SEPA Payment Account Access scheme: going beyond open banking

SEPA Payment Account Access scheme: going beyond open banking

An interview with Arturo González Mac Dowell and Gijs Boudewijn

21 December 22

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The views expressed in this article are solely those of the authors and should not be attributed to the European Payments Council.

Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) Payment Account Access (SPAA) is the newest European Payments Council (EPC) scheme. SPAA covers messaging functionalities allowing the exchange of payment accounts-related data and facilitating the initiation of payment transactions in the context of ‘premium1’ services provided by asset holders to asset brokers. Last month, the first SPAA scheme rulebook was published, and this is the perfect opportunity to share information about the scheme with Insights readers. We interviewed the co-chairs of the SPAA Multi-Stakeholder Group (SPAA MSG), Arturo González Mac Dowell and the recently appointed Gijs Boudewijn to shed light on the group’s background, most significant achievements so far, plus the benefits and future goals of the scheme.

First, could you summarise the main achievements of the SPAA MSG to date and the key lessons from this first phase of development?

Arturo: We are proud and happy that the publication of the first version of the SPAA scheme rulebook took place on 30 November 2022. This development is an important step towards an open data economy in Europe. The SPAA MSG has realised this through a cross-sector collaboration – involving banks, payment institutions, e-money institutions, third-party payment providers, merchants, consumers, corporates and standardisation initiatives. The European Commission and the European Central Bank were also invited as observers.

This is a unique achievement as the two sides of the market (supply and demand) worked together from the very start of the project to produce the first SPAA scheme rulebook in only one year.

The scheme adopted the requirements of the revised Payment Services Directive (PSD2) as a baseline and goes beyond it to encompass value-added (premium) services that may be provided in the context of open banking as a natural evolution of PSD2.

Where are we today in relation to the SPAA scheme?

Gijs: With the publication of the first version of the SPAA scheme rulebook, interested parties – for example, the Application Programming Interface (API) specification providers – may start the preparatory work to get ready before the scheme comes into effect.

Currently, the SPAA MSG is finalising other key components of the SPAA scheme, in particular:

1) The minimum viable product (MVP), i.e. a sub-set of services among those contained in version 1.0 of the rulebook that will have to be supported by the asset holders participating in the SPAA scheme, which 

  • ensures commercial incentives and benefits for all parties involved;
  • foresees a realistic implementation timeline for asset holders; and
  • facilitates a rapid take-up of the scheme.

2) The default business conditions, covering a set of default asset fees for the premium assets exposed by the asset holder to the asset broker as well as default API access fees for the use of the SPAA API itself, as provided by the asset holder. These fees are based on cost recovery plus a reasonable margin. 

What’s next for the SPAA scheme, and when will it be used?

Arturo: The public consultation on the draft rulebook ended on 12 September 2022 and was very encouraging, with the market showing a high level of interest. The EPC received over 300 comments from 29 different market participants. The SPAA MSG completed the reviewing process in November 2022, and the responses to the comments from the market will be published by the end of December 2022 on the EPC website.

Through this process, the SPAA MSG also realised the need to further explain the topic of Strong Customer Authentication (SCA) and has since drafted a clarification to facilitate SCA usage under the scheme. The new draft of this particular section was submitted to the market for a three-month public consultation on 16 December 2022. The outcome of that public consultation will be integrated into a revised version of the first SPAA scheme rulebook.

Gijs: The second version of the SPAA scheme rulebook is expected to be released in the second quarter of 2023 and will inter alia reflect the MVP and be accompanied by the default business conditions. The SPAA scheme itself will enter into force on 30 November 2023. The scheme adherence process will open on 1 September 2023.

The SPAA MSG will thereafter pursue its collaborative work to promote market take-up and make the SPAA scheme further evolve in line with market needs.

What are the main benefits of the SPAA scheme?

Arturo: Some of the key benefits of the SPAA scheme:

  • It builds on investments done in the context of the PSD2.
  • It is managed as a scheme developed collaboratively by the retail payment industry (supply and demand) and the end-user community as represented by the Euro Retail Payments Board (ERPB), and with the support of the EU institutions.
  • It enables premium payment services beyond PSD2 in a way that ensures harmonisation, interoperability and reachability across Europe. 
  • Asset holders expose information and transactions to asset brokers through the scheme for a fee with prior consent from the asset owner (i.e. a consumer or a legal entity).
  • It allows for a fair distribution of value and risk between actors.
  • It takes into account the input from major European standardisation initiatives active in the field of PSD2 APIs.
  • It could be a steppingstone towards open finance beyond payments and open data beyond finance.

Finally, what is in your opinion the main challenge for a fast take-up of the SPAA scheme and how do you believe this challenge should be addressed?

Gijs: First and foremost we need an attractive enough value proposition for the two sides of the market, i.e. asset brokers and asset holders. Which means an initial set of premium functionalities enabling asset brokers to offer added value services to asset users (notably merchants), supported by a default remuneration model providing incentives to both asset holders and asset owners.

To speed up the solution of the classic “chicken and egg” problem when launching a new scheme, we will probably need to think about a pan-European roll out strategy for the SPAA MVP associating all stakeholders.

1 Premium services are considered to be:

  • services building on PSD2-regulated ones, but going beyond the minimum regulatory requirements via the combination with (a) so-called premium feature(s). For example, the transaction asset ‘one-off payments’ is a basic service but when combined with a premium feature such as a ‘Payment certainty mechanism’, it becomes a premium service as described under the rulebook. 
  • PSD2 services that are not available via online banking interfaces but provided via a SPAA API.

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