Why the PSD2 will Spark Digital Innovation in European Banking and Payments….

Banking may be on the cusp of an industrial revolution. This is being propelled by technology on the supply side and the financial crisis on the demand side. The upshot could be the most radical reconfiguration of banking in centuries.” – Andrew Haldane, Chief Economist, Bank of England, 2013 [1]

This blog has discussed Banking and Payments industry trends quite extensively over the last year. Perhaps the most groundbreaking directive from a supranational regulatory standpoint has been the promulgation of the Payment Services Directive revision 2 (PSD2) in the European Union (EU). The PSD2 is a technology driven directive that aims to foster competition, digital innovation and security across Retail Banking & Internet Payments.

Banking and Payments Innovation in the EU..

The first Payment Services Directive (PSD1) came into vogue in the EU in 2009. With the stated goal of creating a Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA), the PSD1 provided created rules and frameworks for the creation of modern payment services as well as opened up payments to new entrants. The goal of the Single Euro Payments Area is to standardize the way euro payments are made across the EU and to make all cross border payments in euro as seamless as making domestic payments within a given member state. SEPA covers the whole of the EU and other non-EU European countries such as Iceland, Finland, Norway, Switzerland. Monaco etc.

A revised PSD (PSD2) was proposed in 2013 –PSD2 – EU Directive 2015/2366 . The PSD2 carries huge and monumental consequences in two lines of Global Banking – Retail Lines of Business (which typically include consumer savings & checking accounts, auto loans, mortgages and Small & Medium Enterprise Lending) and Payments (card payments, corporate payments, credit transfers, direct debits etc).

Many leading European Banks were propped by the EU Central Bank during the financial crisis. However, most have not innovated in any meaningful manner as their market shares have largely stayed intact with consumers still facing difficulties in cross border transactions. The EU clearly wants to use PSD2 as a vehicle to drive banking & payments innovation. Added to this is the Digital trend driven largely by global companies in the US and Asia. The intent of the PSD2 is to jumpstart the slow pace of innovation in the EU.

The PSD2 aims to foster a single market for consumer payments and eventually banking services. It intends to provide a framework for EU companies to respond to competitive changes in the payments landscape which have largely been driven by technology. The PSD2 also aims to drive further improvements in payment services across Europe by providing a number of enhancements to the PSD1 around the areas of mobile & online payments. It also harmonizes pricing and security among all member states. EU member state companies have until January 2018 to implement the PSD2.

It needs to be stated that all transactions that are ‘one leg out’ where at-least one party is located inside the EU – are within scope of the PSD2.

Open Banking, GDPR and PSD2…

The core themes of PSD2 may not be all that new for the UK banks for Her Majesty’s Treasury is putting finishing touches on the Open Bank Standard (OBS). While the topic has been covered quite exhaustively before in this blog, the themes are very similar as compared with the PSD2 – 

A Reference Architecture for The Open Banking Standard..

While the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) deserves it’s own blogpost, it certainly seems to impose an opposite effect on the industry as compared with PSD2. Let me explain, while the PSD2 forces banks to unlock customer data via APIs, GDPR imposes stringent requirements on them to protect customer data. It becomes effective on May 2018 (a few months after PSD2). Given the scope of both PSD2 and GDPR, banks will need to carefully assess and calibrate changes to a range of areas across the organization – security, lines of business communication, data management, partner ecosystems, outsourcing agreements etc.

So what does the PSD2 entail..

As mentioned above, the PSD2 moves the EU towards a single payment zone by creating explicit new institutional roles in the banking landscape. The goal is to clearly increase competition by changing the rules of participation in the banking & payments industry.

Under the PSD2, Banks and Payment Providers in the EU will need to unlock access to their customer data via Open APIs

First off, Banks need to begin opening up their customer data to third party providers of financial services, under the XS2A (Access to account) rule. They need to begin offering Open APIs (Application Programming Interface) to the TPPs (Third Party Providers).

This change creates three new types of roles for account and payment service providers –

  1. PISPs (Payment Initiation Service Providers) – who will be initiate online payments on the behalf of consumers which do not need to use existing payment networks and schemes. These will clearly provide new payment options to consumers in areas such as account to account payment transfers and bill pay. Example of a scenario. When a EU customer purchases a product from a retailer sometime in 2018, the retailer can initiate a payment request directly to the consumers Bank (via a secure API call) without going through any intermediaries.
  2. AISPs – (Account Information Service Providers) – who will be able to access customer core banking data and be able to provide value added personal financial management tools such as account aggregation etc.Example of a scenario – An AISP will offer a consumer with multiple banking accounts, a single aggregated view of all those accounts plus value added services such as personal financial management tools using all the transaction & historical data.
  3. ASPSPs (Account Servicing Payment Service Providers) – these are Credit Institutions (Banks that offer multiple services) and Payment Institutions( payment services providers) which are required to offer open APIs to the PSPs and the AISPs. These providers can charge a small price per transaction for the PISPs but not charge differently for payments  initiated through their own products.

