Greece launched the real-time IRIS Online Payment system in May 2017, which enabled real-time payments through internet banking systems using account numbers or IBANs. Later in June 2017, it launched IRIS Mobile Payment, allowing real-time payments through mobile banking channels using a recipient’s email address, mobile phone number, company VAT number or QR code.
The growth in real-time payments has been slow in Greece due to limited participation from banks. However, with paper-based transaction volume amounting to a 73.2% share in 2021, Greece presents a huge potential for real-time payments growth. Real-time payments volume is expected to increase at a CAGR of 33.8% from 2021-2026.
Real-Time Payment Types
Year of Real-Time
Real-time payments face an uphill battle in Greece, a market where cash remains a major payments instrument, despite government interventions intended to — among other things — increase tax revenues. Banks also charge a premium for real-time payments, which is a sure way to suppress transaction volumes, and a further indicator of the static situation is the absence of any meaningful discussion of Request to Pay, a hot topic elsewhere in Europe.
In our last report, we noted that Greek financial institutions should consider themselves on notice to accelerate payments modernization journeys ahead of an inevitable tipping point in favor of digital and real-time payments. The argument was that as real-time payments became the norm in account-to-account transactions, anything less in spheres such as retail or bill pay would feel antiquated.
However, that tipping point feels no closer right now and more persuasive use cases are needed to make a breakthrough. Vasilis Panagiotidis, the Hellenic Bank Association’s head of payment systems, has identified the actions needed to accelerate implementation, including sustainable economics for payment services, investment in security and technical infrastructures, innovative user-friendly payment solutions, and rapid execution and attractive pricing.
There is an element of chicken and egg at play in the Greek real-time market then. While consume demand remains suppressed by high charges and entrenched cash habits, it’s harder to make the business case for providing real-time payments. But experience in similar markets around the world show that, once exposed to the convenience and versatility of real-time payments, consumers are willing to leave old habits behind.
And there have been hints over this year of the opportunity open to those payment players willing to innovate in this area. The COVID pandemic increased real-time payment volumes by nearly 50% more than originally forecasted for 2021. Widespread interoperability exists between banks and fintechs, use of the Viva digital wallet is growing and Apple Pay is present. All these suggest an openness to digital payments and related services.
Real-Time Total Participants
Population Banking Level
Number of debit, credit and
charge cards per adult
Index to global average
F5 Yr CAGR
Share of Volumes by Payments Instrument
- Paper-based payments
- Electronic payments
- Real-time payments
Real-Time Payments Volume and Its Share in Overall Non-Paper-Based Transactions, 2015-26f
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