We’re pleased to have been able to progress some significant initiatives during this strange and challenging year. The cusp of a new year is a great time for us to reflect on some of our highlights for the year that was. In no particular order, here are some of our key achievements for 2020 and a peek at some of the work we’ll be focusing on next year.

Staying connected and continuing to make progress

Along with the rest of New Zealand (and the world), our organisation has had to rethink how we live, work, engage, collaborate, and run events during this year of unexpected twists and turns. We’ve had to adapt quickly, learn to be even more flexible, and shift our work with the industry online as needed.

But this time of change has also given us the opportunity to try new ways of doing things we hadn’t tried before. Unfortunately, we were unable to go ahead with our flagship payments conference, The Point, this year due to COVID-19. However, we were pleased to have been able to give back to the industry with The Hub online series – Navigating the new normal for payments, five free sessions held during September and October.

While we may have had far fewer in-person engagement activities, forums, and events this year, we’re still proud to have:

  • Continued to facilitate Payments Direction working groups on average every three weeks, involving more than 60 people from the industry to consider the future of payments and develop our Payments Modernisation Plan.
  • Had our clearing system Management Committees, operational forum and working groups meet over 40 times and spend over 500 person hours working on core clearing system projects that will continue to improve New Zealand’s payments system.
  • Continued to grow our direct stakeholder network. We now have 13 direct settlement Participants, 34 Infrastructure and Industry Members, 9 API Centre API Providers, 12 API Centre Third Parties and 60 API Centre Community Contributors.
  • Got the industry together in over 25 hours of thought leadership, strategy, and networking events with over 710 people participating across The Hub online series event, The Link women's event (read our article about our recent get-together) and Strategic Forums throughout the year.
  • Reached over 1400 subscribers through our Top Reads newsletter, company updates and API Centre newsletter.

Governing safe and efficient payment systems

Making sure payments are simple and secure for Kiwis is at the heart of what we do. Our payments system underpins all the country’s economic activity because it ensures money gets moved around where it needs to go, and people can pay and get paid. The importance of this work has been highlighted more than ever this year. 

The priority with our core clearing systems work is to ensure our payment systems remain interoperable, innovative, safe, open and efficient. We’ve continued to make significant progress with that work this year, including:

  • Getting the industry aligned on SBI365, a project that will allow for the operation of a seven-day settlement process, enabling payments to flow between customers of different banks during weekends and public holidays.
  • Initiating ISO20022, a core clearing system project to enhance the messaging standard for high value payments. This will enable improved efficiency and compliance, resulting in a better customer experience.
  • The introduction of payments reporting for the domestic card system which provides the industry with valuable information on payment activity trends.
  • Further enhancements to the Payments NZ rules which improves payment system interoperability and efficiency between our clearing system Participants. These improvements include industry incident management, amendments to support payment instruments such as direct debits, and clarifying the impact to processes if there is a change in the interest rate environment.
  • Supporting the Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) with the upgrade to their new payment settlement system.

Looking ahead, we have much to look forward to in the new year. Our core systems focus for 2021 will be on two key significant projects that will bring greater efficiency and innovation to our clearing systems – SBI365 and ISO20022.

Continuing to facilitate innovation through standardised APIs

The Payments NZ API Centre, which was established in May 2019, had its first full year in operation and hit the ground running by making good headway with several significant initiatives. Like the rest of the organisation, this work was quickly moved online during COVID-19 disruptions and has been able to stay flexible since.

The centre has continued to progress significant initiatives that will enable and support our fledgling API-enabled ecosystem. Some of this year’s highlights include:

  • The release of version 2.0 of the centre’s Account Information and Payment Initiation standards, which introduced significant new functionality, including enduring payment consent and decoupled authentication flow.
  • The publication of API Provider readiness information on the centre’s website. This information tells interested parties when our API Providers expect to be ready to offer current versions of our API standards.
  • The release of Customer Experience guidelines to help support organisations planning to use our standards. These guidelines are regularly updated to reflect progress with version updates.
  • The recent release of v2.1 of the standards which broadened the scope of accounts to be included under the Account Information API to include credit card accounts.
  • Giving free access for the first year to the API Centre sandbox, powered by Middleware NZ, until April 2021. This has seen a significant increase in enquiries about our API standards and our registered Community Contributors has also grown to 60.
  • The API Centre register has now gone live and is available to Standards Users to exchange security information more efficiently and with less risk when connecting via APIs.
  • We recently submitted a response to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s (MBIE) discussion document ‘Options for establishing a consumer data right in New Zealand’. Our submission was grounded in our experience and learnings from establishing the Payments NZ API Centre.

Looking to next year, the centre is well underway with the 2021 workplan, focusing on scoping work for v3.0, which will significantly extend the functionality of our standards and look to meet an even wider range of Third Party use cases. We expect to release v3.0 late next year.

Outside of these standards development activities, the centre is progressing other areas of work including a project to streamline partnerships between our API users, updates to the Customer Experience Guidelines, and other operational improvements, outreach activities, and sandbox upgrades.

Building blocks for the future

If there’s anything we’ve learned from this year, it’s probably that the future is looking more inter-connected than ever. Uncertain times can be unsettling, but it also gives the industry a chance to try out new ways of doing things and to innovate. Our role is to ensure the industry is prepared so they can play their part in building up New Zealand’s economy again now and into the future.

Through our Payments Direction strategic programme this year, we’ve started looking into a significant initiative that will ensure the industry is well prepared for the evolving future of payments in New Zealand. This year we’ve worked with an industry group to consider the needs of that future payments ecosystem and what the industry needs to do to prepare for and contribute to that future.  As part of this work, we have:

  • Developed five guiding principles for payments modernisation which focuses on enabling innovative and interoperable payment solutions that allow Kiwis to pay who they want, when they want and how they want.
  • Identified the key limitations of our current payment system and collected a range of user stories to explore these limitations in more detail.
  • Refreshed our 2030 future view, which identifies seven characteristics we believe will make up the payments ecosystem of 2030.
  • Identified nine future capability building blocks. These building blocks are the capabilities we believe will take our payment system from where it is today, to where we want to be in the future.

A detailed summary of this work can be found in our Payments Modernisation Plan (PMP) discussion document.  We’re currently wrapping up stakeholder consultation for this document. We’ll be using the PMP and the feedback we’ve received on it to develop a strategic roadmap for payments over the next 10 years.

We also released our 2020 environmental scan refresh, and a further a piece of research in that looked into how Kiwis like to pay – now and into the future. We’ve pulled together some of the key insights from this research into an infographic which can be found on our website.

Thank you for your support this year

We’d like to thank all our Participants, Members, API Centre Standards Users and Community Contributors, and all the industry stakeholders who have been involved with our work this year and contributed their time and expertise. It hasn’t been an easy year for many industries, including ours, and we value your continued dedication and support.

We look forward to seeing everyone again in the new year at one of our events or for a catch-up.