The Bank’s work on innovation in payments

The action we will take to ensure that our infrastructure keeps pace with developments in payment services.

Context

The Bank of England’s mission is to promote the good of the people of the UK, by maintaining monetary and financial stability. In doing so, we recognise the role that public infrastructure can play in allowing the private sector to create financial services that improve safety, choice and quality for consumers. Provided the right safeguards are put in place, public infrastructure can therefore deliver a more resilient, innovative and competitive payments system, and more efficient and inclusive payments for households and businesses.

With this in mind, the Bank has taken steps in recent years to ensure appropriate access to its infrastructure. Historically, only the largest banks had access to reserves accounts, where the Bank pays Bank Rate on overnight balances. Since 2006 access to these accounts has expanded to include all banks and building societies, and more recently PRA-authorised broker-dealers and Central Counterparties (CCPs). Before 2006 just 17 firms had access to accounts; today it stands at over 200. 

In 2017, the Bank took that process a stage further when it announced that non-bank Payment Service Providers (PSPs) would be eligible to apply for intraday settlement accounts at the Bank, which similarly had previously only been available to a small number of systemically important firms. To date, six non-bank PSPs have opened settlement accounts, with more in the pipeline to join.

The process of reviewing our access criteria continues, and we are now drawing on the findings of the Future of Finance Report on the future of the UK’s financial system. The Bank’s response recognised that technology is changing the way we live and the financial system is responding to meet these demands more quickly than ever.

In line with our commitment to ensuring public infrastructure keeps pace with these developments the Bank is looking at how payment services could evolve in the short term and further into the future; and at the role of public infrastructure in supporting a dynamic, data-rich economy. A key part of that work is the Bank’s programme to deliver the next generation of our Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) service. Alongside this work, the Bank is also considering wider policy questions.

Future work

The Bank is assessing how access to the central bank’s balance sheet and infrastructure could improve the efficiency and inclusiveness of payments. We are considering both how we could change access criteria to existing deposit facilities and payments infrastructure, as well as broadening the range of payment-related services and facilities we offer to new and innovative business models.

All of this work is designed to contribute to an improved payments landscape for UK households and businesses. But underpinning our thinking will also be a consideration of the necessary safeguards and controls that would need to go hand in hand with the provision of access to public infrastructure, to ensure no adverse implications for the Bank’s objectives of delivering financial and monetary stability.

Over 2019 and 2020 the Bank is working and engaging on a range of related themes in payments innovation. Our aim is to encourage discussion with the public and market participants to better inform our potential responses.

The first publication on the theme of payments innovation is a call for evidence. This is primarily designed to help us gather information to support a later consultation on whether, and if so how, the Bank might need to change its access criteria for its accounts and payments infrastructure to improve resilience, innovation and competition in payment services.  Alongside that, the Bank is considering the conditions under which it could offer new arrangements to facilitate innovative wholesale settlement models backed by central bank money. The Bank will also continue to explore the topic of a central bank digital currency (CBDC); and will look to publish further analysis on themes related to CBDCs, building on the papers already released to date.

PDFAccess to Bank of England payments infrastructure and balance sheet for payments firms

This page was last updated 07 November 2019
Was this page useful?
Add your details...