Real-Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) system and CHAPS Annual Report 2021/22

We publish our Annual Report for RTGS and CHAPS as an important part of our commitment to transparency and accountability.
Published on 06 September 2022


The Bank of England has continued to serve the UK economy by operating RTGS and CHAPS services smoothly and consistently to a high standard of delivery. This has supported the Bank’s mission to promote the good of the people of the United Kingdom by maintaining monetary and financial stability. To the credit of our staff, and those in the wider payments industry, this has been achieved against the backdrop of the Covid-19 (Covid) pandemic and in a fast changing payments context. Like many organisations, our staff have continued to work using a hybrid model, combining time in the office and remote working. Our transformational RTGS Renewal Programme has had to deal with challenges but continues to progress at pace.

RTGS lies at the heart of every payment in the UK. RTGS settles over £720 billion on an average day. A new value record of £542 billion was set for CHAPS on 31 January 2022, exceeding the previous daily record of £485 billion. CHAPS volumes have grown again following a temporary decline during the Covid pandemic. Part of this growth was due to high levels of housing transactions linked to changes in Stamp Duty, and we extended the CHAPS settlement day on 30 June and 30 September 2021 by two hours in response to demands from the property market.

Over 2021/22, our RTGS and CHAPS services continued to play a central role within the domestic and international landscape. Our mission is supported by four strategic themes for delivery, summarised below:

  • Safe and resilient: we have improved our operational resilience and risk management frameworks, with a new operational resilience framework adopted in April 2022. We have supported industry work to codify a framework setting out how different industry groups interact during operational incidents and we continue to play an active role in enhancing preparation for incidents.
  • Well run: a new and refreshed version of the CHAPS Reference Manual took effect in January 2022 and will help underpin a proportionate and efficient experience for CHAPS Direct Participants and the Bank; this is particularly important given the higher number of participants that the renewed RTGS will be able to support. In 2021, we also welcomed our first CHAPS Direct Participant using cloud services for CHAPS payment processing.
  • Responsive: following a significant amount of work, including with industry, we issued two consultations: one in April 2022 on a tariff for the renewed RTGS service; and a second on the future roadmap for RTGS following the delivery of a new core ledger in 2024. We continue to engage with the industry to understand, and support changes to the landscape – including implementation of the model for omnibus accounts as well as working with Pay.UK on how the settlement model for its New Payments Architecture will operate in RTGS.
  • Renewed: in January 2022, and following feedback from CHAPS Direct Participants, we announced a revised timetable for the implementation of the RTGS Renewal Programme. The new timeline maintains the move to enhanced ISO 20022 messaging in Spring 2023, but instead of a two-stage process with the first stage in June 2022 and the second stage in February 2023, it will now be undertaken in a single stage in April 2023. This will continue to ensure that the renewed service is delivered to the highest levels of resilience and availability, including a comprehensive testing programme to ensure that both wider industry and the Bank are ready to adopt the new services.

Looking ahead, the Bank’s major focus, in addition to maintaining smooth live operations, is preparing for the transition to the renewed RTGS system.

  • In addition to continuing to chair the RTGS/CHAPS Board, which provides strategic leadership for the live operation of the Bank’s RTGS and CHAPS services, I now chair a new Renewal Executive Board, a senior-level group responsible for overseeing delivery, overall scope and financial management of the RTGS Renewal Programme (within an overall budget determined by the governing body of the Bank).
  • We launched a ‘Pilot Platform’ in June 2022 that provides a near live-like environment that enables CHAPS Direct Participants to test enhanced ISO 20022 messages ahead of the migration of CHAPS payments to ISO 20022 in April 2023. This is also helping our own business and technical staff to familiarise themselves with new systems and changes to processes.
  • We will move to a new core ledger for RTGS in Spring 2024 and we have consulted on a revised tariff structure for adoption in 2024. The Renewal Programme has started to broaden engagement out to all RTGS account holders as all – not just CHAPS Direct Participants – will be directly impacted by the changes to the core ledger.
  • Around the end of 2022, we will publish a response to the consultation on the post-2024 roadmap for RTGS, which sought views on enhancements to support competition and innovation such as alternative networks, extended operating hours and synchronisation.

This Annual Report is an important part of our wider commitment to transparency and accountability. Through this report, we are sharing our strategic themes, and how we work with industry to deliver effective RTGS and CHAPS services while providing value for money.

Dave Ramsden
Deputy Governor for Markets and Banking
Executive Chair of RTGS/CHAPS Board

Section 1: RTGS and CHAPS

1.1: Why are RTGS and CHAPS important?

Payments are essential to the efficient functioning of the UK economy, underlying core economic activity such as purchasing goods and services or paying salaries. Most payments are now made electronically, with banks and other financial institutions using accounts in RTGS to settle money owed to one another from the payment systems.

