A new payments systems is “on track” to be able to deliver real time bank transfers and the ability to ditch BSB numbers from Australia Day.
While most people take a break over summer, banks will be putting the finishing touches on the biggest overhaul in the payments system in years.
The new payments platform or NPP is a $1 billion project to deliver real-time payments between customers of different banks, and the company to run the system says it will be rolled out to the public after Australia Day next year.
The long-running project has been scheduled to be launched this quarter, and despite industry chatter about some banks dragging the chain, chief executive of NPP Australia Adrian Lovney said the project was still running on time, as it would go “live” next month to a limited number of people.
From next month, it would be open only to staff from participating banks, who would then be able to send payments to one another, he said.
Banks would start rolling out real-time payments to their millions of customers soon after Australia Day, he said, denying the project was being held up by straggler banks.
“Our aim was to be live in the last quarter of 2017; we’re on track to do that,” Mr Lovney said.
“All of the banks that are participating are moving in absolute lockstep and absolute unison through the final stage of testing, and we anticipate a strong take-up and a strong participation at launch,” he said.
“When people come to work after Australia Day, the platform will commence rolling out to the public at large.”
Similar projects had also been introduced in a gradual manner in the United Kingdom and Singapore, Mr Lovney said. The industry also avoids implementing major changes to the payments system over the summer holiday period because of the high volume of retail payments processed at this time of year for Christmas shopping and January sales.
The $1 billion project, triggered by a 2012 review of Australia’s payment infrastructure, will mean customers of different banks will be able to make and receive real-time payments, 24 hours a day and seven days a week.
It will also allow consumers to arrange payments using their “PayID,” such as a mobile phone number, instead of an account number or BSB. Customers will also be able to include 280 characters of text with a payment, up from 18 now.
Banks are expected to embark on an advertising campaign to promote the changes to the public.
All of the big four banks were expected to be ready by the launch, Mr Lovney said, alongside about 50 smaller institutions including other banks, credit unions and building societies.
As well as offering faster and simpler payments, real-time payment systems have also led to a spike in fraud when launched overseas, and experts have warned this is also a risk in Australia.
Mr Lovney acknowledged changes such as this typically led to a lift in scam activity – but there had been extensive work behind the scenes to protect customers from these risks when the new system was launched.
“With any new system that is introduced, you will see a spike in activity as people think about how they can take advantage of the change, but banks will continue to put in place systems behind the scenes to try to protect customers from being tricked,” he said.
Mr Lovney said banks would conduct real-time screening of transactions, they would look for any unusual patterns, and would screen for suspicious activity such as customers logging in from unfamiliar phones.
NPP Australia is owned by the 13 banks funding the project, and it will operate as a utility, which will also allow innovative “overlay” payment services to be offered in the future.