A new era of instant links in Latvia's interbank payments

  • 2020-03-25
  • LB/TBT Staff

Last week, interbank payments between credit institution customers by means of instant links – a convenient identifier that enables to make a transfer by using a mobile phone number – were launched in Latvia.

This has become possible after AS SEB banka joined the Proxy Registry "Instant Links" maintained by Latvijas Banka. Thus, instant payments between AS Citadele banka, which was the first to offer its customers an option to use instant links, and AS SEB banka can be executed without using the payee's current account number: the process is simplified and provides an opportunity to make an instant payment by indicating the payee's mobile phone number only. The use of other identifiers (e.g. e-mail addresses) for transfers could be implemented in the near future.

Several Estonian credit institutions have already started to use the innovative infrastructure of the Proxy Registry "Instant Links" provided by Latvijas Banka to offer modern payment services to their customers, and soon this opportunity will be widely used by Latvian and Estonian credit institutions, thus strengthening the leading position of Latvijas Banka in the field of payment innovations in the Baltic region.

Today, the Council of Latvijas Banka approved amendments to "Latvijas Banka's Procedure for the Use of the Proxy Registry "Instant Links"", while continuing to extend the functionality of the Proxy Registry "Instant Links" and promoting a wider use of it in innovative payment services, as well as introducing more stringent requirements for the processing of personal data. The amendments will take effect on 27 April 2020.

To promote a wider availability and the visual identity of the Proxy Registry "Instant Links", Latvijas Banka has designed a logo for the Registry, thus enabling the Latvian and Estonian credit institutions using the Proxy Registry "Instant Links" to use it upon prior agreement with Latvijas Banka. The logo of the Proxy Registry "Instant Links" has been derived from the instant payments logo which is a registered trademark.

Latvijas Banka has developed and maintains the Proxy Registry "Instant Links" storing the links between the credit institutions' customer account IBANs and mobile phone numbers. The Proxy Registry "Instant Links" can also store other identifiers linked to customer current accounts (e.g. e-mail address, ID card number) for more convenient execution of payments. The Proxy Registry "Instant Links" can be used for executing instant payments as well as other payments, including intrabank payments, more easily.

In August 2017, Latvia became the first euro area country to introduce instant payments – innovative, up-to-date, instant interbank transfers available 24/7, including weekends and holidays. In the course of this short period of time, instant payments have been made available to more than 90% of the customers of Latvian credit institutions and have acquired the status of interbank payments standard rather than that of an exclusive service. Overall, approximately 16.1 million instant payments totalling about 3.5 billion euro have been made.

In the summer of 2019, the general public learned about another innovative solution, i.e. the Proxy Registry "Instant Links" which enables interbank payments based on the payee's mobile phone number only without the need to know and enter the respective current account number for each payment.

Harijs Ozols, Latvijas Banka's Innovative Payment Services Manager, says: "Instant payments and the Proxy Registry "Instant Links" not only provide better, more convenient, quicker and safer payments, but also form a basis for the further development of innovative payment services. Entrepreneurs active in fintech, e-commerce, trade, the provision of services and other sectors have an opportunity to develop new customer-friendly services via the infrastructure provided by Latvijas Banka. Credit institutions also benefit from this infrastructure, which helps to improve and supplement the range of customer services."