The RTGS and CHAPS services are systemically important to the UK and we have a target of at least 99.95% operational availability. An operational issue in RTGS and/or CHAPS could have a wide-ranging impact on the financial system and broader economy.

The Bank of England’s mission is to promote the good of the people of the United Kingdom by maintaining monetary and financial stability. The provision of RTGS and CHAPS services directly supports our mission in three ways:

  • By offering settlement accounts to eligible institutions, RTGS plays a vital role in the functioning of the UK economy through supporting safe and efficient settlement of obligations in central bank money across a wide range of payment systems. Settlement is final and risk-free as central-bank money is the ultimate secure and liquid sterling asset, the lowest risk way for financial institutions to meet their payment obligations.
  • Reserves held in reserves accounts in RTGS – under the Bank’s Sterling Monetary Framework – are remunerated at Bank Rate. RTGS therefore acts as the platform through which monetary policy decisions are implemented.
  • CHAPS provides a safe and efficient system for individual high value, and often time-critical, payments to settle. The Bank also reviews the end-to-end risk management for CHAPS with the objective of reducing risks to financial stability.

Given the systemic importance of CHAPS to the UK the Bank’s Financial Market Infrastructure Directorate independently supervises the Bank’s operation of the CHAPS payment system to the same standards applied to recognised UK payment systems, but on a non-statutory basis. The Bank’s supervisory and operational areas have independent governance structures, reporting to different Deputy Governors.

Further information on RTGS and CHAPS can be found on the Bank’s website, including: A brief introduction to RTGS and CHAPS.

Figure 1: Interlinkages between RTGS, CHAPS and other financial market infrastructure

RTGS sits at the centre of the financial system, providing settlement services to a range of wholesale and retail financial market infrastructures and payment service providers.

1.2: RTGS

RTGS lies at the heart of every payment in the UK. Through RTGS, the Bank provides settlement to direct participants of CHAPS, CREST, seven retail payment systems (Bacs, Image Clearing System for cheques, Faster Payments, LINK, Mastercard Europe, and Visa Europe; the seventh, PEXA, gained access to RTGS in March 2022), and the Bank’s Note Circulation Scheme. RTGS is also the mechanism through which the Bank implements monetary policy decisions (reserves accounts are held within RTGS and remunerated at Bank Rate) and provides liquidity to the UK’s financial system. The balance held in reserves accounts was £926 billion at end-February 2022.

In the 12 months to end-February 2022, RTGS settled an average of over £720 billion each working day; broadly equivalent to the UK’s GDP every three days. RTGS settled £918 billion on its peak value day (31 January 2022) in the period. The vast majority of the value settled (99%) is from CHAPS and CREST (Chart 1). Of the retail systems – which we settle on a net basis – Bacs accounts for 50%.footnote [1]

Chart 1: Value settled in RTGS by wholesale and retail payment systems (March 2021 – February 2022)

The wholesale payment systems (CHAPS and CREST) account for 51% and 48% of RTGS settlement values respectively. The retail systems account for 1%; of this around 50% is Bacs, 28% is Visa and 15% Faster Payments.

1.3: CHAPS

CHAPS is one of the largest high-value payment systems in the world and provides efficient, irrevocable sterling payments, free of settlement risk.

CHAPS payments values and volumes (March 2021 to February 2022)

  • Total value: £87,139,226,034,619
  • Average daily value: £344 billion
  • Average daily volume: 192,000
  • Average payment value: £1.8 million
  • Peak daily value: £542 billion
  • Peak daily volume: 311,819
On 31 January 2022, a new CHAPS value record was set of £542 billion. This exceeded the previous record of £485 billion, on 30 November 2020, by £57 billion (12%).

CHAPS volumes grew year-on-year from March 2021 to February 2022, partly reflecting that the economy was recovering from the disruption caused by Covid. CHAPS is commonly used for housing and other property transactions; in 2021 temporary changes in Stamp Duty led to elevated volumes. To accommodate this, we extended the CHAPS settlement day on 30 June and 30 September 2021. A number of the banks providing services to UK retail customers – such as individuals and conveyancers – also extended cut-off times for relevant client channels.

CHAPS values for most months in 2021 were below the high levels seen during the initial stages of the Covid pandemic. This was largely driven by a decline in money market transactions, which are inherently high value. The beginning of 2022 saw a return to growth in CHAPS values compared to the previous year as money market transactions began to partly reverse their decline (Chart 2).

Chart 2: CHAPS annual values and volumes (calendar years 2011–21)

CHAPS volumes have grown from 2011 (£34 million) to 2021 (£48 million), with a dip in 2020 due to the initial stages of Covid. CHAPS values have grown from (£64 trillion) in 2011 to (£86 trillion) in 2021, with particular increases in 2016 and 2017 as well as 2020.

In addition to high-value payments, CHAPS also processes a significant volume of low-value and retail payments. These are often time-sensitive or cross-border. While 97% of CHAPS payments by value are more than £1million, the majority by volume are relatively low value; 56% of CHAPS volumes are payments of less than £10,000 (Chart 3).

