Payment and settlement

The Bank of England acts as a settlement agent to enable financial institutions to make payments to each other. The Bank also operates CHAPS - the UK's high value payment system.

Payments are essential to the UK’s economy. Most payments are made through payment systems. We have been acting as a settlement agent for payment systems since the nineteenth century. We are currently in the definition phase of a renewal programme to deliver the next generation of our settlement service, which supports our role as settlement agent.

Find out more about what payment systems are and how they work:

Payment Systems Regulator

What is a payment system?

Payment systems are a set of common rules and procedures, which support the transfer of funds between people, businesses and financial institutions. Most payment systems are managed by operators, and supported by one or more infrastructure providers of hardware, software, and communication networks. Some financial institutions have direct access to each payment system and provide payment services to their customers.

Why is a settlement agent necessary?

Not all accounts are held at the same payment service provider, so when a customer makes a payment to a business that has an account with a different provider, the customer’s provider owes the business’s provider the value of the payment. This creates a level of risk, so a payment system requires an intermediary, known as a settlement agent, to use for the final settlement of funds between providers. 

Banks and other institutions can hold accounts with us, which are used to settle money moved between them. We provide these accounts to support our mission of maintaining monetary and financial stability. There is a financial stability advantage for a settlement agent being a central bank like the Bank of England. As we are financially supported by the Government, this removes the risk of account holders losing money held in, or moved between, accounts held with us.

The real-time gross settlement service

We operate the real-time gross settlement (RTGS) service, infrastructure that holds accounts for banks, building societies and other institutions. The balances in these accounts can be used to move money in real time between these account holders. This delivers final and risk-free settlement.

PDFThe Bank's RTGS infrastructure

Governance of RTGS and CHAPS

The Bank has dedicated governance arrangements for the RTGS and CHAPS Services.   The RTGS/CHAPS Board provides strategic leadership for the RTGS and CHAPS Services, including the RTGS Renewal programme.

The Board has ten members:

  • Chair: Dave Ramsden,  Deputy Governor for Markets and Banking, and Senior Manager responsible for the implementation of strategic changes and the day-to-day operation of the RTGS and CHAPS Services under the Bank’s internal application of the Senior Managers Regime
  • Andrew Hauser, Executive Director for Banking, Payments and Financial Resilience
  • Michael Jones, Head of Market Services (the area that operates RTGS and CHAPS)
  • Rob Elsey, Chief Information Officer
  • Chris Salmon, Executive Director for Markets
  • Charlotte Gerken, Director for Supervisory Risk Specialists
  • Sandra ‘Sandy’ Boss (independent member)

The remaining three independent members are in the process of being appointed, which is expected to conclude by end-2017

PDFInternal application to the Senior Managers Regime

RTGS and CHAPS risk assessment

In October 2017, we published our second self-assessment of the real-time gross settlement (RTGS) service against the CPMI-IOSCO Principles for Financial Market Infrastructures, with point of assessment 30 June 2017. These are internationally agreed standards considered essential to strengthening and preserving financial stability.

While the RTGS service is not a payment system or a financial market infrastructure, we have undertaken the assessment mostly against the principles that apply to payment systems. We have also considered the CPMI-IOSCO guidance on how the principles apply to financial market infrastructures operated by central banks.

This year we judged that of the sixteen principles which apply to RTGS, we ‘observe’ fourteen and ‘broadly observe’ the other two (governance, and risk management). While the ratings are the same as the 2016 self-assessment, there has been considerable progress made across both governance and risk management between the two self-assessments. 

The self-assessment is completed in our role as operator of the RTGS service and not in our capacity as supervisor of financial market infrastructures or banks. We plan to update broadly annually.

CHAPS Co, the previous operator of the CHAPS system, also completed self-assessments against the PFMIs.

PDF Self-assessment of RTGS - October 2017

PDFRTGS service description

PDFPublic disclosure and self-assessment of CHAPS by CHAPS Co (2017)

PDFSelf-assessment of RTGS - July 2016

Resilience of the RTGS service

The RTGS service needs to be extremely operationally reliable to support final settlement between accounts that providers hold with us. The service is managed within a clear governance framework. This covers strategy, delivery and risk management.

