Economic Benefits of Real-Time Payments Remain Largely Untapped
Real-time payments have been possible in the U.K. since 2008 under the Faster Payments scheme, though the market’s development has been markedly slower than those in the developing world, despite the significant head start.
The U.K. recorded 3.4 billion real-time transactions in 2021 which resulted in an estimated cost savings of $950 million for businesses and consumers. This in turn helped to unlock $3.2 billion of additional economic output, representing 0.10% of the country’s GDP.
With real-time transactions set to rise to 5.8 billion in 2026, net savings for consumers and businesses are forecast to climb to $1.8 billion. That would help to generate an additional $3.8 billion of economic output, equivalent to 0.11% of the country’s forecasted GDP.
That means the potential economic benefits of real-time payments still remain untapped. According to the Cebr, the theoretical impact of all payments being real-time could add 2.7% to formal GDP by 2026. However, these are theoretically modeled benefits; they do not suggest that there is no place for non-instant electronic payments or paper-based payments in the future.
Payments in the U.K. are still very much tied to traditional tools — especially cards — despite it being easy and cheap for consumers to access real-time payments. Future prospects for real-time payments look rosy, with real-time volume expected to record a CAGR of 11.1% from 2021-2026 — but its payments spend will grow at a much stronger CAGR of 24% over the same period, showing that the near-term use case for real-time payments in the U.K. is still focused around low-volume, high-value transfers and not everyday expenditures. In terms of economic impact, real-time payments will remain limited until this use case transfers to everyday spending — which the pandemic and shift to more remote transaction channels may lead to in the medium term.
Real-Time Payment Types
Year of Real-Time
Over the next five years, there will be sweeping change to the U.K.’s payment infrastructures in the shape of modernizations to support data-rich, real-time payment transactions. Starting November 2022, SWIFT is moving to ISO 20022. This is driving change in CHAPS and the Real-Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) system, direct participants of which will from April 2023 need to support ISO 20022 payments alongside the legacy SWIFT MT message type. At the same time, Pay.UK is modernizing the Faster Payments Service as part of its New Payments Architecture (NPA) program, which also involves procuring a new ISO 20022-ready central infrastructure.
That’s a lot for U.K. scheme participants to absorb over the next five years, especially given the stubborn prevalence of legacy payment systems. Any that haven’t started planning to ensure a smooth transition are well behind the competitive curve.
Forward-thinking financial institutions will see this level of change as an opportunity for wider refreshes that leave them better positioned to respond to further changes and new payment mandates in the future. While many will hesitate to migrate their payments infrastructure to the cloud today, deploying cloud-ready infrastructure is recommended — this would leverage development best practices and ensure a smooth migration if and when the time comes. One aspect to consider in this regard is regulators’ concerns about over-reliance on the cloud in the context of the risk to operational resilience. To address this, we expect this may lead to participants adopting an approach of splitting scheme traffic across dual gateways, one operating in the cloud, hosted by the bank or a third party, with a second gateway operating in an on-premise deployment.
In broader strategic terms, consolidation of consumer and corporate payments is coming, and the vision is to achieve a payments-agnostic processing framework. It shouldn’t matter where the payment is initiated; which channel is used (digital or otherwise); where it needs to go for authentication and authorization; whether it’s a high-value, low-value, global or country scheme; or whether it needs to go to a card network. There is enough overlap in technology and operation support functions that a single, consolidated framework could support most, if not all, payments in a way that is simpler and more efficient to manage. With fraud challenges transcending channels, and efforts to mitigate it being obstructed by internal silos, we should also expect to see increased consolidation of fraud detection systems too, for example across card payments and digital payments.
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
The United Kingdom is an advanced economy that, as of 2021, is the world’s fifth largest economy (Cebr World Economic League Table, 2022).
Supported by a relatively strong real-time payments mix share (9.2% of all transactions), in 2021, net benefits for consumers and businesses of real-time payments hit $950 million. The largest component of this was net savings through the transaction costs within the payments system. On a per-transaction basis, real-time payments in the U.K. currently have a 14.1% lower average payments cost compared to the weighted average mix of all non-real-time payments. Under current adoption rates of real-time payments, this represents an estimated cost savings of $347.5 million for consumers and businesses across the country in 2021.
The macroeconomic benefits in 2021 of real-time adoption were estimated to be $3.2 billion of additional economic output. This is equivalent to 0.10% of total U.K. GDP, or the output of 34,732 jobs.
By 2026, the business- and consumer-level benefits of real-time payments are expected to rise to $1.8 billion, with the main driving force being the reduction in the size of the payments float. Based on 2026 real-time payments adoption estimates (growth to 12.3% of all payments), these payments are predicted to unlock a total transaction value of $40.8 billion per day, with this working capital facilitating an estimated $861 million of business output in the same year. Ultimately, the forecasted macroeconomic benefits in 2026 are estimated to be $3.8 billion of additional economic output or 0.11% of formal U.K. GDP.
For Businesses and Consumers
Net savings stimulated by real-time payments
Projected net savings stimulated by real-time payments
of economic output
of GDP facilitated by real-time payments
Projected of economic output
of GDP facilitated by real-time payments
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