Chart 3: CHAPS payment band profile (March 2021 – February 2022)

97% of CHAPS payments by value are more than £1mn each. 53.1% are between £100mn and £1bn each. The majority of CHAPS payments by volume are for less than £10mn; 56% of CHAPS payments are for less than £10k.

We now provide aggregate data to the Office for National Statistics for weekly publication as part of their real-time faster indicators on economic activity and social change in the UK. This provides an early view on changes to spending in key retail sectors, for example in light of Covid, based on card receipts transferred to larger merchants via CHAPS. Chart 4 is based on CHAPS payments that a sample of around 100 UK companies receive from their merchant acquirers on a daily basis. These payments reflect the sales that these companies make through debit and credit card purchases, which are summed to estimate rolling seven-day revenues.

Chart 4: Fast indicators for UK spending from CHAPS data (a)

The chart illustrates how different types of spending has changed over time including lower levels of spending in areas such as social and work related during the Covid pandemic.

Section 2: Our management of RTGS and CHAPS

Given the systemic importance of RTGS and CHAPS, it is essential that we have appropriately effective and robust arrangements in place for our governance of RTGS and CHAPS including strategy setting and risk management. We aim to provide the RTGS and CHAPS services in a way that reflects: best-in-class standards of resilience; responsiveness to market developments and user needs; and value for money considerations. In operating CHAPS, we also seek to draw on the full set of tools, information and resources available to the Bank. This includes working with Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) supervisors and external organisations such as the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC).

2.1: Governance


We have dedicated, combined governance arrangements for RTGS and CHAPS where the RTGS/CHAPS Board provides strategic leadership. The RTGS/CHAPS Board is chaired by the Bank’s Deputy Governor for Markets and Banking and is comprised of Bank executives and independent members.

  • The RTGS/CHAPS Board is responsible for setting the strategy for our management and operation of the RTGS and CHAPS services, consistent with the Bank's mission. See Box A for further information on its responsibilities.
  • The four independent external members provide additional challenge, broader experience, and insight into the Board’s decision-making. The career experience of independent members is diverse and includes banking, payments and/or risk management experience in executive roles before moving into non-executive roles. One of the external members chairs the Board Risk Committee and another leads the strategic engagement with users and wider industry stakeholders.
  • The executive members include those who are accountable for key functions associated with RTGS and CHAPS, as well as those with wider responsibilities and supervisory experience.
  • Overall, the RTGS/CHAPS Board operates within the Bank’s wider governance structure, reporting to the Governor and the Bank’s Court of Directors. The Bank is accountable to the public through Parliament – including through the House of Commons’ Treasury Select Committee.

Board effectiveness

To ensure the effective governance of the RTGS and CHAPS services, reviews of the Board’s effectiveness are undertaken and identified improvements are implemented. The RTGS/CHAPS Board completed a self-assessment of its effectiveness in Summer 2021, concluding that the Board was functioning well and had become more effective and cohesive since it was established in 2017. A number of opportunities for further improvement were identified and taken forward. The Board’s executive members’ performance is reviewed as part of the Bank’s wider performance review process. The Chair regularly discusses performance of the independent members with them individually. As part of our 2021 self-assessment against the Principles for Financial Market Infrastructures, we judged our governance arrangements as observed under Principle 2 – Governance.


The Bank is committed to providing users and the wider public with an appropriate level of information of how the Bank operates, and develops, the RTGS and CHAPS services. We provide this through a number of routes including: publication of our self-assessment of RTGS and CHAPS against the Principles for Financial Market Infrastructures; making our annual ISAE 3402 audit available securely to our users; and publication of our tariffs as well as the provision of more detailed costing information to fee-payers. Information is available on our website and we also provide more detailed and/or sensitive information via private extranets to CHAPS Direct Participants and other RTGS users.

We also consult our key stakeholders whenever we are developing new policy proposals relating to the RTGS/CHAPS live services or when we are considering the implementation of changes to how the services are run. We aim to consult stakeholders as early as possible so we can take their views into account. We also aim to ensure that we provide stakeholders with enough information on our proposals so that they can provide sufficiently robust feedback and to understand the impact, and benefits, the proposals may have. For instance, we have recently consulted industry on two significant and long-term topics relating to the renewed RTGS service: the future RTGS/CHAPS tariff; and the roadmap for RTGS beyond 2024.

RTGS Renewal governance

Following a review of the RTGS Renewal governance structure, the previous RTGS Renewal Committee was replaced by a new senior Renewal Executive Board in June 2022. It is a committee of the Bank responsible for overseeing the delivery and taking decisions on the overall scope and financial management (within an overall budget determined by Court) of the RTGS Renewal Programme.

The Renewal Executive Board will regularly report progress on the delivery of the Programme to Court and the RTGS/CHAPS Board. It will take into account the strategic decisions made by the RTGS/CHAPS Board, including on risk tolerances, and its views on industry readiness and any material implications for the Programme arising from industry engagement and industry demand for changes in functionality and new products.

