Bacs hits 40

Source: Bacs

Bacs, the company behind Direct Debit and Bacs Direct Credit, is celebrating its 40th anniversary and the delivery of over 68 billion automated transactions for UK consumers and businesses since the company was first established in 1968.

For the last four decades, Bacs has been processing automated payments on behalf of the UK banking industry, providing individuals and commercial companies with a simple and secure means of transferring money. The payment methods it manages are some of the most popular financial tools available in the UK today and are a benchmark for automated payments everywhere in the world.
  • In 2007, more than 5.5 billion UK payments were made through Bacs - that's an average of 90 payments for every man, woman and child in the country.
  • 75 per cent of GB adults now have at least one Direct Debit commitment.
  • Over 90 per cent of the UK workforce is paid via Bacs Direct Credit.


Bacs Managing Director, Michael Chambers, said: "Back in 1968, magnetic tapes were the order of the day at Bacs and demand meant we processed just over nine million payments in our first 12 months. Late last year, we were responsible for processing ten times that number in a single day - a growth level which shows just how integral Bacs and its automated payments now are to life in the UK."

Continuing he said: "Reaching a key anniversary is always a significant milestone in a company's history and can often be a time for reflection. However with the popularity of automated payments continuing to grow, we are looking firmly forward and working more closely than ever with the banking industry, our affiliates and business users on best practice and training - steps which will help enhance and preserve the integrity of the automated payments we are responsible for and guarantee their success for many more decades to come."
Some fascinating Bacs facts:
  • In 1967 a pilot payment scheme was run by the banking industry which allowed Unilever to debit sums of money due from its retailers. The wider Bacs facility became generally available in early 1968.*
  • In the early years at Bacs, data was supplied on magnetic tapes, each containing 2400ft of film. Couriers transported tapes and disks between banks and lots of manual labour was required to upload data to the system.
  • Some of the first 16k mainframe computers used by Bacs were the size of a wardrobe! Back in the 1960s, four mainframe computers were required to process just one million items and a team of dedicated engineers worked 24/7 to look after them.
  • Bacs began using telecommunications to process payments in 1983. By 1999 this submission method had become so popular that the use of magnetic tapes was discontinued. Bacstel, the telecoms process, was used until 2006 when Bacs switched all processing to Bacstel-IP, an internet-based solution which gives organisations the ability to track payment files at any time and from anywhere.
  • The largest daily peak of payments achieved through Bacs was over 90 million items - this volume was recorded in November 2007.
  • In the last three years alone, more than 14.5 billion transactions were debited or credited to UK bank accounts via Bacs.
  • Direct Debit volumes are predicted to grow to 4.1 billion by 2015.


* "Customers debited by other hands" - Ian Morrison in The Times - 1971

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