OeNB and PSA set course for future-proof setup of retail payment services in Austria

(, Vienna)

2021 will bring redesign of retail payment services

On September 30, 2020, the Oesterreichische Nationalbank (OeNB) and Payment Services Austria (PSA) gave the goahead for implementing a new structure governing the settlement of retail payment services in Austria. From 2021 onward, PSA will be in charge of operating clearing services for retail payments, taking over this responsibility from the OeNB and Geldservice Austria (GSA), an OeNB subsidiary. In addition to performing its role as the public authority responsible for payment systems oversight, the OeNB will continue to act as a settlement agent to ensure the secure processing of all transactions in central bank money. OeNB Governor Robert Holzmann welcomed “this pioneering solution which provides for a clear division of responsibilities between the OeNB and PSA,” and spoke out in favor of “the impetus that has thus been given to implementing instant, i.e. real-time, payments in Austria.”

Major milestone of retail payment services project successfully completed

From left to right: Eduard Schock, Gottfried Haber, Thomas Steiner, Robert Holzmann (alle OeNB), David Ostah (PSA), Günter Ernst (GSA), Harald Flatscher (PSA) und Stefan Varga (GSA). Foto: OeNB, Lisi Niesner.

In a major project run jointly with board members of all Austrian banking groups, the OeNB led efforts to develop a new setup for the market infrastructures for credit transfers between accounts in Austria. An important milestone of the project, which was dubbed “Felix Austria,” has now been successfully completed after one-and-a-half years. “We have found a forward-looking solution tailored to the Austrian financial market and embraced by all domestic banking groups,” said OeNB Executive Director Eduard Schock, who is in charge of cash and payment services at the OeNB. He further emphasized the project’s significance by stating that this initiative “sets an example for our European peers. The OeNB will continue to ensure the secure settlement of transactions in central bank money.”

On September 30, 2020, members of the OeNB’s Governing Board and PSA and GSA managing directors signed the relevant agreements to officially launch the redesign of the settlement infrastructures of Austria’s retail payment market.

Setting up new market structures for retail payments in Austria

As of 2021, PSA, which functions as a shared services platform for Austrian banks, will be responsible for operating clearing services for retail payments, a task formerly performed by the GSA on behalf of the OeNB. Moreover, the OeNB and Austria’s banks will transfer to PSA their shares in the Austrian Research Association for Payment Cooperation (STUZZA), a cooperation platform of the largest Austrian banks established in 1991 to develop technical and organizational standards and serve as an advisory entity. The responsibility for payment systems oversight will remain with the OeNB, which will continue to act as a settlement agent to guarantee the secure processing of all transactions in central bank money. “We ensure security by maintaining stability: The OeNB is a payments processing hub and oversees payment infrastructures,” explained Governor Holzmann. “In other words, we ensure, for the benefit of the Austrian economy, that national and cross-border payments are efficient and secure, while, at the same time, serving as a gateway to other European economies.”

Investing in the future of Austria’s retail payment system

Looking ahead, investments made by PSA in the development of a real-time retail payment system will provide further impetus to the modernization of Austria’s financial market infrastructures. So will initiatives launched by the OeNB, such as the creation of an open coordination platform for financial innovation and similar projects aimed at fostering paytech and fintech initiatives. Referring to this spirit of innovation in payment services, OeNB Executive Director Thomas Steiner stressed that “the OeNB, as Austria’s central bank, takes a particular interest in creating adequate framework conditions for setting up an efficient, secure and innovative settlement infrastructure to enable smooth, swift and customer-friendly payment transactions for each and every bank customer in Austria.”

David Ostah and Harald Flatscher, managing directors of PSA, added that “PSA has been a recognized partner on the Austrian financial market for many years, serving as a center of competence for cashless payment transactions for the Austrian banking community. Its continued close cooperation with the OeNB and its investments in a new real-time retail payment platform will set new standards for Austria, enabling secure payments ‘made in Austria’ in a matter of seconds, irrespective of location and device used. Austria’s financial marketplace will benefit from this exemplary initiative which serves as a yardstick for other European solutions.”