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SEPA Instant Credit Transfer (SCT Inst) payment scheme goes live

21 November 2017

The single euro payments area (SEPA) instant credit transfer (SCT Inst) scheme, developed by the European Payments Council, is ‘live’ today 21 Nov, writes Neil Ainger, with the EPC claiming almost 600 payment service providers (PSPs) across Europe are already offering euro instant payments on the framework.

According to the EPC designers of the SCT Inst voluntary rulebook that went live today 585 PSPs, 15% of the total in Europe, are already offering instant euro payment services in eight countries from Austria to Estonia, Italy to Spain.

But the organisation is predicting it will take until 2020 for PSP uptake to reach 50% following today’s non-mandatory launch. The scheme is intended to reach the 34 SEPA Countries in Europe including Poland, France, UK and so on, with EPC chair Javier Santamaría claiming in an InstaPay blog that, “the payment industry has been extremely quick to move on this topic”. However, until the Germans move fully next summer uptake will lag behind.

The SCT Inst real-time payments scheme encourages adoption of the ISO20022 messaging standard and give its users the ability to:

  • Move up to 15,000 euros from one account in Europe to another
  • Maximum of ten seconds allowed
  • Operate on a constant 24×7 operational basis.

Meeting these requirements during the on-going migration has and will present challenges to PSPs and infrastructure providers across Europe, as this earlier InstaPay news analysis makes plain.

German situation
According to a survey of 11 large German banks run by the German-language ‘Der Treasurer’ magazine in its November 2017 edition German banks will not be offering instant payments (IP) in 2017 in the main, excepting UniCredit’s Bank Aktiengesellschaft unit, better known as Hypovereinsbank (HVB). Even HVB will only offer it to internal customers with HVB accounts initially – in other words, solely for book transfers.

Deutsche Bank will offer SCT Inst instant payments from Q3 2018 onwards, with DZ-Bank planning to join in November 2018, says ‘Der Treasurer’, while Commerzbank stated the introduction of IPs is “conceivable”, without naming a date. Other findings include:

  • German savings banks will develop the technical basis for SCT Inst IPs by July 2018.
  • UniCredit will cater for inbound IPs in Italy for its Italian customers in 2017, but the bank does not have a firm date yet for when outbound payments will be possible, or for when cross-border payments from its German HVB unit will be permitted.

Belgian, Spanish & others impacted by German delay
The lack of widespread interest in immediately offering IPs is a problem for multinational foreign banks in Germany that want to provide truly pan-European real-time SCT Inst-compliant payments across the continent, as the scheme book envisages.

Both BNP Paribas and ING, for instance, will offer instant payments in Spain, to be followed next year by Belgium, but cannot yet say the same for their German payment rail operations. Other PSPs in Finland, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal and Sweden are expected to get on board next year and into 2019, as the on-going migration to instant payments across Europe continues.

HSBC Germany is planning to offer IPs after the implementation of the European Central Bank’s (ECB) TARGET Instant Payment Settlement (TIPS) platform in November 2018.

EBA Clearing’s RT1 platform for cross-border euro real-time payments (RTP) is already live. It offers pan-European reach and says participants from nine countries have committed to using it, extending SCT Inst reach to over 325 payment service providers (PSPs), with Spain’s Iberpay one such partner user committed to using RT1 in order to help its national banks’ operate multinationally. The provider’s refreshed domestic account clearing house (ACH) should offer efficient national euro instant payments on a domestic basis after a round of technology investments and upgrades.

National clearing and settlement mechanisms (CSMs), such as Iberpay, that want to go pan-European or offer continent-wide services via partners have had to make changes to their IT systems, risk management, operations and marketing – as have the banks, alternative PSPs and others that want to connect. Compliant CSMs that have self-declared their adherence to the new SCT Inst scheme, nine so far, such as France’s Stet and Equens Worldline, can be seen by clicking on the highlighted text.

In a statement about today’s ‘go live’, the EPC chair, Javier Santamaría, said: “With its numerous advantages, the SCT Inst scheme fully anchors European payments in the anywhere, anytime digital world.”

He went on to say, “SCT Inst is the only regional initiative of its kind in the world. The European payment community can be proud of the work achieved to make instant euro credit transfers a reality today.”

Santamaría added, “I am excited that this project is now underway” and encouraged PSPs that have not joined SCT Inst yet to do so quickly, claiming that European instant payment integration will have tremendous benefits for corporate and consumer users.


  • The European Payments Council has produced an EPC Infographic showing end use cases for SCT Inst-compliant payments covering person-to-person (P2P) instant payments for consumers through to business-to-business (B2B) end uses such as the payment of taxes, although the EUR15,000 maximum limit will have to be raised to gain widespread corporate usage. An EPC video also explains the scheme’s parameters, such as its less than 10 second, 24×7 operational basis.    


Author: Neil Ainger