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For release on delivery
1:30 p.m. EDT (12:30 p.m. CDT)
August 5, 2019

Delivering Fast Payments for All

Remarks by
Lael Brainard
Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
at a
Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City Town Hall
Kansas City, Missouri

August 5, 2019

It is a pleasure to be here in Kansas City with Federal Reserve Bank President Esther
George to talk about the future of America’s payment system. 1
Our payment system is a vital part of America’s infrastructure that touches everyone. The
choices we make about our payment infrastructure today will affect all Americans many years
into the future. Today I am excited to announce the Federal Reserve will invest in a new service
to help ensure that real-time payments are available to everyone. The Federal Reserve will
develop the FedNow ServiceSM, a real-time payment and settlement service for the future. 2
Everyone deserves the same ability to make and receive payments immediately and securely, and
every bank deserves the same opportunity to offer that service to its community. FedNow will
permit banks of every size in every community across the country to provide real-time payments
to their customers.
Today, whether you are relying on ACH, a debit card, or a check, it can take as much as a
few days to get access to your funds. With a Federal Reserve real-time retail payment
infrastructure, the funds would be available immediately—to pay utility bills or split the rent
with roommates, or for small business owners to pay their suppliers. Immediate access to funds
could be especially important for households on fixed incomes or living paycheck to paycheck,
when waiting days for the funds to be available to pay a bill can mean overdraft fees or late fees
that can compound. Similarly, getting immediate access to funds from a sale in order to pay for


I am grateful to Susan Foley and Anjana Ravi of the Federal Reserve Board for their assistance in preparing this
text. These remarks represent my own views, which do not necessarily represent those of the Federal Reserve Board
or the Federal Open Market Committee.
Federal Reserve Actions to Support Interbank Settlement of Faster Payments (August 5, 2019)


supplies can be a game changer for small businesses, potentially avoiding the need for costly
short-term financing.
Last November, we asked the public about possible actions the Federal Reserve could
take to support interbank settlement of faster payments. 3 We received more than 350 comments
on a Federal Reserve faster payment service, representing nearly 800 organizations. Fully 90
percent of these comments called for the Federal Reserve to operate a real-time service for faster
payments. Support came from a wide range of stakeholders, including individuals, merchants,
fintech firms, and banks. 4 Commenters noted that the Federal Reserve would ensure equitable
access to banks of all sizes nationwide by operating a real-time service for faster payments
alongside the private-sector system. Commenters highlighted the importance of safety in faster
payments and noted the Federal Reserve’s record of resiliency, especially during periods of
stress. Commenters observed that a Federal Reserve real-time retail payment service would
increase competition, decrease market concentration, and provide a neutral platform for
This broad support echoes and expands on the conclusions of the Faster Payments Task
Force. Similarly, the U.S. Treasury Department recommended that “the Federal Reserve move
quickly to facilitate a faster retail payment system, such as through the development of a realtime settlement service that would also allow for more efficient and widespread access to
innovative payment capabilities.” 5


Lael Brainard, “Supporting Fast Payments for All” (remarks at the Fed Payments Improvement Community
Forum, Chicago, October 3, 2018),
Potential Federal Reserve Actions to Support Interbank Settlement of Faster Payments, Request for Comments, 83
Fed. Reg. 57,351 (November 15, 2018),
Steven T. Mnuchin and Craig S. Phillips, A Financial System That Creates Economic Opportunity: Nonbank
Financials, Fintech, and Innovation (Washington: U.S. Department of the Treasury, July 2018), 156,


In determining the path forward, we are building on the Federal Reserve’s long history of
operating payment systems as a core part of the nation’s payment infrastructure. Since they
opened for business around the country in 1914, as directed by the Congress, the Federal Reserve
Banks have provided payment and settlement services—in healthy competition with privatesector providers—to achieve public benefits ranging from resiliency to innovation to equal
access. When you look across the current payment infrastructure, whether in check processing,
automated clearinghouse (ACH) services, or funds transfers, you will see a Federal Reserve
service operating alongside private-sector providers. The General Accountability Office has
concluded that the Federal Reserve’s provision of payment services has benefited the U.S.
payment system and its users. 6
The Federal Reserve does not have regulatory authority over the pricing set by a privatesector system or to require a private-sector system to extend the service to banks of all sizes,
particularly the last mile. In some other countries, central banks have been assigned the
responsibility for regulating payment systems. However, this is not the approach that Congress
has taken. Instead, the Federal Reserve’s role as an operator has long been seen as an effective
approach to promote accessible, safe, and efficient payments in the United States.
Through the FedNow Service, we will provide a foundation for the future—a modern
payment infrastructure that allows innovation and competition to flourish and delivers faster
payments safely and securely for all. To ensure fast payments are available to everyone, FedNow
will be accessible to all banks, no matter the size. Given our long-standing service connections


