UK banks stage go slow over Faster Payments

UK banks stage go slow over Faster Payments

The UK banking industry is to delay the launch of the Faster Payments scheme until next year, after VocaLink slipped its delivery schedule for the central system by more than four months.

The service, designed to introduce near real-time transfer of phone, Internet and standing order payments instructions, was set to be introduced in November. The programme was forced on the industry by the Office of Fair Trading following an investigation into the lengthy clearing cycle for personal payments.

UK payments body Apacs announced the delay in a prepared statement: "The testing of the Faster Payments service has proved more complex and time-consuming than originally expected, so its introduction will not now be happening this year."

Paul Smee, Apacs chief executive says the Office of Fair Trading has been informed and that a "thorough re-plan" is now being undertaken so that the industry can announce a revised launch date by mid-August.

The delay marks an embarassing volte face for Smee, who only five months ago issued a cheerfully optimistic update confirming that the UK banking industry was well on-track to introducing the faster payments programme by the November deadline.

The multi-million pound central system is being developed by VocaLink and backed by 13 clearing bank members. Finextra understands that VocaLink only warned the banks of problems with integration testing on 23 March, five days before user acceptance testing was set to begin. Four months later and the vendor appeared no nearer to delivering a functional system capable of full user acceptance testing, forcing the banks to scrap the original launch date and revisit the schedule.

Despite repeated requests for comment, VocaLink has declined to respond to Finextra's questions on the project. All requests for information are being redirected back to Apacs.

Says Smee: "There is no room for error when launching a system which forms part of the UK's economic infrastructure. Clearly, it is more important to make sure it is done with our total confidence than rushed to meet a self-imposed delivery date. This is a huge project; the investment by UK banks in the central system and in adapting their own systems has been high and is continuing."

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