Changes to the RTGS service are carefully considered and tested, because of the potential for impact on our mission of maintaining monetary and financial stability. We engage on potential changes with account holders and the operators of the payment systems that settle in RTGS.

The RTGS service operates on fault-tolerant computer hardware which is replicated on a second site. The business operation is conducted on a split site basis. We have the option of using a third site and alternative technology in the form of SWIFT’s ‘Market Infrastructure Resiliency Service’.

PDFEnhancing the resilience of the Bank's RTGS infrastructure

RTGS service statistics

We publish monthly updates on the availability of our real-time gross settlement (RTGS) service and the volume and values of transactions.

Average daily RTGS settlement volumes and values

Q4 2016 Q1 2017 Q2 2017 Q3 2017 YTD
CHAPS values (£mn) £312,106 £313,515 £338,736 £334,430 £328,737
CHAPS volumes
157,542 155,852 165,647 159,284 160,176
CREST DvP values (£mn) £234,179 £252,560 £269,405 £276,443 £266,084
CREST DvP volumes 12,466 12,571 12,449 11,547 12,185
FPS net values (£mn) £686 £781 £761
£764 £769
Bacs net values (£mn) £3,081 £3,101 £3,442 £3,275 £3,270
C&CC net values (£mn) £141 £162 £142 £127 £144
Link net values (£mn) £333 £299 £341 £325 £321
Visa Europe net values (£mn) £1,610 £1,594 £1,741 £1,668 £1,666

Free industry statistics

Link statistics

The UK Cards Association facts and figures

RTGS service availability statistics

Service availability  Jan
2017 
Feb
2017 
Mar
2017 
 Apr
2017
May
2017
 Jun
2017
Jul
2017 
Aug
2017 
Sep
2017 
Oct 
2017 
 Nov
2017
 Dec
2017

1. RTGS infrastructure for ‘urgent’ CHAPS settlement

 100%  100%  99.76%  100%  100%  100%  100%  100%  100% 100%
   
2. RTGS infrastructure for ‘non-urgent’ CHAPS settlement  100%  100%  99.64%  100%  100%  100%  100% 99.92%  100% 100%
   
3. Ability of RTGS and the RTGS-CREST link to support settlement in CREST  100%  100%  100%  100%  100%  100%  100%  100%  100%  100%    
4. Delays to net settlement of retail payment systems (minutes)  0  0  0  0  0  0  0  0  0  0    
5. RTGS Enquiry Link  100%  100%  100%  100%  100%  99.67%  100% 100%   100%  100%    



PDFSummary of RTGS daily timetable

Service disruptions

On 4 August 2017, ’non-urgent’ CHAPS settlement was unavailable for 12 minutes from 06:07, due to a minor issue with some of the Bank’s connections to the SWIFT network.  Non-urgent CHAPS settlement resumed at 06:19.  Settlement of urgent CHAPS payments was unaffected.  All other RTGS services were unaffected.

On 5 June 2017, the RTGS Enquiry Link was unavailable for external users between 5.05am and 6.06pm due to a minor internal issue. CHAPS payment processing and CREST settlement were unaffected.

On 13 March 2017, infrastructure for urgent CHAPS settlement and non-urgent CHAPS settlement was unavailable from 2.30pm, due to a SWIFT network issue. Urgent settlement was resumed after 40 minutes at 3.10pm. Non-urgent settlement was resumed after 60 minutes at 3.30pm. All other services were unaffected.

