Reserve Bank of Australia Urges Banks to Fix Payments Scheme

Bpay, the bill payment joint venture set up by Australia’s four major banks, has moved to revive parts of the failed A$500m Me and My Bank Online (MAMBO) project to enable real-time payments.

Bpay has issued request for solution documents to technology firms to establish what it calls the Australian Information and Payments Network (AIPN). The new Bpay network would be a key component of a real-time payments hub that the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) wants to be set up and operational by 2016. The RBA laid down a new timetable for real-time payments in June following MAMBO’s collapse just over a year ago.

Bpay’s chief executive officer (CEO), Andrew Arnott, stressed that the new project would build on lessons from MAMBO and some of the project parts, but it would not be the same scheme renamed. “It is not MAMBO; we have moved on since MAMBO,” he said. “But whether we like it or not, when we started developing our own road map there are some strong intersection points between what we were thinking about doing [with MAMBO] and what has popped out from the Reserve Bank.”

The failure of MAMBO, following the major banks pulling out one by one means, there is considerable reluctance by them to enter a new scheme. However, that concern is overridden by the RBA’s timetable, which demands a joint and rapid response from them.

The RBA set a five-point list of demands in June which banks and industry participants consider extremely demanding and requiring significant investment. Last month, the RBA’s head of payments policy, Tony Richards, gave an industry presentation adding more detail, including the creation of a new industry steering group and initial deadlines for what it calls project ‘Sprint’, an acronym for ‘send, pay and receive in no time’.

Richards noted that the RBA had called for clear progress by year’s end. “Accordingly, we’re going to be working with the Australian Payments Clearing Association’s [APCA] payments [steering] committee and also with the industry stakeholders to discuss some key decisions that need to be made, hopefully by the end of 2012,” he said.

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