* The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be attributed to the European Payments Council.
Italy, one of the largest economies in Europe, has made significant progress in electronic payments in the past ten years and was among the first to adhere to Single Euro Payments Area () Instant Credit Transfer ( Inst) in 2017. We interviewed Rita Camporeale, Head of Payments Systems at the Italian Banking Association, to learn more about payments in her country. Don’t miss our infographic about the Italian payment landscape!
Electronic payment instruments (cards, direct debits and credit transfers) have gained importance in Italy in recent years. How do you explain these changing payment habits?
If we compare the growth rate of electronic payment instruments in Italy with the European Union (EU) average growth rate for the last ten years, we observe that, after an initial period (2009-2012) in which the trend in Italy was lower than that in the EU, in the last five years (2012-2017) the situation has reversed, with the trend in Italy being more than double the European average growth rate (up seven percent vs up three point three percent).
In 2017, the increase in electronic payments (up six percent compared to the previous year) was mainly driven by internet payments, which grew by fifteen percent. The diffusion of digital technologies is having pervasive effects: more than eighty percent of the Italian population1 has a smartphone, and the digital transformation of our society has also changed the type of payment instruments we use.
Moreover, some specific government initiatives have encouraged this change: by law, payments in cash between individuals cannot exceed three thousand euros; salaries must be paid only using electronic payment instruments; and tax benefits have been introduced in some sectors if payments are made electronically. Important initiatives have also been launched in the public sector to encourage the use of electronic instruments when paying public administrations.
Over the years, the Italian Banking Association has carried out several information campaigns about the benefits of digital payments, including in cooperation with consumer associations and other entities (e.g. the Association of Oil Companies).
Italians still rely heavily on cash payments. What is the share of cash payments versus cashless payments? Do you see or anticipate an evolution?
Even if the use of cash is still predominant in Italy, the number of payments with alternative instruments has shown an increase over the last years: in 2017, 100 transactions per capita were carried out with electronic instruments compared to 62 in 2006. This is definitely an evolution, and we are confident it will progress further in the coming years.
One year ago, Italian payment service providers () were among the first to adhere to Inst. Can you tell us about Italy’s first year of concrete experience with the scheme and what developments you expect in 2019?
Inst participants (23 in November 2018, accounting for fifty-two percent of the Italian payments market) report that the launch of the Inst service has been a success: customers appreciate the opportunities offered by instantaneous fund transfers. Indeed, the volume of Inst transactions is increasing even if the launch of the new products based on the ’s scheme has not yet been accompanied by large-scale marketing initiatives. These will be deployed when full reachability at national level has been attained.
In the course of 2019, several Italian will adhere to the Inst scheme. The developments that the current and prospective Italian Inst scheme participants consider important for the full deployment of Inst are:
- improvement in reachability throughout
- a higher maximum amount at scheme level
- the development of a ‘request-to-pay’ service that can be coupled with Inst
Finally, a broader question: how do you see Italy’s payment landscape developing over the coming five years?
We believe that the positive trend in electronic payments, which over the last few years has been characterised by gradual but steady growth, will have an ever-increasing relevance thanks to the strengthening of network infrastructures, new digital technologies and the offer of new services such as instant payments.
The implementation of the revised Payment Services Directive () will also support digital solutions for payments: its high security standards, coupled with data protection requirements, will encourage the search for highly innovative solutions based on access to customer account data.
In Italy, banks are joining forces to set up cooperative solutions for -compliant interfaces based on international standards (such as CBI Globe), which will develop into platforms for both standardised and customised value-added service Application Programming Interfaces ().
Innovative and user-friendly solutions for mobile commerce and mobile apps will be key to enhancing the use of electronic payments. In 2017 mobile proximity payments accounted for over 70 million euro (compared to 10 million euro in 2016) with an expectation that in 2020 that sum will reach 3.2/6.5 billion euros. Mobile commerce also continues to grow (with an accelerating growth rate of sixty-five percent in 2017 compared to fifty-five percent in 2016), amounting to 5.8 billion euros (representing twenty-five percent of the total amount of e-commerce versus eighteen percent the previous year)2.
Also, cooperation with fintechs can be an opportunity to accelerate innovation in payments: an ABI Lab3 2017 survey reports that more than seventy percent of Italian banks are already cooperating with fintechs to develop new solutions in different banking and financial areas – including payments.
1. We Are Social, Global Digital Report 2018.
2. Mobile Payment Observatory, Politecnico Milano, March 2018.
3. The technology research and innovation centre founded by ABI.
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