On 8 February 2024, the Bank of England (BoE) published two discussion papers on its Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) service operating hours and access policies.

The discussion papers are part of the BoE’s work to renew its RTGS services, which will include the introduction of a new core ledger settlement engine this year. The new infrastructure embeds technical functionalities that are intended to allow for future innovation and promote settlement in central bank money, which the BoE notes is the safest way of settling payments.

The features of this new infrastructure include:

  • The capability to operate longer settlement hours. The discussion paper on extended RTGS operating hours, which builds on industry feedback to date, outlines the BoE’s initial analysis on the benefits and costs of extended hours (including to near 24×7) and seeks feedback to input to a decision on future operating hours. The BoE notes that longer RTGS operating hours for settlement would enable faster, cheaper and safer cross-border payments by reducing time zone hurdles, easing liquidity management, and reducing peak-time congestion. It would also align with the BoE’s goal of fostering financial innovation, particularly in wholesale settlement and facilitating the development of new payment services. 
  • The capacity to support broader participation, offer more streamlined and simplified onboarding, and introduce a more proportionate, risk-based assurance model. The BoE is considering whether and how changes to its RTGS access policies could help to make the most of these features and encourage competition in the payments services market. The discussion paper on reviewing access to RTGS accounts for settlement presents the initial findings of the BoE’s review of its policies around RTGS access and seeks feedback to inform further policy development.  

The BoE’s vision is for RTGS to act as an open platform for change and innovation, supporting its financial stability and monetary policy objectives. Ultimately, the BoE hopes to support the industry development of innovative features which would lead to cheaper, safer and faster domestic and cross-border payments. 

Next steps

The deadline for responding to both discussion papers is 30 April 2024, and the BoE plans to continue engaging with a range of stakeholders as it analyses the responses it receives.

For the discussion paper on RTGS access, the BoE will consider industry views and aims to publish a response to this discussion paper within 12 months of the closing date.

For the discussion paper on extending operating hours, the BoE plans to issue a consultation paper in 2025 to formally consult on a proposal for RTGS and CHAPS operating hours. This will include a proposal on the end-state for future operating hours and an implementation path to reach that goal. After assessing the consultation feedback, the BoE will communicate a decision on operating hours.

If an extension is agreed, the BoE will work closely with industry to develop a roadmap for implementation and, at a minimum, would give at least one year’s notice before implementing any changes to RTGS operating hours. The specific implementation path will depend on the proposed length of extension, which the BoE notes could include multiple stages.