See, e.g., U.S. Government Accountability Office, Federal Reserve’s Competition with Other Providers Benefits
Customers, but Additional Reviews Could Increase Assurance of Cost Accuracy, GAO-16-614 (Washington:
Government Accountability Office, August 2016),


with more than 10,000 banks across the country, the Federal Reserve is uniquely placed to
deliver this outcome.
The bar is high when we assess whether the Federal Reserve should provide a new
payment and settlement service, as it should be. We have carefully analyzed the criteria of the
Monetary Control Act and long-standing Federal Reserve policies, considered the comments
provided by a wide range of stakeholders, and studied the experiences of foreign central banks. 7
We are not making this decision lightly. On balance, after carefully weighing important
considerations on both sides, we have concluded it is our responsibility to take action in support
of a real-time payment infrastructure accessible to all. While we will work hard to stand up the
FedNow Service in a timely manner, our most important goal is to achieve nationwide access for
all, reflecting our public mission.
Building a Modern Payment Infrastructure
A key foundation of the payment infrastructure is interbank clearing and settlement—the
movement of funds and the associated information between banks. Today, the U.S. retail
payment infrastructure lags behind many other countries. Europe, Mexico, and Australia have
already implemented real-time interbank clearing and settlement capabilities. In contrast, here in
the United States, the gap between the transaction capabilities in the digital economy and the
underlying payment and settlement capabilities continues to grow. 8
Early adopters of fast payment services rely on a legacy infrastructure that was not
designed to support faster payments. For example, some services offer real-time funds
availability to certain consumers, but they conduct interbank settlement on a deferred basis using


Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, “The Federal Reserve in the Payments System” (Issued 1984;
revised 1990),
FIS Global, “2018 Flavors of Fast,”


legacy systems. This type of settlement entails a buildup of obligations—like IOUs between
banks—that could present real risks to the financial system in times of stress. These are not
resilient long-term solutions for our dynamic economy and the banks that support it.
We are seeing some companies looking to establish a payment system that bypasses our
banks and our currency. Facebook’s Libra project raises numerous concerns that will take time to
assess and address. But one thing is clear: consumers and businesses across the country want and
expect real-time payments, and the banks they trust should be able to provide this service
securely—whatever their size. To provide everyone with the ability to send and receive funds
securely on a 24x7x365 basis, banks need to embrace and invest in real-time innovations, and the
Federal Reserve needs to provide a safe and efficient real-time interbank clearing and settlement
service accessible to all banks.
We are proud of our strong record of cooperating with and supporting private-sector
services, while fostering competition for public benefit. We have provided vital support to the
sole private-sector provider of real-time settlement for faster payments, and we will continue to
do so. The Federal Reserve provided a joint account to enable the private-sector operator to offer
real-time payments. Moreover, today we are announcing our intent to explore the expansion of
Fedwire Funds Service and National Settlement Service operating hours to support the efficiency
of the joint account structure for the private-sector real-time gross settlement (RTGS) service and
provide broader benefits. That said, the joint account structure, with its requirement of
prefunding and settlement on a private ledger, is fundamentally different from the approach the
Federal Reserve will use to settle transactions directly between banks.


Fostering a Dynamic and Resilient Payment Infrastructure That Serves Everyone
The Federal Reserve is committed to fulfilling our public policy goals in a spirit of
cooperation and competitive fairness. We are pleased that the private-sector faster payment
service is in the market, and we see important benefits from the resilient and competitive market
that would result from the FedNow Service providing an alternative consistent with the
requirements of the Monetary Control Act. The requirement to consider the best way to make our
payment and settlement services accessible to banks across the country, along with long-standing
principles including cost recovery over the long run, guides our assessment of when the Federal
Reserve should engage in the payment system. 9 In setting fees, the Federal Reserve is required
by statute to “give due regard to competitive factors and the provision of an adequate level of
such services nationwide.” 10 I want to share with you some of the analysis—viewed through the
prism of our public policy goals of accessibility, safety, and efficiency—that we considered in
making today’s decision.
Accessibility means serving more than 10,000 banks of varying sizes and missions that
are in communities all around the country. It turns out no single private-sector provider of any
U.S. payment system has ever achieved nationwide reach on its own, whether it be checks, ACH,
cards, or wire transfers. Acting alone, a single private-sector RTGS service will face significant
challenges in establishing an accessible infrastructure for faster payments with nationwide reach.
In contrast, because of our experience with providing other services, the Federal Reserve already


Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, “Principles for the Pricing of Federal Reserve Bank Services”
(Issued 1980),; and Board of Governors, “The
Federal Reserve in the Payments System.”
Depository Institutions Deregulation and Monetary Control Act of 1980, Pub. L. No. 96-221 (March 31, 1980),


has invested in connections and customer service relationships with nearly every bank, small and
large, across the country.
Currently, we provide payment services to nearly all banks either directly or indirectly.
With our 12 regional Reserve Banks, we have the capacity to meet the needs of banks serving
different communities and with different needs and operating models. For that reason,
commenters stated that the Federal Reserve is uniquely positioned to offer nationwide access to a
new payment and settlement service for faster payments. FedNow will allow faster payments to
reach banks of all sizes and their customers across the country, which is especially important for
rural communities, who often struggle with access to financial services.
Guided by our public mission, the Federal Reserve serves the needs of all banks, no
matter how small or challenging to reach, and with competitive fairness. In response to our
request for feedback last November, several commenters emphasized how much they value the
Federal Reserve’s mission of providing nationwide access on fair, transparent terms and
expressed concern that a sole private-sector RTGS service provider may be less likely to exhibit
the same commitment over the long run.
Safety is also vital. If the Federal Reserve does not establish the FedNow Service, there
will be a single provider of real-time retail payment services. We are mindful of the serious
safety issues associated with a single point of failure, a risk that will rise as faster payments
grow. Stakeholders have noted the importance of having access to more than one real-time
payment service for back-up purposes in order to provide resiliency through redundancy. In fact,
many banks already take advantage of having connections to multiple operators today in check,
ACH, and wire services. The Federal Reserve has always had a vital role in promoting the safety
and stability of the U.S. payment system by providing liquidity and operational continuity


especially in times of stress. The FedNow Service would allow the Federal Reserve to extend
this role into the real-time retail payment market.
Finally, competition will promote efficiency and innovation. The U.S. real-time retail
payment infrastructure stands to gain from competition, including through higher service quality
and lower prices over the long run, which in turn should support wider adoption.
The FedNow Service will provide a neutral foundation for innovation and competition in
end-user faster payment services. In response to the request for feedback, merchants and fintech
companies commented that a Federal Reserve real-time retail payment service could broaden the
scope for innovation in faster payments. They noted that a single provider that is owned and
operated by one segment of the payment industry may focus on a narrow set of use cases that do
not reflect the full breadth of possible use cases for faster payments. Recognizing the vibrancy of
our payment industry, the addition of the FedNow Service could provide a springboard for
broader private-sector participation in the development of innovative end-user services.
Looking Forward
With the announcement of the Federal Reserve real-time payment service, we are
embracing a path that will bring transformative, rather than incremental, change to the retail
payment infrastructure in the United States. The FedNow Service will run continuously at all
times of the day, every day of the week, consistent with the needs of faster payments and will be
designed to process large volumes of payments rapidly.
In the months ahead, we intend to explore a variety of approaches to achieving a realtime retail payment infrastructure with nationwide reach. One such approach might be for
different payment services to interoperate by exchanging payments among the services directly.
Such interoperability is an important goal that we will pursue as standards, technology, and


industry practices change over time, although it is not yet clear whether it will be an initial
The Federal Reserve plans to devote the necessary resources to deliver the highest quality
FedNow Service in a timely manner. We are working to streamline our internal processes to
move quickly in the market. President George will play an integral role in this new process, and
the Conference of Reserve Bank Presidents has pledged its support.
It is important for the Federal Reserve, working with the payment industry, to act quickly
in finalizing the initial business requirements of the FedNow Service. We will need to hear the
views of payment system stakeholders on the features of the FedNow Service, as discussed in the
Federal Register notice announced today. We will engage with the industry through groups and
forums to finalize the design and features of the service. We hope that these conversations will
provide an opportunity for stakeholders to work together to shape the evolution of the U.S.
payment system.
Earlier this month, I joined my Reserve Bank colleagues for a visit with bankers and
community organizations in Scranton, Pennsylvania, to hear about the biggest challenges they
are facing. The head of a bank that has been serving the Scranton area for more than a century
told me that for his community bank to remain competitive in its payment offerings, it is vital to
be able to rely on the Federal Reserve for real-time payments just as he does for check, ACH,
and wire transfer. I appreciate the importance of community banks to the economic health of our
communities, and I recognize the role of the Federal Reserve in enabling community banks to
offer payment services on a competitive basis. I am confident that by working together with all
payment system stakeholders, we can collectively achieve widespread, safe, and efficient faster
payments that will benefit all.