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EPA Champions Open Access to Bank Accounts with Release of New Guidance

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The Emerging Payments Association (EPA), which promotes collaboration and innovation across payments, has today released its updated guidance, EPA’s Guide to Payment Account Providers: 2021 edition, in partnership with the Association of Foreign Exchange and Payment Companies, to continue its work of campaigning for increased open access to accounts and payments within the UK.

Traditionally, banks have served consumers and corporates but with the evolving needs of payment service providers (PSPs) and merchants in today’s world when it comes to payment method/capability, the market must cater to wider range of clients, some of whom have different requirements and some of whom pose more risks. However, following the financial crash in 2008 and a series of de-risking events in 2012 and 2013, banks were told to lower their overall risk profile and closely monitor their compliance. As a result, banks began closing customers’ accounts, restricting access for new customers, with this felt most by small businesses and the fintech sector. Today, de-risking continues to threaten progress made in reducing remittance prices and fees, global AML/CFT objectives and financial inclusion more broadly.

At the start of 2021, the EPA teamed up with the AFEP to reach out to payment account providers from the across the industry, bringing together huge amounts of data into one helpful guidebook for players in the market looking for a payment account. The EPA’s Project Banking Access team worked with over 20 organisations offering payment accounts for this 2021 edition of the guidebook, including 10 of the biggest banks in the industry, alongside 12 non-bank financial institutions, both within and beyond the EPA community.

The providers who took part described how to gain access to Payment Systems, including their eligibility criteria, risk appetite, product capabilities, and how to contact them. This will help many firms across the industry to choose and keep their banking partner. Although there are still criticisms the industry is not open enough, this report highlights the importance of open relationships between PSPs and their clients and will help to both highlight and address the current issues around de-risking by banks.

Tony Craddock, Director General of the Emerging Payments Association, commented: “This guidebook battles a very real threat to the future of payments and, as a result, the fintech sector. It is a market failure that it is so hard to get a bank account, and that such a small number of banks provide accounts for others.”

Mitch Trehan, Head of Compliance and MLRO at Banking Circle, added: “It has been fantastic to see the level of engagement from payment account providers contributing to this guidebook. This is a testament to the industry working together, to prove that while there are known risks with the sector, there is also a willingness to work together and be transparent so that the right outcomes can be reached.”

EPA’s Project Banking Access aims to help the payments industry support EMIs, PIs, digital banks, and merchants to open and keep open bank accounts for safeguarding funds and everyday trading, and to secure widely accepted understanding of the scale and nature of de-risking and its impact on financial services and businesses. 

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