  • Previous years

    Average daily historical RTGS settlement volumes and values

    2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
    CHAPS values (£mn) £254,489 £284,591 £277,229 £268,615 £270,400 £298,710
    CHAPS volumes
    135,555 134,665 138,245 144,353 148,412 154,006
    CREST DvP values (£mn)
    £322,118 £293,293 £303,717 £274,257 £240,480 £220,970
    CREST DvP volumes
    6,859 7,325 8,388 9,050 9,391 10,883
    FPS net values (£mn)
    £188 £502 £586 £606 £663 £677
    Bacs net values(£mn) £3,269 £3,190 £3,071 £3,122 £3,159 £3,193
    C&CC net values (£mn) £220 £232 £211 £196 £190 £156
    Link net values (£mn) £216 £235 £249 £271 £294 £315
    Visa Europe net values (£mn) N/A N/A £1,144 £1,149 £1,425 £1,531
    • All data are daily averages of transactions settled within the RTGS system.
    • CREST DvP activity in RTGS is measured by the debits applied to CREST settlement accounts at the end of each CREST settlement cycle, not the total volume or value of transactions in CREST itself.
    • Retail payment system (FPS, Bacs, C&CC, Link, Visa Europe) values represent the net interbank value of each system’s settlement across RTGS. Net interbank settlement for retail payment systems takes place within defined clearing cycles at specific points during the RTGS operating day. Therefore, no volumes data is available.
    • Visa Europe began settling net interbank obligations across RTGS in November 2013.

     

    Historical RTGS service availability

    Service availability  Jan
    2016 
    Feb
    2016 
    Mar
    2016 
     Apr
    2016
    May
    2016
     Jun
    2016
    Jul
    2016 
    Aug
    2016 
    Sep
    2016 
    Oct 
    2016 
     Nov
    2016
     Dec
    2016

    1. RTGS infrastructure for ‘urgent’ CHAPS settlement

     100%  100%  100%  100%  100%  100%  100%  100%  100%  100%  100%  100%
    2. RTGS infrastructure for ‘non-urgent’ CHAPS settlement  100%  100%  100%  100%  100%  100%  100%  100% 100%   100%  100%  100%
    3. Ability of RTGS and the RTGS-CREST link to support settlement in CREST  100%  100%  99.89%  100%  100%  100%  100%  100%  100%  100%  100%  100%
    4. Delays to net settlement of retail payment systems (minutes)  0  0  0  0  0  0  0  0  0  0  0  0
    5. RTGS Enquiry Link  100%  100%  100%  100%  100%  100%  100% 100%   100%  100%  100%  100%

     

    Service availability  Jan
    2015 
    Feb
    2015 
    Mar
    2015 
     Apr
    2015
    May
    2015
     Jun
    2015
    Jul
    2015 
    Aug
    2015 
    Sep
    2015 
    Oct 
    2015 
     Nov
    2015
     Dec
    2015

    1. RTGS infrastructure for ‘urgent’ CHAPS settlement

     100%  100%  100%  100%  100%  100%  100%  100%  100%  100%  100%  100%
    2. RTGS infrastructure for ‘non-urgent’ CHAPS settlement 99.60%  100%  100%  100%  100%  100%  100%  100%  100%  100%  100%  100%
    3. Ability of RTGS and the RTGS-CREST link to support settlement in CREST  100%  100%  100%  100%  100%  99.58%  100%  100%  100%  100%  100%  100%
    4. Delays to net settlement of retail payment systems (minutes)  0  0  0  0  0  0  0  0  0  0  0  0
    5. RTGS Enquiry Link  100%  100%  100%  100%  100%  100%  100% 100%   100%  100%  100%  99.64

    Service disruptions

    On 8 March 2016, from 12.57pm the link between RTGS and CREST was unavailable for three minutes. This caused a 15-minute period between 12.57pm to 1.12pm when CREST settlement was interrupted. At 1.12pm, CREST settlement was re-established.

    On 17 December 2015, RTGS Enquiry Link functionality was unavailable to some RTGS users for 56 minutes between 11.29am and 12.25pm due to a SWIFT network issue. CHAPS payment processing and CREST settlement were unaffected.

    On 12 June 2015, from 12.15pm the link between RTGS and CREST was unavailable. There was a 61-minute period between 12.15pm and 1.16pm when CREST settlement was interrupted. At 1.16pm, CREST settlement was restarted using contingency procedures.

    On 21 January 2015, there was a 52-minute period between 9.41am and 10.33am where RTGS suspended settlement of non-urgent CHAPS payments. Settlement of urgent payments continued unaffected. At 10.33am settlement of non-urgent payments restarted. 

  • Explanation of services

    RTGS settles individual payments in CHAPS, the same-day electronic funds transfer service for high-value sterling payments.

