The managing director of Britain's new Payments Systems Regulator has bemoaned a lack of innovation in the back-end infrastructure of payments, and warned that she will step in if industry does not up its game.
Speaking at a conference in London, Hannah Nixon cited Paym, Apple Pay and Barclaycard's new bPay as examples of innovations that are making payments quicker and simpler for consumers and merchants.
However, while acknowledging the introduction of Faster Payments, the PSR chief told her audience that "little innovation is happening around the underlying infrastructure. Few new and viable alternatives to the status quo have emerged."
Nixon argues that this is partly because of the network effects in payment systems and also because the big high street banks own both the schemes and infrastructure. And, she warns, if these issues mean that innovation cannot be delivered commercially, the PSR "will need to intervene directly".
The PSR is already investigating the market for sponsor banks providing indirect access to payment systems for smaller players, as well as the competitiveness and market structure of the payments pipes and wires. "Depending on what we find, we may need to take action to change market dynamics and remove barriers," says Nixon.
Less tangible issues will be addressed by the new Payment Strategy Forum, which will bring together stakeholders to develop a long-term strategic vision for payments under an independent chair.