The PISPs, AISPs and ASPSPs will all be registered, licensed and regulated by an EU agency – the European Banking Authority (EBA). They will also need be required to negotiate contracts with the individual banks. They will all need to use Strong Customer Authentication (SCA) mechanisms to access customer data thus reducing fraud in PSD2 transactions.

Open Banking via Open APIs..

The use of application programming interfaces (APIs) has been well documented across web scale companies such as Facebook, Amazon and Google. APIs are widely interoperable, relatively easy to create and form the front end of many Digital Platforms. APIs are leveraged to essentially access the core services provided by these platforms and can be used to create partner and customer ecosystems. Leader firms such as PayPal, Amazon & FinTechs such as Square, Mint etc have overwhelmingly used APIs as a way to not only open their platforms to millions of developers but also to offer innovative services. It is anticipated that the high margin services created as a result of PSD2, will include consumer & SME lending, financial advisory, peer to peer payments, crowdfunding, comparison shopping, chatbots etc to creating Banking ‘App Stores’ for widespread download and use. The AISPs and PISPs will definitely target high end margins such as financial advisory and lending.

APIs enable the creation of new business models that can deliver differentiated experiences (source – IBM)

It is expected that the EBA will define standards for the PSD2 Open API encompassing areas such as API definitions for standard banking operations to check account balances, perform transfers, view transaction histories, process payments. Vendors in the API space have already begun offering models for specific banking workflows. Security models for PSD2 should include support for two factor authentication, consent management etc using standards such as OpenID Connect.

Strategic Implications for Banks & Payment Providers..

With PSD2, the European Parliament has adopted the legal foundation of the creation of a EU-wide single payments area (SEPA).  While the goal of the PSD is to establish a set of modern, digital industry rules for all payment services in the European Union; it has significant ramifications for the financial services industry as it will surely current business models & foster new areas of competition. The key message from a regulatory standpoint is that consumer data can be opened up to other players in the payment value chain. This will lead to a clamor by players to own more of the customers data with a view to selling business services (e.g. accurate credit scoring, access to mortgage & other consumer loans and mutual funds etc) on that information.

The top five implications of the PSD2 for Banks will be –

  1. Increased competition for revenues in their existing customer base – It is expected that a whole range of nimble competitors such as FinTechs and other financial institutions will jockey to sell products to bank customers.
  2. Banks that are unable to respond to PSD2 in a nimbler manner will be commodified into utilities – Banks will lose their monopoly on being their customers primary front end. As FinTechs take over areas such as mortgage loans (an area where they’re much faster than banks in granting loans), Banks that cannot change their distribution and product models will be commodified. The challenges start with inflexible core banking systems that maintain customer demographics, balances, product information and other BORT (Book Of Record Transaction) Systems that store a range of loan, payment and risk data. These architectures will slowly need to transition from their current (largely) monolithic architectures to compose-able units. There are various strategies that Banks can follow to ‘modernize the core’. That may be the subject of a followup post.
  3. Lost Revenues – Over time, under PSD2, Banks and Payment providers will lose substantial revenues to the PISPs. The veritable elimination of card surcharges and Interchange Fee Regulation (IFR) for payment transactions using credit cards will not only dis-intermediate but also negatively impact card schemes such as Visa and MasterCard.
  4. A High Degree of IT Spend – To comply with the PSD2, Banks will spend tens to hundreds of millions of dollars implementing Open APIs, retrofitting these on legacy systems and complying with increased security requirements mandated by the PSD2.
  5. Implications for Regulatory Reporting and Risk Management – Clearly the Banks are a disadvantage here compared to the new entrants. The Banks still have to adhere to the Basel frameworks and AML (Anti Money Laundering) controls. The AISPs on the other hand are not subject to any of these restrictions nor do they need to hold capital in reserve.PISPs on the other hand will need to prove access to minimal capital reserves. Both AISPs and PISPs will need to explain their business plans and models clearly to regulators. They will also need to prove that their access to consumer data does not violate the intended use.

Why PSD2 is an Enormous Opportunity for Banks and Payment Providers..

At various times, we have highlighted various business & innovation issues with Banking providers in the areas of Retail Banking, Payment Providers and Capital Markets. Regimes such as PSD2 will compel staid industry players to innovate faster than they otherwise would.

After the PSD2 takes effect, banks face various choices. We can list those into three different strategic options.

  1. Minimally Compliant Banks – Here we should categorize Banks that seek to provide bare bones compliance with the Open API. While this may be the starting point for several banks, staying too long in this segment will mean gradual market share erosion as well as a loss of customer lifetime value (CLV) over time. The reason for this is that FinTechs and other startups will offer a range of services such as Instant mortgages,  personal financial management tools, paperless approval processes for a range of consumer accounts etc. It is also anticipated that such organizations will treat PSD2 as a localized effort and will allocate personnel to the project mainly around the front office and marketing.
  2. Digital Starters -Banks that have begun exploring opening up customer data but are looking to support the core Open API but also introduce their own proprietary APIs. While this approach may work in the short to medium term, it will only impose integration headaches on the banks as time goes on.
  3. Digital Innovators – The Digital Innovators will lead the way in adopting open APIs. These banks will fund dedicated teams in lines of business serving their particular customer segments either organically or using partnerships with TPPs. They will not only adhere to the PSD2 APIs but also extend the spec to create own with a focus on data monetization. Examples of such products and services will include Robo-advisors and Chatbots.