The Renewal Executive Board will take the final go-live decisions for the various implementation stages of the renewed RTGS system.

The RTGS Renewal Programme also has a comprehensive executive governance structure, including a Programme Board and a number of underlying boards including those that focus on policy, technical and business service design and security.


The Bank operates the RTGS and CHAPS services with an objective to recover costs fully from users over the medium term: without generating any long-term profit or loss; and to smooth costs where appropriate to reduce tariff volatility. Under the current arrangements, per-item fees – which form the majority of income – are charged for CHAPS and CREST settlement and small fixed fees are recovered from each settlement participant per settlement service. Our total income through the tariff was £23.4 million in the tariff financial year ending 31 March 2022, with 98% recovered from CHAPS and CREST settlement participants.

The Bank plans to start recovering Programme costs around the time of the cut-over to a new core settlement engine for the renewed RTGS service, which is planned for Spring 2024.

2.2: Strategy setting

Our strategy for RTGS and CHAPS has evolved each year since CHAPS was brought into the Bank in 2017:

  • In 2018/19 our focus was on ‘integration’ following the transfer of responsibilities for CHAPS to the Bank in November 2017.
  • For 2019/20, our focus was on ‘consolidation’, including how we undertake end-to-end risk management for CHAPS and maturing our governance arrangements.
  • For 2020/21, our focus was on ‘augmentation’, with further maturity of our risk management arrangements, enhancing the CHAPS rulebook and seeking to maximise the financial stability benefits of CHAPS being part of the central bank.
  • For 2021/22, our focus was on ‘preparation and realisation for the renewed RTGS service, especially Transition State 2 (TS2) which will include the adoption of ISO 20022 for CHAPS payment messages.
  • The 2022–24 strategy will focus on ‘delivery and transition’ with the continued delivery of safe, resilient and well run core services and continuing preparations for the transition to the renewed RTGS service.

In developing our strategy, the RTGS/CHAPS Board considers and agrees the strategic outcomes for the year ahead. These target outcomes are informed by consideration of relevant external developments through a structured horizon scanning and emerging risk process.

  • Horizon scanning identifies and assesses potential changes to the banking and payments landscape as well as emerging risks to RTGS and CHAPS and therefore our strategy.
  • This horizon scanning process is informed by consultation with internal and external experts across a range of topics reflecting the importance of understanding external views on RTGS and CHAPS to inform our strategy and supporting activities.
  • External engagement covers financial institutions with direct and indirect access to CHAPS, and other RTGS users. We engage through bilateral and industry wide discussions, for example, through our Strategic Advisory Forum and relevant trade associations.
  • We also engage with other UK financial authorities,footnote [2] other central banks and private-sector operators of high-value payment systems.

2.3: Key elements of our strategy

In delivering our agreed strategy, we aim to provide services that, in addition to being value for money, are based around four key themes:

  • Safe and resilient, delivering world leading standards in the face of evolving threats through the use of the full set of tools and resources available to the Bank.
  • Well run, providing efficient and cost-effective services to users.
  • Responsive to user voice and changes in the wider environment.
  • Renewed to ensure that safe and resilient settlement in central bank money remains at the core of a rapidly changing payments landscape.

We prioritise safe and resilient and well run as these are preconditions for the remaining themes of responsive and renewed.

Through the RTGS Renewal Programme we are delivering a resilient, flexible and innovative system for the UK to meet the challenges posed by a rapidly changing landscape, including issues flagged in our strategic planning and horizon scanning rounds. Our renewed RTGS and CHAPS services will support competition and innovation in the wider banking and payments markets while ensuring – and enhancing – monetary and financial stability (Table A).

In Section 3, we set out how we advanced our strategy in the year to end-February 2022 and in Section 4 we set out how we plan to do so until 2024.

Table A: Summary of our current strategic outcomes for 2022–24, by key theme

Strategic themes

Strategic outcomes

Safe and resilient

Develop our access policies to enable changes to balance sheet access and new types of account holders and payment systems, in a way that supports innovation and competition but delivers outcomes in line with our risk management framework.

Create a more proportionate, simplified and integrated, risk-based approach to CHAPS participant risk management that also supports our access objectives.

Well run

Operate the RTGS and CHAPS live services to agreed standards and risk tolerance; including managing the current RTGS infrastructure to a safe retirement.

Further enhance the operational resilience of the RTGS and CHAPS services, aiming to achieve best-in-class standards.

Enhance cross-team collaboration and improve ways of working.


Agree how to balance the Bank’s policy objective of promoting competition and innovation in payments with cost recovery.


Determining the actions that may be required to support wider UK payments capability.

Complete the internal and external preparation work for the renewed RTGS service including the new ISO 20022 messaging standard.

