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Pandemic casts shadow over UK Payment Systems Regulator’s annual plan

The UK’s Payment Systems Regulator (PSR) has published its annual plan and budget, setting out its key aims and activities for the year 2020/21 alongside its expected costs.  

The plan was drafted before the uncertainty caused by COVID-19. It sets out the regulator’s prior expectations about its priorities and planned work. The PSR says that much of the work described will continue, perhaps in different ways and - no doubt - to a revised timetable. The PSR will continuously review its work to ensure that it is focusing on the right things and adapting its approach to meet the challenges presented by COVID-19.

The PSR says it recognises that it is essential to allow organisations to focus all their efforts on supporting their customers as best as they can at this difficult time. The regulator has carefully assessed its requirements on the organisations it regulates and where appropriate, has acted to extend certain deadlines - especially where its regulatory requirements may distract firms from the immediate priority of dealing with the impacts of COVID-19. 

However, the PSR argues that payment systems are essential to all our lives and will continue to be during this time. Payments are also at the centre of several big transitions in society, as technology, people’s habits and the economy change. The PSR says that its role is vital in making these transitions work well for people, businesses and society.

New developments

One of the biggest changes is Pay.UK’s development of the New Payments Architecture (NPA) - a fundamental overhaul of the way UK interbank payments will operate. In the coming year, the PSR will be making sure that Pay.UK meets its requirements for the NPA so that payments in the future benefit from more competition and innovation. 

The PSR is also at the forefront of the debate on cash, and how to transition to an economy where digital payments may dominate, but many people still want and need to use cash. As well as working with LINK (the UK’s main ATM network operator) to maintain the footprint of its ATM network, the regulator is working with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and other authorities to look at what solutions might work for people in five or ten years - and beyond.  

In 2020/21, the PSR’s focus on collaboration will be more apparent than ever. It will work closely with other regulators, government, consumer groups and industry on a range of issues notably on access to cash and protecting people from payment scams. 

In these unprecedented times, the PSR says it will continue its work on opening up access to payment systems, promoting effective competition in the markets for payment systems and their services, and promoting good outcomes for all users.  

“With people and businesses having to adapt their ways of working in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, it will be even more important that we keep pace with the significant developments and challenges we are all facing,” said Chris Hemsley, managing director of the PSR. “This means our work plan will adapt as the year progresses and we’ve already made some key decisions to make sure organisations are able to focus on delivering key services to their customers effectively and securely. This year, we’ll continue to make sure that changing economic demands and the UK’s payment systems landscape delivers a future that works well for everyone.”


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