Challenges and Opportunities

The United States has yet to realize real–time, ubiquitous, end–to–end electronic payments that embrace the full capability of today’s information technology and telecommunications network connectivity. Achieving ubiquity of faster, secure payments has been challenging because infrastructure needed for completing an end–to–end payment—from initiation to settlement and reconciliation—in real time is substantial. In addition, market competition and brand differentiation can stand in the way of developing this infrastructure.

A number of countries have addressed these challenges through a mandate and/or the development of a national faster payments system with a single operator. In contrast, the task force believes that competition among individual solution operators and service providers that are guided by their efforts to fully meet the Effectiveness Criteria should be the driving force in determining the ultimate contours of faster payments capabilities in the United States. In addition, achieving ubiquity will depend on pro–competitive collaboration across current and future solution operators, including those that did and did not participate in the task force proposal process.

At this juncture, the U.S. payment system continues to evolve at a rapid pace. Innovations in the card space now facilitate real–time P2P transfers via credit push. Many fintech and social media entities are delivering payment services with some real–time attributes through stored value or card–on–file models, and the payments industry is exploring models that leverage digital currency and distributed ledger technologies. In addition, each of the proposed solutions is at a different stage of readiness to enter the market and will face competition from these other solutions. Merely having an array of options with certain faster payments characteristics, however, does not necessarily mean that the vision for a faster payments system will be achieved.

The task force believes that achieving the desired faster payments system means fostering competition in a way that enables innovative solutions to enter the market and encourages all solutions to fully incorporate the Effectiveness Criteria. This, in turn, requires that four primary cross–solution foundational issues are addressed in a collaborative way.

Broad Adoption

A large population of consumers, businesses, and government agencies will need to have knowledge of, access to, and the motivation to use faster payments. Solution operators and service providers will need incentive to 1) develop and deliver faster payments solutions / services that meet the Effectiveness Criteria, and 2) participate in an ecosystem that enables interoperability among competing solutions.

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Safety, Integrity, and Trust

For end users who may be using different solutions, there must be a level of Safety, Integrity, and Trust across solutions such that end users and individual service providers are willing to allow payments originated in other solutions to traverse to their solutions.

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There is a need for Interoperability, or a mechanism for enabling each solution to identify and communicate with other solutions, and complete transactions on behalf of the end users they serve.

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Faster payments solutions will need a supporting Ecosystem that provides a trusted framework to facilitate collaboration and inclusive decision making across solutions and stakeholder communities. This ecosystem should enable financial institutions and nonbank service providers of all sizes to participate and deliver faster payments by fostering competitive fairness, continued innovation, and flexibility to take advantage of emerging technologies. The task force believes that its collaboration efforts can serve as a foundation to address these issues.

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