2.4: Risk management framework

A clear and documented risk management framework is a core part of effective governance arrangements. The Bank operates a standard ‘three lines of defence’ model for risk management – with reporting lines for the second and third lines (to the Bank’s Executive Director, Risk and the Bank’s Audit and Risk Committee respectively) independent from the first line.

There is a Bank-wide risk management framework, complemented by a local framework specific to RTGS and CHAPS. In line with the governance arrangements outlined above, the RTGS/CHAPS Board has delegated the setting (and monitoring) of the RTGS and CHAPS risk management framework and risk profiles to the RTGS/CHAPS Board Risk Committee. This Risk Committee is also responsible for monitoring the RTGS and CHAPS risk tolerances – consistent with the overall Bank risk tolerance. It provides assurance to the Board that the Bank is fulfilling its risk management responsibilities as the operator of the RTGS and CHAPS systems. It also plays a key role in providing strategic steer and challenge on the risk framework’s design and implementation.

Under our integrated risk management approach, we use a single, combined risk register for RTGS and CHAPS with common indicators and reporting procedures. This includes assessing both emerging and established risks specific to RTGS and CHAPS (in line with the Bank-wide risk management framework).

We use three risk domains: internal; third party service providers; and service users – together these define the end-to-end scope of risk that we managed. The Bank seeks to mitigate risks to a low level and maintains a robust control environment and risk culture that supports this. There is a low tolerance for operational risks which could impact business-critical functions such as the operation of the RTGS and CHAPS services that aligns to the expected high degree of reliability, security and availability.

We regularly publish a self‐assessment against the Principles for Financial Market Infrastructures (PFMIs) as the operator of the RTGS and CHAPS services (and not as a user of those services, or in our broader roles as supervisor of Financial Market Infrastructures and banks). The PFMIs are internationally agreed standards considered essential to strengthening and preserving financial stability.

Our self‐assessment is based on the principles relevant to the Bank’s RTGS and CHAPS services. Some principles are relevant only to characteristics associated with specific types of Financial Market Infrastructures, and hence did not apply to one or both of the RTGS and CHAPS services.

The most recent self‐assessment for the RTGS and CHAPS services was concluded at 31 October 2021. Overall, we self‐assessed that the Bank had achieved ‘observed’ status for all but one of the principles relevant to the Bank’s RTGS and CHAPS services. The exception was Principle 3 – Framework for the comprehensive management of risks’ where we remained ‘broadly observed’ for our 2021 self-assessment, based on a continued conservative view that some further enhancements are required and a small number of risk management processes need time to further mature. This is to ensure that our risk management approach across all three risk domains is sufficiently consistent and integrated, enabling us to enhance the extent to which we can aggregate and consider risk in a more holistic manner. The next PFMI self-assessment has a point of assessment of 31 October 2022 and will be published afterwards.

Further information covering our approach for managing risks associated with the RTGS and CHAPS services is set out in our regular self-assessment against the Principles for Financial Market Infrastructures. We have expanded below on two key focus areas: our role as the end-to-end risk manager for CHAPS, including participant risk management; and cyber risks.

End-to-end risk management for the CHAPS payment system

As the end-to-end risk manager for the CHAPS system, we seek to ensure that the end-to-end flow of payments is safe, secure and stable. Establishing a single end-to-end risk manager was a key driver behind the move to the Bank becoming the CHAPS payment system operator in 2017 alongside its existing responsibility for running the RTGS system.

The Bank does not directly manage all risks across the end-to-end CHAPS system. Our approach is for certain risks to be managed where this can be done most effectively. We therefore co-ordinate with others (such as CHAPS Direct Participants and critical service providers such as SWIFT) to seek assurance that the CHAPS payment system, taken as a whole, is operating within our risk tolerance, as set by the RTGS/CHAPS Board.

The CHAPS Reference Manual sets out the rules that CHAPS Direct Participants must meet. The Bank undertakes assurance of CHAPS Direct Participants against these rules before permitting access to CHAPS and on an ongoing basis. Risks are regularly managed through the participant performance and assurance framework which assesses compliance against rules within the CHAPS Reference Manual.

In January 2022 the Bank published a refreshed version of the CHAPS Reference Manual with a greater focus on outcomes and proportionality. These changes support further risk-based evolution of our assurance approach – focussing on the most significant sources of risks. Operational information, particularly during stressed situations, is shared through the CHAPS Participant Engagement Forum to help the Bank and CHAPS Direct Participants effectively manage operational risks that may arise and any knock-on impact to financial risks.

A particular focus is the risk associated with financial institutions accessing CHAPS indirectly, ie through a CHAPS Direct Participant. This arrangement, known as tiering, introduces credit, liquidity and operational risk between direct and indirect participants. Under the CHAPS Reference Manual, the Bank has the right to withdraw consent to a ‘tiered relationship’ under specific criteria if there are insufficient mitigating circumstances to address the risks. For example, if an indirect participant’s values exceed more than 2% of overall CHAPS values, the Bank has a presumption that the indirect participant in question will move to direct access.

