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Risk management and nonbank participation in the U.S. retail payments system


  • Richard J. Sullivan


The retail payments system in the United States has changed significantly in recent years. Advances in technology have caused a greater reliance on electronic payment networks. And the industrial structure of the payment services industry has evolved, as more and more nonbanks deliver payment products to end users and supply back-end processing. In general, these changes have made the payments system more efficient and given more choices to consumers and more payment options to merchants and businesses. ; At the same time, however, the rapid pace of change has introduced new risks to the payments system. First, as more and more banks market payment services to nonbanks and outsource payments processing, the differences in information possessed by payments participants can magnify difficulties in managing risk. Second, electronic payments have a significantly different risk profile than paper checks. Third, greater complexity of the payments network potentially reduces incentives to manage risk and may cause difficulties in coordinating risk mitigation. ; Sullivan lays the groundwork for a dialogue on policy to control risk in the U.S. retail payments system. He concludes that a thorough review of supervisory authority relevant to retail payments would be valuable. In particular, the original authority to supervise nonbank payment processors was established over 40 years ago, when the primary reason for establishing that authority was the use of computer technology applied to bank accounting systems. Is that authority adequate given the revolutionary changes in the payments technology seen over the last four decades?

Suggested Citation

  • Richard J. Sullivan, 2007. "Risk management and nonbank participation in the U.S. retail payments system," Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, issue Q II, pages 5-40.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedker:y:2007:i:qii:p:5-40:n:v.92no.2

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Kenneth Spong, 2000. "Banking regulation : its purposes, implementation, and effects," Monograph, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, number 2000bria.
    2. Glaessner, Thomas & Kellermann, Tom & McNevin, Valerie, 2002. "Electronic security - risk mitigation in financial transactions : public policy issues," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2870, The World Bank.
    3. Geoffrey R. Gerdes & Jack K. Walton, 2002. "The use of checks and other noncash payment instruments in the United States," Federal Reserve Bulletin, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.), issue Aug, pages 360-374.
    4. Fumiko Hayashi & Richard J. Sullivan & Stuart E. Weiner, 2006. "A guide to the ATM and debit card industry - 2006 update," Monograph, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, number 2006agttaadci2, Jan 17.
    5. Terri Bradford & Matt Davies & Stuart E. Weiner, 2002. "Nonbanks in the payments system," Payments System Research Working Paper PSR WP 02-02, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.
    6. Ralph C. Kimball, 2000. "Failures in risk management," New England Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, issue Jan, pages 3-12.
    7. Kim McPhail, 2003. "Managing Operational Risk in Payment, Clearing, and Settlement Systems," Staff Working Papers 03-2, Bank of Canada.
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    Cited by:

    1. anonymous, 2007. "Nonbanks and risk in retail payments," Payments System Research Working Paper PSR WP 07-02, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.
    2. Michele Braun & James J. McAndrews & William Roberds & Richard J. Sullivan, 2008. "Understanding risk management in emerging retail payments," Economic Policy Review, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, issue Sep, pages 137-159.
    3. Batiz-Lazo, Bernardo & Reese, Claudia, 2008. "Is the future of the ATM past?," MPRA Paper 9316, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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