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Banks benefit from the real-time payments wave

Real-time payments can give banks greater flexibility and deliver superior services.


Real-time payments (also referred to as immediate payments and instant payments) are gaining ground, driven by consumer demand for speed and convenience. Financial institutions must respond to this demand. They cannot rely on traditional payment instruments to be competitive.

This executive guide by ACI Worldwide and Accenture explores the significance of real-time payments for banks and other payment providers. ACI delivers electronic payments and banking for financial institutions, retailers, billers and processors around the world.

The key difference between real-time payments and other traditional payment models is that real-time payments guarantees immediate availability of funds to the beneficiary of the transaction. In contrast, real-time authorization of a transaction on a card is not the same; the buyer is committed to pay and the recipient is guaranteed to eventually receive the funds, but the availability of funds is not immediate. Real-time infrastructures could potentially replace other payment methods such as cards, checks and automated clearing houses.

Banks need to be fully cognizant of this new payments environment with its large and diverse portfolio of real-time payments solutions.

Key Findings/Analysis

ACI Worldwide and Accenture look at how banks in countries around the world are adopting real-time payments:

  • UK: FPS is a UK banking initiative to reduce time taken for payments up to £250,000 per transaction.

  • Poland: The Elixir Express system, launched in 2012, enables inter-bank transfers within seconds. In 2014, Express Elixir processed 940,000 transactions for a total value of PLN4.2 billion.

  • Singapore: Launched in 2014, Fast and Secure Transfers (FAST) is a real-time payments initiative of the Association of Banks in Singapore, allowing payments up to S$50,000 per transaction.

  • Denmark: The Nets RealTime24/7 system was also launched in 2014 and offers consumers and businesses near-real-time payments (1–10 seconds) up to Dkr500,000.

  • India: Launched in late 2010, Immediate Payment Service (IMPS) is one of the most popular electronic funds transfer systems in India.

Plans for real-time payments implementation across banks are on track for the European Union and countries such as Australia, The Netherlands, Sweden and the United States.


Financial institutions need to ensure they capitalize on opportunities before it is too late.

  • Real-time payments infrastructure offers guaranteed, real-time, 24x7 payments. If customer lifetime value is added to the business case, real-time payments becomes even more compelling.

  • Deployment of ISO 20022, a standards framework used by most real-time payments service providers, will open up the possibilities for data handling and the marketing of consumer analytics, which is valuable to financial institutions.

  • Real-time payments has the potential to eventually reduce costs for banks, by breaking their payment silos. Banks incur additional costs just to maintain the status quo in payments, operating and maintaining multiple silos.

  • Real-time payments provides an opportunity for banks to move away from aging legacy payment systems and toward a modern infrastructure.

  • Within the next five years, global, real-time, cross-border transfers could become a reality.