We work with the wider Bank, including the PRA, to enable two-way information sharing to help increase mutual understanding of the risks to CHAPS and potential actions to mitigate such risks. This includes in support of the agenda to enhance the operational resilience of the UK’s financial system. As well as the PRA, who supervise the majority of CHAPS Direct Participants, we work with the FCA and Payment Systems Regulator, who also supervise most CHAPS participants and have a shared interest in a well-functioning payment system, to seek their input and support for risk reduction measures. These relationships are particularly important where a firm is seeking to join CHAPS, has an operational incident, or otherwise poses risks to the CHAPS system through its actions.

Cyber risks to RTGS and CHAPS

It is important that the Bank continues to develop the resilience of RTGS and CHAPS to cyber risks. The Bank benefits from regular engagement and advice from the UK’s NCSC, and a representative from the NCSC attends RTGS/CHAPS Board and its Risk Committee meetings, providing independent expertise and advice. From an RTGS perspective our cyber strategy seeks to ensure we have the right level of governance and risk management around RTGS people, processes and technology. Cyber defence around the RTGS infrastructure as a whole consists of multiple layers, each intended to detect and defeat different types of threat. These defences are continuously monitored, reviewed and updated. We engage regularly with the central functions in the Bank which operate these defences including the Bank’s Chief Information Security Officer. The RTGS/CHAPS Board and executive participate in a range of cyber scenarios each year to reflect, in particular, on our recovery and response capabilities.

The security requirements we impose on CHAPS Direct Participants are aligned with the comprehensive principles of the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Cybersecurity Framework: identify, protect, detect, respond and recover. It is best practice for Financial Market Infrastructures to align with such leading standards in order to reflect industry best practice.

We can share relevant cyber-related information with CHAPS Direct Participants through the Cyber Security Information Sharing Partnership platform and draw on expert input from the CHAPS Security Forum.

Box A: RTGS/CHAPS Board responsibilities

The RTGS/CHAPS Board is responsible for setting the strategy for our management and operation of the RTGS and CHAPS services, consistent with the Bank’s mission. As the operator of CHAPS, the RTGS/CHAPS Board is also accountable for the end-to-end risk management of the CHAPS system and is responsible for setting the rules and technical standards. The RTGS/CHAPS Board supports this through the oversight of risks that could impact the resilience of the payment system. The Board’s responsibilities are delegated from Court via the Governor; in turn the RTGS/CHAPS Board delegates the day-to-day operation of the RTGS and CHAPS services to the executive.

The RTGS/CHAPS Board’s responsibilities, including those of the Board Risk Committee, are published on the Bank’s website. To support its responsibilities, it draws on a range of internal and external assurance (see Box B). The RTGS/CHAPS Board takes appropriate input from RTGS and CHAPS users, including through the Strategic Advisory Forum and the RTGS Renewal Programme’s Senior Sponsors’ Body.

In taking decisions on RTGS and CHAPS, the RTGS/CHAPS Board:

  • first considers the Bank’s monetary and financial stability objectives, ensuring any decisions are consistent with the Bank’s overall mission;
  • seeks to promote efficiency, innovation and competition in sterling payments, wherever that can be safely done without impairing financial stability; and
  • subject to these other principles, considers how to provide services that are: simple to develop, operate, and use; flexible in response to changing demands; and provide value for money for the Bank and the wider market.

Box B: Independent assurance

The International Standard on Assurance Engagements (ISAE) 3402 is an internationally recognised auditing standard developed by the Internal Auditing and Assurance Standards Board. This standard is commonly used in relation to financial infrastructure provision and provides assurance on the design and operation of the control framework, processes and technology.

The 2021/22 ISAE 3402 audit, completed by an external firm, concluded that the control environment had been designed and was operating so as to provide assurance that the Bank’s control objectives for RTGS were achieved. This conclusion was in line with previous years’ reports. There were a small number of minor exceptions, none of which the external reviewer considered to have material impact. We share the ISAE 3402 report with users for RTGS.

ISO 27001 certification is an internationally recognised standard for information system security management. A full certification lasts for three years and includes two annual surveillance audits and a three-year recertification audit. The annual surveillance audit consists of two parts, an interview with key staff and an on-site visit. Information security is also audited on a Bank-wide basis, as well as at a business area level specific to RTGS. The Bank’s full three-year recertification of ISO 27001 was successfully completed in June 2022. Part one of the next surveillance audit will take place in January 2023.

Section 3: Developments between March 2021 – February 2022

For 2021/22, our focus was on ‘preparation and realisation’, ahead of the transition to the renewed RTGS. Key outcomes and activities were focused around our four strategic themes.

