Hoping to streamline the payment options across Europe, the European Payments Council has launched the SEPA Instant Credit Transfer scheme.

The introduction of a cross-border option for real-time money transfers throughout most of Europe has been on the planning table since the move toward the Single Euro Payments Area began in the early 2000's. SEPA became operational in all Eurozone countries in 2014.

While SEPA made the euro the currency standard in Europe, it did not immediately address real-time money transfers. As such, the council stated its intentions last spring to eventually launch the concept of the new SEPA scheme, touting it as the largest faster payments system in the world.

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Because SEPA emerged as a concept for no-border banking in Europe, it was equally meant to replace domestic schemes. But many domestic faster payments operations have begun to surface, making interactions difficult for a SEPA-wide network.

"Many of the transactions that EBA Clearing and others will process will be between European countries, but also within Ireland and a big portion in Italy," said Gareth Lodge, a London-based industry analyst with Celent. "They will undoubtedly process domestically and interact with local schemes, too."

However, it is more complicated in that, unlike SEPA, regulators have not mandated that the instant credit scheme be adopted in every country, Lodge said.

The SEPA Instant Credit Transfer (STC Inst) is built around the ISO 20022 standard for cross-border business payments. The standard allows movement of remittance documents along with the payment to clearly describe its purpose and other relevant information for banks to share.

"As a result, there is an emerging standard that, while not instantly operable with schemes from other countries, they are pretty close," Lodge added. "A number of countries are already looking at doing cross-border, real-time payments, so this starts the building foundations for the future."

Nearly 600 payment service providers from eight countries are onboard for using the new SEPA scheme, which will enable individuals and corporations to transfer up to 15,000 euros within 10 seconds at any time, 365 days a year in any of 34 SEPA countries.

Payment service providers who mutually agree can increase the amount limit and transaction speed as needed.

"With its numerous advantages, the SCT Inst scheme fully anchors European payments in the anywhere, anytime digital world," European Payments Council chairman Javier Santamaria stated in a Tuesday press release.

"SCT Inst is the only regional initiative of this kind in the world," Santamaria added, encouraging providers who have not joined the scheme to do so. "The European payment community can be proud of the work achieved to make instant euro credit transfers a reality today."

At launch, payments service providers in Austria, Estonia, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands and Spain are signed on, with others from Belgium, Finland, Germany, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal and Sweden set to join in 2018 and 2019.

Seven large clearing and settlement mechanisms, including EBA Clearing, Equens Worldline, Iberpay and Stet, will be able to support SCT Inst transactions this month, the council said.

In addition, the European Central Bank's Target Instant Payment Settlement platform will enter the arena in late 2018.

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