Payment services provider Voca has unveiled plans for a multi-purpose SwiftNet channel to expand connectivity choices for its customers as payment infrastructure consolidation talks get underway in the UK.
The deal with Swift creates a new Market Infrastructure Closed User Group, which will extend Voca’s reach for bulk payments and real-time payments into Europe and beyond with SwiftNet as the new channel.
Currently Voca's users are limited to the UK, where it provides the technology and services behind the high volume automated clearing operation. But banks in the UK and internationally now have an additional channel to the Voca platform.
Commercial director Martin Wilson says the first users of Voca SwiftNet Transmission Service (STS) will be some of the UK’s largest financial institutions who will be using it to transmit their domestic transactions to Voca, creating one of the world’s largest domestic Market Infrastructure Closed User Groups.
"These banks are interested in using SwiftNet as a channel to us because it allows them to consolidate their payment submission channels, and make greater use of their SwiftNet infrastructures, thus aggregating volume and bringing the price for use of the network down," he says. "SwiftNet is also the international standard carrier for interbank clearing and settlement, so it fits well with our expansion plans."
In July, the company launched the Voca Payments Engine, which can process payments from any country regardless of currency, format or scheme.
Voca STS is designed to utilise SwiftNet FileAct and Fin. The service will provide a single interface for participating banks allowing them to use their Swift connectivity for national, cross-border, real-time and bulk payments, reducing back office costs.
Voca says the service will be launched in March 2007 and be fully compliant with the single euro payments area from day one. It will also support the UK's new Faster Payments initiative for Internet and telephone payments. The infrastructure for this is being built by Voca in conjunction with UK ATM network operator Link, while the scheme management is being handled by the Chaps Clearing Company. This scheme will go live in November 2007.
The SwiftNet announcement from Voca continues a recent trend of payment infrastructures around Europe embracing SwiftNet as a channel. The Deutsche Bundesbank has recently received its first messages to its retail payment system via FileAct. And Croatian ACH operator Fina has also announced it will embrace SwiftNet as the strategic platform for both cross-border and domestic transactions. On the other side of the Atlantic, US banks are also seeing greater interoperability between SwiftNet and the Fedwire system.
The Voca announcement also comes as Sepa is starting to have the infrastructure convergence effect that industry watchers have been predicting, at least in the UK. Richard Pattinson is senior director of Barclays Treasury at Barclays Bank and chairman of the Chaps Clearing Company, which now runs the Faster Payments scheme as well as the UK's real-time gross settlement (RTGS) system for high-value same day payments. At a Sibos session on low value payments on Tuesday he revealed that they are talking with the other two schemes in the UK about moving to a unified management company for all UK payment schemes, and will soon be talking about pulling all the UK infrastructure together to create a single backbone.