Recommendations for Banks on how to be a Digital Innovator….

In the PSD2 age, financial institutions need to embrace digital technology as a way of disarming competition and increasing their wallet share of customer business. They need to move beyond transactional banking to a customer centric model by offering value added services on the customer data that they already provide. Capabilities such as Customer Journey Mapping (CJM) and Single View of Customer (SVC) are the minimum table stakes that they need to provide.

Demystifying Digital – Why Customer 360 is the Foundational Digital Capability – ..(1/3)

So, the four strategic business goals that Innovators PSD2 compliant need to drive towards in the long run –

  1. Digitize The Customer Journey –  Bank clients who use services like Uber, Zillow, Amazon etc in their daily lives are now very vocal in demanding a seamless experience across all of their banking services using digital channels.  The vast majority of Bank applications still lag the innovation cycle, are archaic & are separately managed. The net issue with this is that the client is faced with distinct user experiences ranging from client on-boarding to servicing to transaction management. Such applications need to provide anticipatory or predictive capabilities at scale while understand the specific customers lifestyles, financial needs & behavioral preferences. 
  2. Provide Improved Access to Personal Financial Management (PFM) Tools & Improved Lending Processes  –  Provide consumers with a single aggregated picture of all their accounts without customers needing to engage a TPP (Third Party Provider). Also improve lending systems by providing more efficient access to loans by incorporating a large amount of contextual data in the process.
  3. Automate Back & Mid Office Processes Across Lending, Risk, Compliance & Fraud – PSD2 will force substantial compliance costs on the regulatory arena. The needs to forge a closer banker/client experience is not just driving demand around data silos & streams themselves but also forcing players to move away from paper based models to more of a seamless, digital & highly automated model to rework a ton of existing back & front office processes. These processes range from risk data aggregation, supranational compliance (AML,KYC, CRS & FATCA), financial reporting across a range of global regions & Cyber Security. Can the Data architectures & the IT systems  that leverage them be created in such a way that they permit agility while constantly learning & optimizing their behaviors across national regulations, InfoSec & compliance requirements? Can every piece of actionable data be aggregated, secured, transformed and reported on in such a way that it’s quality across the entire lifecycle is guaranteed? 
  4. Tune Existing Business Models Based on Client Tastes and Feedback – While the initial build out of the core architecture may seem to focus on digitizing interactions and exposing data via APIs. What follows fast is strong predictive modeling capabilities working at large scale where systems need to constantly learn and optimize their interactions, responsiveness & services based on client needs & preferences. 

Recommendations for Payment Service Providers on how to be a Digital Innovator….

Banks must revise their Payments Strategy and adopt six components to be successful as an Everyday Payments provider in the new regulatory environment:

  1. Frictionless and integrated payments –  working with interested 3rd parties in facilitating multimode payments through a variety of front ends
  2. Payments Ecosystems – Payment providers should work on creating smart ecosystems with TPPs that not only offer payment services but also leverage their knowledge of customers to offer value added tools for personal financial planning
  3. Real time Payments innovation – driving realtime cross border payments that are seamless, reliable, cost effective for both corporates and individuals
  4. Customer Data Monetization, Payment providers have been sitting on petabytes of customer data and have only now began waking up to the possibilities of monetizing this data. An area of increasing interest is to provide sophisticated analytics to merchants as a way of driving merchant rewards programs. Retailers, Airlines and other online merchants need to understand what segments their customers fall into as well as what the best avenues are to market to each of them. E.g. Webapp, desktop or tablet etc. Using all of the Payment Data available to them, Payment providers can help Merchant Retailers understand their customers better as well as improve their loyalty programs.
  5. Enhancing the Digital experience in corporate payments – Using the learnings from the more dynamic consumer payments spectrum, payment providers should offer their business clients the same experience in a range of areas such as wire transfers, cash management services using mobile devicesThe below blogpost provide more reading around the capabilities payment providers need to develop in the Digital arena.


With the PSD2, EU Banks and Payment service providers will need to accelerate the transition to a customer oriented mindset. They will being pushed to share data through open standards, become highly digitized in interacting with consumers and will need to begin leveraging their first mover advantage. They need to use the vast internal data (about customers, their transaction histories, financial preferences, operational insights etc) to create new products or services or to enhance the product experience.


[1] Andy Haldane: ‘Banking may be on the cusp of an industrial revolution – http://www.wired.co.uk/article/a-financial-forecast-from-the-bank-of-england

[2[ PSD2 EU Directive – PSD2 – EU Directive 2015/2366

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