  • Well run: in order to deliver safe and reliable day-to-day operations, we continued to support remote working in response to the Covid pandemic.
  • Responsive: we continued to engage to understand the changing payments landscape and potential implications for the RTGS and CHAPS services.
  • Safe and resilient: we continued to support new participants and payment systems through providing access to settlement in central bank money to improve financial stability. We have also continued to work to improve operational resilience and the framework within which we do so.
  • Renewed: we progressed with the delivery of the renewed RTGS service. In January 2022, and following consultation with CHAPS Direct Participants, we announced a revised timetable for the implementation of the RTGS Renewal Programme. The new timeline maintains the move to enhanced ISO 20022 messaging in Spring 2023, but instead of a two-stage process with the first stage in June 2022 and the second stage in February 2023, it will now be undertaken in a single stage in April 2023.

Prioritisation of activities

Throughout the Covid pandemic, we have continued to play our role in serving the UK economy. Our focus has remained on ensuring that we were able to continue to provide the live RTGS and CHAPS services to a high standard. We regularly review our priorities and, where appropriate, phasing of certain activities.

Like many organisations, we have been working in very different ways over the past two years. During this period, the staff that operate and support RTGS and CHAPS have continued to work flexibly. We instituted, and continue to operate, a hybrid working approach as lockdown rules were gradually relaxed which combines days in the office with continued remote working.

During this period, our staff also successfully managed a series of incidents; none of which had an impact on our targets for service availability. To support our staff throughout this period, significant focus has been given to the dynamic management of resourcing and prioritisation to ensure delivery of key work streams. In particular, we continued to deprioritise certain aspects of our non-critical work such as: streamlining our approach to CHAPS data production and internal reporting; as well as the frequency of our structured horizon scanning and emerging risk process.

3.1: Responsive

Stakeholder engagement

Understanding the needs of RTGS and CHAPS users in light of current and future changes in the wider UK payments landscape is essential to continued provision of a robust and resilient service. To do so requires continuous collaboration with the payments industry, particularly for RTGS Renewal, as we work together to review and prepare the industry for global change. We feed industry views into our decision making, including input to Board-level discussion.

We have continued to undertake an extensive programme of external engagement. In the past year, we have consulted stakeholders on a variety of policy issues relating to the RTGS and CHAPS live services. Through the Strategic Advisory Forum, we have regularly engaged on issues such as the delivery of the renewed RTGS service (including on changes to the delivery timelines); our approach to recovering the costs of the renewed RTGS service; retail fraud in the context of CHAPS; and our ongoing work around operational resilience.

At an operational level, the primary forum for engagement on CHAPS is the Participant Engagement Forum which is open to all CHAPS Direct Participants. There are a range of other groups – including some that sit under the Participant Engagement Forum – on topics covering assurance, rules, liquidity, change, testing, security and operations. This engagement provides an effective two-way mechanism to seek and respond to views and requirements of a diverse range of stakeholders.

Horizon scanning

Horizon scanning helps us to understand emerging developments (and risks) in the payments landscape and assess potential risks to, and opportunities for, RTGS and CHAPS. We gather and analyse information on developments with input from a network of subject matter experts across the Bank, external stakeholders such as the Payment Systems Regulator, Financial Conduct Authority and Pay.UK. In addition, we consult the Strategic Advisory Forum on developments, and our regular meetings with CHAPS Direct Participants are a valuable source of information.

The results of this process, including any priority developments and recommended actions, are typically reported to the RTGS/CHAPS Board twice a year and inform a wide range of our activities as part of our strategy. In 2021/22, we explored recent developments in digital identification within the payments industry (in collaboration with the Bank’s FinTech Hub), the delivery of the New Payments Architecture (NPA), activity in the cross-border payments space, digitalisation and automation, and increased interest in Distributed Ledger Technology solutions.

3.2: Safe and resilient

CHAPS participant risk management

The CHAPS Reference Manual is the key document that sets out our expectations for CHAPS Direct Participants. It seeks to ensure the smooth functioning of the end-to-end CHAPS system, including managing risks that CHAPS Direct Participants pose, through rules which CHAPS Direct Participants are expected to meet.

We undertook an extensive programme to refresh the CHAPS Reference Manual with a view to enhancing the clarity of the requirements, removing duplication with other internal and external requirements, and reinforcing an outcomes-based approach where appropriate.

Work to refresh the CHAPS Reference Manual is now complete; a new version took effect in January 2022. The new CRM should better support the delivery of a more proportionate and efficient assurance process for the Bank and CHAPS Direct Participants. This is critical as we expect the number of CHAPS Direct Participants to increase after the delivery of the RTGS Renewal Programme.

Settlement contingency planning

In 2016, the Bank facilitated an industry wide SIMEX16 exercise which focused on a prolonged technical outage of RTGS. As a result of this exercise, the industry developed the concept of a Voluntary Sterling Settlement Postponement (VSSP); providing that the ability (should a severe operational incident require it) to implement one or more day(s) suspension to sterling settlement in RTGS, and the FMIs that settle in it. In late 2019, the industry, with support from the Bank and UK Finance as co-chairs of the Cross Market Operational Resilience Group, requested further to resolve operational and legal barriers to implement a VSSP.

