Getting started

To help you decide which form of access is right for your business, and customers, we’ve created a handy checklist covering off some of the key considerations you should take into account.

The payment services you require will depend on the products and facilities you wish to offer to your customers (e.g. Direct Debit, or Faster Payment). Defining your customer proposition will help you work out which payment system(s) you need to access, and will support you in deciding whether you opt for direct or indirect access. 

Questions to answer include

  • What is your customer proposition?
  • What are the customer needs that you’re designing your product or service to meet?
  • What are the benefits of your offering?
  • What are the key features of the product or service you wish to offer – consider functionality, quality, service, timing, delivery, price and any technical characteristics
  • Why will your customers use this product or service?
  • How will your customers use this product or service?
  • What is your target market?
  • What are your competitors’ products and services in this space?
  • Why is your product or service better than others in this space?
  • What is your operating model e.g. is the offering online only, or will there be a telephone and/or physical presence?
  • Do you have a longer-term strategy for how your products or services might change and develop in the future?
  • What are your anticipated payment volumes and forecasts for growth?

Researching your obligations and options is another key consideration when defining your business proposition.

Regulatory and licencing considerations

Depending on your business proposition, you may be obliged to be authorised or hold a licence to enable you to legally operate and offer products and services to your customers; there are also likely to be regulations you will need to comply with as a result of your business activities.

Information on the licences and regulations that apply to those who offer banking and payment services, and the process to obtain the relevant authorisation or licence(s), can be found on the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) websites.

Settlement services

Settlement can involve the services of a central bank. In order to settle your payment obligations, you may need your own, or access to, a settlement/reserve account at the Bank of England. More information on settlement / reserve and Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) accounts can be found on the Bank of England website.

Depending on your business proposition, there may be operational requirements you need to consider alongside your need for payment services.

The banking industry is relatively complex and highly regulated. While product offerings across the industry are wide and varied, the operational and transactional elements of banking that support products and services are fairly standard in their operation, and rules and regulations must be complied with by all participants in the market.

There are a variety of organisations that you may need to engage with to obtain what you need to move forward with your business proposition.

Since the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) were established on 1 April 2013, banks are dual-regulated by the FCA for the way they conduct their business and by the PRA for prudential requirements (such as capital and liquidity).

To become a bank, a single application must be made to the PRA, the lead regulator for banks. This will be assessed through a collaborative process; from a prudential perspective by the PRA, and from a conduct perspective by the FCA, against the threshold conditions of the respective regulators.

The Bank of England

If you need settlement services via a reserve or settlement account you will need to engage with the Bank of England to apply for this service.

Once you’ve decided on the best option for your business you will be ready to:

  • Apply to join one or more payment system(s)as a participant
    and / or
  • Engage in the process of securing services via a sponsor relationship.

When you’ve reached this point in the process, your engagement will be with the relevant organisation and they will guide you through the appropriate process.

The time it takes from application to accessing the payment services required may vary depending upon your selected access route, and whether you also need to apply for associated permissions, such as a banking licence.

The organisation you engage with for payment services will be able to provide more information about the timings and process to secure your access.

When your organisation has completed the process of securing the required payment services, you may wish to schedule in a regular review to ensure your payment services continue to meet the immediate and future needs of your customers.