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UK retail payments industry acts to ensure Covid-19 support payments are made safely and at scale

  • Retail payments organisations establish industry taskforce to offer payments advice and services to Government during pandemic
  • ‘Confirmation of Payee’ and ‘Mule Insights Tactical Solution’ capabilities utilised by HMRC
  • All UK payment methods remain fully operational whilst social distancing measures are in place.     

Organisations central to the UK’s retail payments Industry have joined forces so additional payments needed as a consequence of Covid-19 from Universal Credit accounts, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme are delivered safely, at scale and to the right people.

With millions of extra payments to be made by UK Government in response to Covid-19, Pay.UK, the not-for-profit company responsible for operating the UK’s interbank payments services (Bacs Payment System, Faster Payment System and Image Clearing System), its technology partner Vocalink, industry trade body UK Finance and a cross section of UK banks, came together to create a ‘Retail Payments Taskforce’ to act as a knowledge resource for Central Government.  Key activities of the taskforce have included advising on the different payment options available and recognising the need to move at pace in the most effective way to safely and securely distribute a huge volume of payments to the right people in a concentrated period.

The Retail Payments Taskforce also worked closely with HMRC to ensure that necessary ‘Payment overlay services’ were incorporated into the system architecture of the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme.  With additional support from both NatWest and its partner SurePay to ensure safe integration, elements of the Confirmation of Payee name checker service and the Mule Insights Tactical Solution (MITS) mule account identifier were included.

At such a critical time for the self-employed and to help ensure grant payments are distributed in the most straightforward manner, both these services were developed with HMRC at pace. In this instance grants are made as a Bacs Direct Credit payment. 

"Confirmation of Payee is the name checking service which banks and building societies were rolling out when the pandemic began. Whereas payments previously were made on sort code and account number alone, Confirmation of Payee checks the account name as well. To reduce unnecessary delays when making such payments in bulk, this taskforce has provided the capability to help HMRC identify a ‘match’ between who is applying for the grant and the account it is to go in to."
Says Paul Horlock, CEO of Pay.UK
"In just six weeks, we have worked with Pay.UK and HMRC to build on our existing anti-fraud MITS technology and develop a new solution that meets the Government’s needs. Our MITS technology, in partnership with Pay.UK, already puts the payments industry one step ahead of fraudsters by tracking stolen money across the banking network and unearthing illegal money mule accounts. Through deploying our existing fraud detection capabilities in a different way, we are helping to support HMRC’s disbursements and ensure grants are paid out securely, to the correct destination."
Says Gregor Dobbie, CEO of Vocalink, a Mastercard company

In parallel to this work with Government, the Industry has continued to ensure that all payment methods are fully operational whilst social distancing measures are in place. It has also run various awareness programmes to help people understand the range of payment services that can be accessed digitally and through the Take Five campaign, how not to fall victim to fraud.

"The payments industry is committed to helping the country through these difficult times, ensuring that all customers can continue to pay safely and in the way that best suits their needs. With many businesses and people relying on extra financial support during this period, the industry has worked together to provide its expertise to Government so it can make payments quickly and securely."
Says Stephen Jones, CEO of UK Finance