Work on understanding operational aspects made good progress in 2020/21 and we have continued to work with UK Finance to encourage the industry to seek to understand and mitigate legal barriers to the implementation of a VSSP.

We also contributed to industry activity to codify a Sector Response Framework – which sets out how organisations across the sector and government are connected, and how they will respond to incidents individually and together; our CHAPS Participant Engagement Form is recorded as one of the incident response groups. We also engaged on sector principles for responding to the operational paralysis of a Global Systemically Important Bank.

3.3: Well run

On-boarding to RTGS and CHAPS

There are now more than 70 organisations using RTGS to settle directly in one or more payment systems. Between March 2021 and February 2022, Goldman Sachs and iFAST Global Bank joined as CHAPS Direct Participants. There was one CREST joiner (TSB) and one new Bacs participant (LHV). We also added three new settlement participants (Goldman Sachs, Mettle and PrePaid) to the Faster Payments retail payment system (Chart 5); PrePaid is a non-bank payment service provider. Mastercard also commenced settlement in RTGS with twelve settlement participants initially, we also completed the technical changes to enable the PEXA scheme to settle in RTGS.

We also permitted a CHAPS Direct Participant to use a cloud service provider for their CHAPS processing, following the earlier introduction of rules supporting this and how CHAPS Direct Participants should safely manage their outsourcing arrangements to limit risk to the end-to-end CHAPS system. As part of this process, we require a year’s notice so we can undertake an appropriate level of risk assessment of the proposed arrangements. We continue to work with other CHAPS Direct Participants who have expressed an interest in adopting cloud as well.

Chart 5: Settlement participants per payment system per calendar year since 2015

The number of settlement participants has increased significantly in recent years. In particular, the number of CHAPS direct participants increased from 22 to 36 between 2015 and 2021. And the number of Faster Payments settlement participants is due to quadruple from 10 in 2015 to 40 by the end of 2022.

Omnibus accounts

In April 2021, we announced a new type of account – an omnibus account – for regulated payment system operators. The omnibus account holds a pool of participant funds that can be used to fund settlement on the payment system operators’ ledger. The funds would constitute reserves with the central bank based on defined legal arrangements put in place by the payment system operator to hold the funds on trust. Funding movements to and from the omnibus account would be via CHAPS.

This opens up options for reserves-backed arrangements to support new and innovative financial market infrastructures. We were pleased by the level of interest in our policy announcement. While enabling omnibus accounts can benefit financial stability and innovation, it can also present risks. We have therefore set out eligibility requirements designed to manage and mitigate the financial, legal and operational risks that could arise. During the reporting period, we have engaged with a payment system operator that has applied for an omnibus account.

Operational resilience of RTGS and CHAPS

The Bank has a strong focus on making its infrastructure as stable as possible, targeting availability for at least 99.95% of its defined operating hours. RTGS availability in 2021/22 was in excess of 99.99%.

During the reporting year, around 15 minutes of disruption to CHAPS settlement in RTGS was recorded due to two separate issues with SWIFT connectivity.

In July 2021, we approved ‘provision of CHAPS settlement’ as our only CHAPS-related important business service, with an associated impact tolerance of ‘end of day’. These are aligned with the impact tolerance for critical payments set by the Bank’s Financial Policy Committee for payments.

MIRS testing

The Market Infrastructure Resiliency Service (MIRS) is a contingency solution for RTGS (including CHAPS settlement) that is intended to address a dual site failure of RTGS. It also provides an additional level of resilience to some types of incidents that would affect the main RTGS infrastructure. MIRS provides the core RTGS functionality, as well as processing capacity to ensure continuity of the Bank’s critical RTGS and CHAPS services. We carry out regular testing to ensure we continue to improve testing and confidence in MIRS invocation decision making. We successfully completed a MIRS Live test on 9 April 2021. This was an important milestone in an enhanced testing programme for MIRS, helping to build confidence and familiarity in the event MIRS is needed in a live scenario.

New loss sharing arrangements in CHAPS

We have worked with CHAPS Direct Participants to document a contractual methodology for the allocation of centrally borne losses by the Bank in the context of CHAPS. Updated contracts were signed with CHAPS Direct Participants in 2021. The changes aim to provide increased certainty and transparency for CHAPS Direct Participants of the likely financial impact on them, should there be a centrally borne loss.

3.4: Renewed

The multi-year programme of renewing the RTGS infrastructure continues. The renewed RTGS will ensure that the resilience and safety of the UK’s payment infrastructure continues to be protected, whilst also supporting competition and innovation in the financial services industry going forward. This will be achieved by increasing resilience and access, offering wider interoperability, improving user functionality and strengthening end-to-end risk management of CHAPS (Figure 2).

Figure 2: RTGS renewal vision