment services and besides that, it also gives an economic boost to European financial institutions. 

The dependence on non-European payment solutions can come to an end, however, now that we have the solutions to reform the structure of the European payment sector in European favour. I am talking about the winning combination of Open Banking and Instant Payments. Instant Payments are capable of unlocking the full potential of Open Banking by speeding up the development of new user-friendly payment solutions that turn European financial players into strong global competitors again.

The new normal

To do so, banks need to add Instant Payments as an extra layer to their infrastructure. The new functionalities and services built on this layer generate an abundance of real-time customer data. Data that can be used directly for better and personalised domestic and cross-border services created by banks and third parties in the era of Open Banking and PSD2. 

When it comes to Instant Payments, the added value is increasingly recognized worldwide, as demonstrated by implementation initiatives in the Netherlands and the Nordics. However, the adoption rate varies from bank to bank and country to country. Some banks position Instant Payments as a premium product of which customers have to pay extra, in other places this payment method is only used for local P2P solutions. Some of the banks in Europe focus on EBA Clearing's pan-European system for instant payments (RT1) or ECB’s TARGET Instant Payment Settlement (TIPS), while others opt for a community solution such as what is implemented in Spain, France and Belgium. Instant Payments are approached in different ways, which makes it difficult to position it as the new normal.

Focus on pan-European solutions 

To make the most of the combination of Open Banking and Instant Payments, we need to make Instant Payments the new normal. How? The answer lies within European collaboration and standardisation.

If it comes to standardisation, it is important that everyone use Instant Payments in the same way, so financial players should standardise their Instant Payments-infrastructure. This can only be done when banks seek for European collaboration and focus their efforts on pan-European solutions. Although banks in Europe operate mainly locally, their customers are increasingly looking for cross-border solutions. Retail and wholesale customers often pay across borders, for example for holidays, ecommerce or cross-border trade. Customers will switch to another payment solution provider if local or regional banks do not meet these needs. Payment functionalities that are only locally oriented will not be sustainable.

Standardised pan-European infrastructure

This does not mean that banks cannot initially focus on domestic market adoption within communities, as each community has its own wishes, habits and ambition. However, when developing domestic solutions involving Instant Payments, attention should always be paid to a standardised pan-European infrastructure with interoperable features so that it is possible to connect the communities later with which we can easily fulfil pan-European reach. This way, we don't make the mistake again of only creating local communities that can only be partially connected at a later stage.

When the full cross-border potential of Open Banking and Instant Payments is unlocked I am convinced that we will add extra value for merchants, corporates and consumers at a high pace. The big winners will be both European financial players and European customers.

About Michael Steinbach 

Michael Steinbach (1961) has been CEO of this company since 1 January 2012. Prior to this, he held the position of Chairman of this company Board of Directors as from 1 May 2007. Before he was appointed Chairman, he was Deputy Chairman, a position he held from the incorporation of this company on 30 November 2006. From July 2003, Michael was spokesman of the Board of Directors of Transaktionsinstitut für Zahlungsverkehrsdienstleistungen. During his career, Michael has gained extensive payments expertise. He is a member of many national and international payment committees.

About equensWorldline 

equensWorldline is the pan-European leader in payments and transactional services. Being part of the Worldline Group, we combine long-standing proven expertise in traditional mass payment systems and innovative ecommerce and mobile payment solutions. With more than 50 years of experience we service a broad, international client base in numerous countries across Europe.


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Keywords: Michael Steinbach, CEO equensWorldline, instant payments, Open Banking, Europe, standardisation, interoperability, ecommerce
Categories: Banking & Fintech | Payments General
Countries: Europe
This article is part of category

Banking & Fintech