The Swedish payments clearing system, Bankgirot, launched a real-time payments platform in 2012 called BIR that enables users to make real-time transfers between bank accounts. Through the different APIs it provides, BIR allows financial institutions and other businesses to use its infrastructure and build their own services taking advantage of its real-time payments solution. In December of 2012, Swish became the first payments app to be integrated into the scheme through the use of APIs.
Swish enables Swedish consumers to perform P2P and C2B transfers using a mobile phone number associated with their current account. In 2021, real-time payments accounted for an 11.2% share of total payments volume, making it the third-ranked payments tool in terms of payments volume. But when compared to total payments spend, only 1.9% is attributed to real-time payments. Nevertheless, this adoption reveals that real-time payments are being used for everyday expenditures, thanks to the increased accessibility via Swish. In the future, real-time payments volume is expected to grow at a CAGR of 13.3% from 2021-2026, while the value should grow further at a CAGR of 20.3% over the same period.
With paper-based payments expected to gradually decline over time, the paper-based payments market share of total payment volumes is expected to drop from 12.6% to 9.4% by 2026. Sweden is slowly preparing to transition to a cashless economy within the next 10 years. This would be an opportunity for real-time payments to gain more market share and replace paper-based payments.
Meanwhile, a secondary real-time payments scheme is being developed called P27. P27 is a collaborative initiative among leading banks such as Danske Bank, Handelsbanken, Nordea, OP Financial Group, SEB and Swedbank. They are working together to develop a pan-Nordic real-time payments scheme. Due to be launched in 2022, it should improve cross-border transactions in the region.
Real-Time Payment Types
Year of Real-Time
Digital payments adoption in Sweden has been given a boost by the BankID mobile app, which allows anyone with a Swedish “personnummer” (personal identification number) and bank account to access digital public services and online banking. Its simplified experience, built around a six-digit code or fingerprint ID on a smartphone, has spared Swedes from needing to remember card numbers, passwords and obscure security question answers when accessing digital services. The central bank is also among the latest to announce plans to explore a Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) in the shape of the e-krona.
At the domestic level, Sweden is refreshing the real-time settlement rails (RTGS). The RTGS refreshes are all moving through a single supplier within each of the geos. Each geo is keen to synchronize its modernization on the ISO 20022 standard and is working towards similar timelines.
From the regional point of view, P27’s drive to modernize and simplify cross-border payments between the Nordic markets — Denmark, Sweden and Finland — continues to move forward, though not as fast as initially hoped. This may in part be attributed to the pandemic, but the acquisition of Bankgirot and the ensuing formalities around securing its clearing and settlement license has also contributed. But delays are par for the course on projects with such a grand scope. Overall, the project’s mandate remains clear, and the organization is still committed to delivering its promise to enable the region’s banks to offer a better customer experience and service for cross-border payments, at a lower cost.
Nevertheless, layer one is being laid down and the focus now is on layer two. This covers the overlay services, which are expected to include bill payments, Request to Pay and confirmation of payee, alongside fraud prevention and security initiatives.
All that said, the real challenge going forward, not just for P27 but more generally for the Nordic Payments Council and wider participant community, is juggling what these future schemes and services look like in each of the region’s geos to satisfy individual needs. For most, full consolidation and convergence is potentially a step too far in the mid-term. Instead, they need a common and uniform set of gateway services that can provide multi-scheme access. This would make future changes easier to manage while substantially extending the reach of current schemes and networks.
Behind that connectivity, they must develop a longer-term roadmap to deliver the flexibility to settle in any currency available today — not just domestic ones — and whatever new ones may emerge in the future, such as CBDCs or even cryptocurrency.
Mobile Wallet Trends
% of adults who have a mobile wallet and have
used it in the past year (2021)
Real-Time Total Participants
Population Banking Level
Number of debit, credit and
charge cards per adult
Index to global average
F5 Yr CAGR
Payments Fraud Rate
Population who reported being a
victim of fraud in the last 4 years
Top 3 Payment Fraud Types
|% of fraud victims||Trend|
Card details stolen online
Card details stolen/skimmed in person
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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