The Federal Reserve banks signaled Feb. 4 that they are pushing ahead with their efforts to encourage the construction of a faster nationwide payment system.

The regional Fed banks received nearly 200 comments in response to a white paper published last fall on modernizing the electronic-payment system. More than half of the responses came from nonbanks, and Fed officials made special mention of those comments in a news release.

"We are thrilled with the number of responses received and with the diversity of perspectives represented by the responses," Cleveland Fed President Sandra Pianalto said in the release. "It's critical that all ideas and perspectives are considered as we collectively identify the most promising opportunities to advance the U.S. payment system."

Back in 2012 the nation's largest banks killed a proposal to require banks to process automated clearinghouse transactions on the same day they're initiated, rather than the following day.

Nonfinancial companies that have a stake in the payment system are widely seen as more supportive of modernization efforts than some of the nation's largest banks are, so soliciting nonbanks' opinions could help Fed officials to overcome opposition to an overhaul.

The regional Fed banks plan to publish a paper in the second half of this year that will communicate its decisions about future initiatives to improve the payments system.

"We are carefully reviewing the feedback that we have received on the consultation paper to identify common themes and issues for future focus, as well as insights into potential solutions," Pianalto said.

Yesterday's news release was issued by the Financial Services Policy Committee, which is made up of Pianalto and two other Fed bank presidents as well as two regional first vice presidents.

While Fed officials are trying to encourage action, they are trying to avoid being seen as advocates of costly changes to the banking industry.

In last September's white paper, the Federal Reserve banks laid out a series of "desired outcomes" it would like to see within the next decade.

Among its preferred outcomes is the idea that by 2023, any U.S. bank account holder should be able to make a near-real-time payment to any other U.S. bank account holder.

That kind of speedy payment system has already been built in countries such as Sweden and the United Kingdom.

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