    CHAPS direct participants can choose:

    1. To settle payments immediately (subject to available liquidity) as ‘urgent’ CHAPS payments or

    2. To accept some delay in settlement to improve liquidity efficiency and submit them as ‘non-urgent’ CHAPS payments.

    The choice of which CHAPS settlement service to use is entirely at the discretion of the participant. Participants may choose to reschedule individual CHAPS payments from non-urgent to urgent, and vice versa, until the point of settlement. On average, non-urgent payments settle around eight minutes after submission into RTGS. The processes in the RTGS infrastructure to support these two CHAPS services are run in parallel and the availability of each is reported separately.

    3. Ability of RTGS and the RTGS-CREST link to support settlement in CREST

    These functions are required to facilitate transfers of central bank money, arising from securities transactions between CREST participants, across the accounts held by CREST settlement banks at the Bank of England. This relies on technical links between the Bank’s RTGS infrastructure and the CREST infrastructure, operated by Euroclear. A period when CREST settlement is unavailable due to an incident with RTGS or the RTGS-CREST link to support settlement in CREST is recorded. However, CREST settlement can continue to operate even if RTGS is unavailable, by using contingency procedures.

    4. Net interbank settlement of retail payment systems

    Five sterling retail payment systems (Bacs, Cheque and Credit Clearing, FPS, LINK, Visa Europe) settle their net obligations, arising from customer transactions, at defined points in time during the RTGS settlement day. A delay to the execution of these net settlements that results from an RTGS incident is recorded. RTGS does not provide the infrastructure for the exchange (or ‘clearing’) of individual payment instructions in these payment systems, so the availability of that system to its end-users is not dependent on RTGS availability.

    5. RTGS Enquiry Link is the online graphical user interface (GUI) that holders of a reserves or settlement account use to manage their accounts. CHAPS participants also use this GUI for CHAPS payment queue management (the ‘central scheduler’). Any period where it is not available during the RTGS settlement day is recorded.

    Until 17 June 2016, the CHAPS settlement day was 6am to 4.20pm.

Settlement services

We currently support four settlement models: real-time gross settlement, delivery versus payment (DvP), and prefunded and unfunded models for deferred net settlement.

We provide settlement services for the CHAPS payment system, the payment system embedded within the CREST securities settlement system and a number of retail payment systems that settle on a net basis. Each system determines its own access criteria as well as the number and duration of any settlement cycles.

Final sterling settlement for CLS, a foreign exchange settlement system that eliminates settlement risk in participating currencies, is carried out through CLS’s direct participation in CHAPS.

Payments under our Note Circulation Scheme (NCS) are also settled in our RTGS service. NCS allows its members – wholesale cash operators – to hold notes in custody for us within their network of cash centres.

Real-time gross settlement

This model is currently only used by CHAPS. 

CHAPS is a sterling same-day system that is used to settle high-value wholesale payments as well as time-critical, lower-value payments like buying or paying a deposit on a property. Responsibility for the CHAPS system transferred to the Bank of England in November 2017. Read more about this in our CHAPS section and in the blueprint for a new RTGS service.

Direct participants in CHAPS include the traditional high-street banks and a number of international and custody banks. Many more financial institutions access the system indirectly and make their payments via direct participants. This is known as agency or correspondent banking.

Payment obligations between settlement participants are settled individually on a gross basis in RTGS throughout the business day.

Settlement risk is eliminated, at the cost of an increased need for liquidity, making this model best suited to a high-value payment system with the largest potential systemic risk. We support settlement of CHAPS payments by providing secured intraday liquidity to the direct participants. We also make a liquidity saving tool available to help reduce intraday liquidity needs for CHAPS settlement.

PDFHow has the liquidity saving mechanism reduced banks' intraday liquidity costs in CHAPS?

Delivery versus payment (DvP)

This model is currently only used to support final settlement in CREST. CREST is used to settle transactions for UK securities (gilts, equities and money market instruments). It is operated by EUI.

Sterling settlement in CREST takes place in a series of very high-frequency cycles throughout the day. After each cycle, we are advised of the debits and credits to be made to the CREST settlement banks’ accounts in our RTGS service. We support settlement in CREST by providing intraday liquidity to the CREST settlement banks (a process known as auto-collateralisation). Settlement risk is eliminated as transactions are settled with finality in real time against segregated liquidity.

