Vocalink signs deal for real-time switching, settlements for U.K.’s Link ATMs

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Vocalink beat out four other competing bids to secure a 10-year contract to provide real-time switching and settlements for U.K. ATM operator Link Scheme.

Ironically, coinciding with its acquisition by Mastercard in May 2017, the U.K.’s Payment Systems Regulator (PSR) demanded that the contract be put up for competitive bid as a way to inject a level of competition. The contract calls for the provision of real-time, 24x7 ATM switching and settlement services, including real-time transaction inquiry and liability management, overnight reconciliation, and settlement via Swift to the Bank of England’s Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) system. The competitive bidding and tender process was overseen by U.K. law firm RPC, also known as Reynolds, Porter and Chamberlain.

"The completion of this competitive procurement represents a major milestone for the Link Scheme and secures the provision of Link's critical infrastructure until 2031,” John Howells, Link Scheme's CEO, said in the report.

Link manages a network of approximately 70,000 ATMs across the U.K. In 2017 the network conducted 3.1 billion transactions.

Link reports on its website that the competitive bid was mandated by the PSR and that all of the members had to vote to approve the selection of Vocalink. A key to the selection is that one of Link’s primary objectives is to provide universal access to cash and is the main facilitator of free-to-use cash withdrawals. Link noted that the bidding process began in January 2018 and has only recently been completed.

"The procurement process was far more complex than a standard outsourcing contract negotiation due to the number of parties and stakeholders involved, including two U.K. regulators (the Bank of England and the PSR) and 35 members of the Link Scheme," Charles Buckworth, commercial partner at RPC, said in the report.

The were four competing bidders to Vocalink for the contract including Visa and FIS, which recently acquired Worldpay. Vocalink has been actively working across the globe to deliver real-time payment and settlement infrastructure. It won a deal to modernize Peru’s payments infrastructure in December 2018, Saudi Arabia in April 2019, but lost on a deal for Canada’s payments infrastructure to SIA in February 2019.

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