Dr Ruth Wandhöfer has been appointed chair of the Payment Systems Regulator (PSR) panel amid the regulator’s increased relevance as a policy strategist between a diverse group of banks, payment service providers, fintech firms and consumer groups as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Succeeding independent adviser Stephen Locke and with the rest of the Panel, Dr Wandhöfer will be responsible for informing the PSR about industry developments, innovation trends and the impact these will have on the payments industry, its providers of services and the users.
Established by the PSR under the Financial Services (Banking Reform) Act 2013, the Panel represents financial players in regulated payment systems and those who use, or are likely to use, services provided by regulated payment systems.
Dr Wandhöfer’s appointment was made by the PSR Board and approved by HM Treasury. She comes to the regulator with a wealth of experience, namely as board member of new and established organisations such as Digital Identity Net, LSEG, Permanent TSB and chair of working groups and multi-stakeholder forums like the European Payments Council and European Banking Federation.
Wandhöfer was also previously a member of the Bank of England’s RTGS Renewal Stakeholder Advisory Group and of the Payment Strategy Forum (2015 - 2016) and is a Partner in a venture capital fund Gauss that invests in startups globally.
In conversation with Dr Wandhöfer, she highlights to Finextra Research that due to Covid-19 “we have seen a rapid decline of cash, but right now alternatives are limited to cards, which are expensive in particular for smaller merchants and which do not work for those that are not financially included.”
Therefore, the PSR Panel is working on identifying alternatives such as mobile payments and using central bank digital currencies. In addition to this, with the Brexit deadline looming, challenges will arise for the payment service provider community, especially for those “innovative, striving fintechs that have their home in the UK.”
Dr Wandhöfer adds: “PSPs will no longer be able to provide services to EU customers unless they hold the appropriate licenses in Europe. For many smaller players there is a risk that parts of their operations will therefore have to shut down in January 2021. Licensing application backlogs in Europe will also play a role in delaying things and impacting these businesses and their bottom line.”
As a result, the PSR must continue to act as an informed, proactive supervisor and play a key role in cultivating a UK payments market that allows providers to compete and flourish despite bumps in the road.
In 2021 however, the New Payments Architecture - the UK payments industry’s proposed new way of organising interbank payments - will be implemented and the Bank of England’s RTGS renewal project will be underway.
Dr Wandhöfer concludes that these two initiatives will be crucial for competition and innovation in the UK market, however “they also represent significant operational risk in terms of their execution. The PSR Panel will be playing a key role in aligning industry and regulator on this journey.”
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