Deferred net settlement

Accounts in RTGS are used to settle the net obligations arising from customer transactions for the main sterling retail payment systems: Bacs, Cheque & Credit, Faster Payments, LINK and Visa Europe.

  • Bacs
    Bacs processes direct debits (for example utility bills) and direct credits (for example salaries and benefits) across a three-day cycle. Net settlement takes place in the RTGS service once a business day.
  • Faster Payments Service
    The Faster Payments Service provides near real-time payments 24/7. It is used for standing orders, internet and telephone banking payments. Net settlement takes place three times each business day in the RTGS system.
  • Cheque & Credit Clearing Company
    The Cheque & Credit Clearing Company settles cheques and paper credits between financial institutions in the RTGS system on a three-day cycle. The new image-based clearing system will be prefunded when it launches in October 2017.
  • LINK
    LINK is the UK’s ATM network, which settles in 24-hour cycles. Cycles that take place over weekends and public holidays all settle on a net basis in the RTGS system the following business day.
  • Visa Europe
    Visa Europe is one of the card systems that settles in 24-hour cycles. Cycles that take place over weekends and public holidays all settle on a net basis in the RTGS system the following business day.

How does deferred net settlement work?

Each of these systems settles on a multilateral, deferred net basis. Under the deferred net settlement model, details of customer payments are first exchanged between banks in batches or individually. RTGS does not need to be open for this exchange of customer payments. Some payments are already available to customers 24/7, such as Faster Payments and card payments. Processing customer payments occurs in other infrastructure, outside RTGS.

In the periods between settlement cycles, potential settlement risk can therefore arise between settlement members. Final settlement of the resulting net movements takes place in the RTGS system once or more each business day, depending on the payment system.

Prefunded deferred net settlement: Prefunding eliminates settlement risk in systems that use it by capping the maximum net obligations of settlement members in that system. Settlement members must hold funds in a cash collateral account in RTGS equal to that cap. If a settlement member defaults, the cash set aside can be used to complete settlement. This eliminates credit risk between settlement members.

Deferred net settlement: This is periodic batch settlement between settlement members on a multilateral net basis. A feature of this model is that settlement risk exists in these payment systems, mitigated by arrangements in the individual systems.

Accessing and using reserves and settlement accounts

Banks and other financial institutions can hold accounts in our real-time gross settlement system (RTGS) for holding reserves or settling net obligations from payment systems. Non-bank payment service providers can hold settlement accounts in the RTGS system. Further information is available on direct and indirect access to the CHAPS system

PDFSettlement accounts policy

PDFAccess for non-bank payment service providers

Reserves accounts

Reserves accounts are effectively sterling current accounts for participants in the Sterling Monetary Framework.

Reserves account holders must be banks or building societies that are authorised to take deposits in the UK, investment firms authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority, or central counterparties.

Settlement accounts

Settlement accounts can be used to settle obligations that arise from participating in payments systems in central bank money. Reserves accounts can also be used as settlement accounts.

To be eligible for a settlement account, a firm must hold a reserves account or be a financial market infrastructure or an e-money or payment institution authorised in the UK by the Financial Conduct Authority. They must also meet the criteria for settlement participation in the relevant payment systems.

Cash collateral accounts

We have created special accounts for direct settlement participants to hold funds to cover the maximum possible net debit positions they could reach in certain retail payment systems.

For institutions that hold a reserves account, these balances form part of their overall reserves balance and are remunerated at the same rate. Cash collateral accounts are also available to non-bank payment service providers.

If a participant defaults, the cash set aside can be used to complete settlement. This eliminates credit risk between direct participants.

These accounts are provided to direct settlement participants in Bacs and the Faster Payments Service and, from October 2017, the Image Clearing System for cheques.

Requirements for use of RTGS accounts

Holders of RTGS accounts must enter into Terms and Conditions. Annexes cover particular purposes for which the account is used.
Agreements are also in place with the operators of payment systems that settle in RTGS.

Account holders can use an online system to manage accounts in RTGS and their CHAPS payment queues. A detailed RTGS reference manual is available for RTGS account holders.

OtherRTGS account terms and conditions (plus annexes)

RTGS reference manual (password-protected for account holders only)

Fees for accounts

We charge fees to participants, which are reviewed annually and set in advance for the coming year. There are separate tariffs for each system. We operate on a full cost recovery basis over a defined time frame.

