• The PSR’s two-year report on access and governance shows trends over 2019-20

  • The rate of new payment service providers joining payment systems slowed down over 2019-20, but there continues to be interest in joining an interbank payment system

  • New indirect access providers (IAPs)are offering different products to the established big players

The PSR has today published its latest access and governance report, showing trends and developments in interbank payment systems over 2019 and 2020. This report details how new participants have been able to join payment systems (access) and notes developments in how the payment systems have been run and operated (governance). This shows that interbank payment systems continued to sign up new payment service providers (PSPs) (such as banks/building societies, e-money institutions). The system operators have expanded their engagement programmes, meaning they are getting more input from the people and businesses that use the systems and can reflect their needs better in their decision making.


When the PSR began operating in 2015, one of its initial aims was to open up access to payment systems for payment service providers (PSPs). This was aimed at increasing competition and innovation, which can bring benefits to everybody using the systems through lower prices and new products and services to meet different needs.  

The regulator issued a set of General and Specific Directions to ensure that payment system operators had fair and open criteria for PSPs that wanted to connect to their systems. The subsequent years saw a gradual expansion of new PSPs joining the systems.

Since 2015, the number of direct participants has grown across all the interbank payment systems. Eighteen PSPs joined payment systems directly across 2019 and 2020. Although this marks a slowing of the rate of growth from 2018 (which saw eighteen new joiners in a single year), there is continued interest in joining one or more interbank payment system as the slots made available for new PSPs in 2022 are already booked.

The new report reveals that new entrant IAPs have a growing customer base. A group of four recent entrants now provides access to over 150 PSPs between them – more than two out of the four established IAPs do individually.


The PSR also reports on payment system operators’ governance arrangements. In its assessment of the last two years, the PSR found that Pay.UK continued to engage with users on aspects of its existing services and plans for new offerings, including through new stakeholder engagement advisory groups. Pay.UK also engaged with stakeholders on the design and delivery of the UK’s New Payments Architecture. This is important because it allows users’ views to be part of the operator’s decision making, meaning Pay.UK can design services that suit their needs.

As we explained in our proposed PSR Strategy (June 2021), in the future we want to see Pay.UK deliver against a broader role, actively improving the rules governing interbank payments.

Natalie Timan, Head of Strategy Analysis and Monitoring, says:

“We’re continuing to see more participants joining payment systems, and some of those new joiners offer indirect access to other PSPs. This enables them to offer new products and services to their customers who use payment systems every day. Although there was a levelling off of new direct participants over 2019-20, we expect to see more PSPs (such as banks and building societies) gaining access in the future. This will help them deliver products and services their customers want and need.”



  1. PSPs need a connection to a payment system in order to offer payment services. They can either connect directly to the system themselves (direct access), or go through another PSP’s connection (indirect access). Directly connected PSPs that supply indirect access to other PSPs are known as indirect access providers (IAPs).
  2. The Bank of England determines the number of slots available for new PSPs and communicates this number to Pay.UK, which in turn formally allocates slots for individual participants, and assists with onboarding participants, across Bacs, ICS and Faster Payments.
  3. The PSR has published its access and governance report annually since 2016. In 2020 it postponed the publication, due to resource constraints during the COVID-19 pandemic. The new report therefore focuses on 2019 and 2020, with data on 2021 included where it is available, and also follows a new format. It reports data and trends, but does not analyse them or set out any expectations. This work is now absorbed into the PSR’s new Strategy, Analysis and Monitoring division, and the regulator’s approach to monitoring impacts and developments in the sector will continue to evolve.
  4. Our proposed PSR Strategy (June 2021)


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