The material on this site is for financial institutions, professional investors and their professional advisers. It is for information only. Please read our Terms & Conditions, Privacy Policy and Cookies before using this site. Please see our Subscription Terms and Conditions.

All material subject to strictly enforced copyright laws. © 2022 Euromoney, a part of the Euromoney Institutional Investor PLC.

Survival of the slickest

Turning money and small-value payments into digital form doesn’t interest the banks – it’s against their interests and too expensive. Into the vacuum have stepped hundreds of payment schemes, many of them claiming they have found the Holy Grail. These boasts are premature. Some ideas are elegant but don’t have critical mass. Worse still, they rely on those indifferent beasts, the banks. Find your way through the Darwinian jungle with the help of David Shirreff

A Martian looking at the way Earth has organized its payment and settlement systems, would find his fingers itching to rip them up and start again. Unfortunately these payment systems are not going to benefit from a Martian invasion anytime soon. There is so much vested interest in keeping large chunks of the status quo that change is slow. The main inertia comes from the banks: the beginning and end of practically every transaction, be it online or offline. They are dragging their feet because of the use they make of the free float between order and settlement, and because changing payment systems is expensive.

Customers are faced in this electronic age with money-transfers taking three to four days just to make a retail payment from one high street bank to another. Correspondent banking across national borders is a joke. A money transfer can take more than a week and cost $30. Banking practices in a small country such as Finland show that the technology and security are there to make a retail transfer between banks in real time, triggered by a single person-to-person phone call.

You have reached premium content. Please log in to continue reading.

Read beyond the headlines with Euromoney

For over 50 years, our readers have looked to Euromoney to stay informed about the issues that matter in the international banking and financial markets. Find out more about our different levels of access below.


Unlimited access to and

Expert comment, long reads and in-depth analysis interviews with senior finance professionals

Access the results of our market-leading annual surveys across core financial services

Access the results of our annual awards, including the world-renowned Awards for Excellence

Your print copy of Euromoney magazine delivered monthly

£73.75 per month

Billed Annually


Unlimited access to and, including our top stories, long reads, expert analysis, and the results of our annual surveys and awards

Sign up to any of our newsletters, curated by our editors


Already a user?

We use cookies to provide a personalized site experience.
By continuing to use & browse the site you agree to our Privacy Policy.
I agree