The tariffs for CHAPS and CREST take the form of an annual membership fee for each participant and a per-item fee reflecting volume settled via the RTGS service.

For the retail systems, there is an annual charge per participant. We do not charge a per-item fee.

PDFRTGS tariffs

The organisations that operate the payment systems set their own, separate, charges.

Changes to the RTGS service

RTGS Renewal Programme

The RTGS Renewal Programme will deliver the next generation of our real-time gross settlement (RTGS) service. The programme is currently in its definition phase, during which we will establish the priorities, sequencing and timetable for transitioning to a new RTGS system.

A blueprint for a new RTGS service

Consultation: A new RTGS service - safeguarding stability, enabling innovation

Progress update: Blueprint for a new RTGS system

Speech: A new heart for a changing payments system

The new RTGS service will deliver a range of new features and capabilities. This is necessary because the way payments are made has changed dramatically in recent years, reflecting changes in the needs of households and companies, changes in technology, and an evolving regulatory landscape.

Throughout the transition we will take the utmost care to make sure the service currently provided is available, given the system’s importance to the UK economy.

We will continue to engage with the payments community throughout the programme definition period, to ensure that the next generation of RTGS service creates a world-leading payments landscape for the UK.

External advisory body: RTGS Renewal Programme

One of the commitments we made in the RTGS blueprint was to set up an external advisory body to advise us on implementing the renewed service. We have now established the advisory body, which represents a broad range of interests, from current RTGS members, prospective members and trade bodies.

The advisory body’s objectives are to:

  • Support an ongoing and effective dialogue between the Bank and our stakeholders during the RTGS Renewal Programme.
  • Provide a senior forum for the Bank to gather informed views on all aspects of the programme from a cross-section of experienced stakeholders.
  • Give a means for the Bank to understand and, where appropriate, challenge the industry’s implementation plans.
  • Drive a smooth and timely transition to the new service by promoting industry collaboration on cross-cutting industry risks and issues.

The first meeting of the advisory body was held in July 2017.

PDFTerms of reference: RTGS Renewal Programme external advisory body

ISO 20022 working groups

As part of the RTGS Renewal Programme, we will develop and implement the new ISO 20022 messaging standards in CHAPS.  We have established two Working Groups focused on ISO 20022, comprising representatives from across the payments industry.  These groups will contribute expertise supporting the policy decisions that must be taken in relation to the new messaging standard. 

  • The Data Working Group will identify potential enhancements to the payments messages, including improving the data carried.
    The Interoperability Working Group provides industry experience and technical advice regarding interoperability of the new standards with both the UK retail schemes and international high value systems.
  • The first Data Working Group met in October 2017. In this meeting, the Terms of Reference were agreed and discussions focused on data enhancements and data for macroeconomic analysis.  

At this time, membership of the groups has been determined, but we welcome feedback on our progress which can be directed to ISO20022@bankofengland.co.uk 

 

Direct Delivery of CHAPS

One of the earliest changes under the RTGS Renewal Programme was the move to a direct delivery model for CHAPS in November 2017.

Extended CHAPS and CREST settlement day

On 20 June 2016, the CHAPS and CREST settlement day was extended by an hour and 40 minutes to 6pm. The CHAPS deadline for customer payments changed to 5.40pm, although customer cut-off times set by providers may be earlier. We enabled these changes by extending the operating hours of the RTGS service. We expect direct participants in CHAPS and CREST to pass on the full benefits to their customers.

A review covering whether the identified benefits have been enabled by providers and adopted by users will be completed by late summer 2017. Identified benefits included enhanced risk management for financial market infrastructures, increased flexibility in balance sheet management, and greater flexibility for end users. The review will consider whether further actions are required to encourage the realisation of benefits. We will work with CHAPS Co, Euroclear UK and Ireland and other financial authorities, as appropriate.

PDFRTGS operating hours review (November 2014)

PDFExtending the CHAPS and CREST settlement day: May 2015 report

OtherExtended settlement day market-wide forum documents

PDFFrequently asked questions: extended settlement day

This page was last updated 05 December 2017
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