The Reserve Bank of Australia has warned that it will be "duty bound" to use its regulatory powers should the nation's banks fail to deliver on promises to modernise the country's payments infrastructure.
Urged on by the central bank, Australia's banking industry, in concert with the Australian Payments Clearing Association (Apca), is in the final stretch of a vendor selection process to deliver a 'New Payments Platform' which promises to usher in immediate retail payments and the ability to conduct transactions in the absence of a bank account or BSB number.
In a speech to Apca's AGM, RBA governor Glenn Stevens acknowledged the challenges facing the industry: "It requires that industry leadership and collaborative spirit to be maintained over a sustained period. At various key moments the project faces the risk of that spirit breaking down."
Implicit in his remarks is a concern that bank backing for the project is beginning to waver. "The Reserve Bank is fully aware of how complex and far-reaching this project is, and how costly," he said. "Having said that, let me also say, very clearly, how important the Bank sees it that the industry deliver on its collective commitment to deliver real-time, accessible payments to the community."
He warned banks that they should not seek to constrain the system so as to conform to existing boundaries and business models and play to their own vested interests.
Calling on the industry to stay the course, Stevens said that the delivery of an open and competitive system was in the collective interest of all Australian financial institutions.
"It can be expected to lead to further growth in electronic payments and a reduction in costs," he concluded. "It will maintain the ongoing relevance of the current players. If those players do not provide Australian end-users with the services they want, surely others will seek to do so. Alternatively, the Reserve Bank would be duty bound to consider a regulatory approach."