THE BLOG
02/07/2013 11:33 BST | Updated 01/09/2013 06:12 BST

The Payments Roadmap - Paving the Way

As with any industry, evolution is the key to ensuring a healthy and prosperous future. Finding out what your customers want and leading new innovations is a way of keeping one step ahead of competitors and navigating the future path for growth. Yet this is not only restricted to business, this is important for government and charities too. As the digital economy revolutionises how people interact with the wider world, it is my belief that if we are to ensure Britain remains an outward looking and pioneering business leader, then our financial services industry and ultimately our payments infrastructure must be flexible and robust in helping the British economy to prosper and challenge other nations.

As Chancellor George Osborne stated at the beginning of the year, the payments systems sit at the heart of the banking system. They are the invisible networks that allow your wages to be paid into your bank account and withdraw money from cash points. They allow charities to receive donations by text message and businesses to send millions of pounds every day. Britain has a world-leading payments infrastructure in many respects, although there is no room for complacency. The importance of our payment systems working correctly cannot be overstated on a personal, industry or even national level; this is, after all, the nation's money we're talking about.

The Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards has now set out its proposed reforms of the financial services sector, including the payments infrastructure. This closely followed the Payments Council's recent announcement setting out our plans for the future: the 'Payments Roadmap' industry strategy will look to meet the needs of people and business and address the future dynamics of our economy, including security and technology, over the coming decade.

During the next year, we will engage widely to review the UK's payment systems by speaking to consumers, businesses and other organisations to learn how they want payments to work for them and to ensure they will meet their everyday needs. Initiatives and successes like the Faster Payments Scheme demonstrate how consumers want to interact within the wider economy - online and not confined by opening times. The forthcoming Current Account Switch Service, launching this September, will allow anyone to switch bank accounts within seven-days; again quickly and hassle-free. As a direct consequence it will also enable new entrants to enter the market, whether they are banks on the high street or payment providers online.

Why then is this important? As I stated at the beginning, businesses and economies must always be on the front foot. If the UK is to adapt to the challenges of the future, then we must be able to plan and budget ahead for those needs. The Roadmap and consultation will listen to the views of financial providers, government, regulators, consumers, businesses, charities and IT providers. It will allow us to understand not only their demands, but also the potential costs. Banks are constantly evolving their IT for customers, particularly with the development of online and mobile banking. If the financial sector wants to ultimately serve its customers and the wider economy, then it must evolve by planning for the future.

The Payments Roadmap will clearly set out how the collaborative space of the UK's payments environment can be made even more competitive, innovative, and cost-effective. I hope this will pave the way for Britain to continue developing and leading the world in financial innovation and ultimately create a financial sector that is attractive and works for both consumers and businesses.