Today most individuals, firms and authorities take it for granted that they can make rapid, simple and efficient payments without any unnecessary risks.
Payments can be made either using cash or by means of transfers between different accounts. Today the value of cash transactions made in Sweden is negligible in relation to the value of the account-based transfers.
Payment mediators are needed to manage account-based payments; these are usually banks and clearing organisations. BGC and VPC are examples of clearing organisations. If an account-based transfer takes place between customers of the same bank, it is possible to use the bank’s internal systems. However, in most cases the senders and recipients of payments have different banks. A payment system, that is an infrastructure, is then required. Several banks have access to the infrastructure so that payments can be handled and quickly reach the right recipient.
The Riksbank is the banks’ bank
A payment system usually consists of a set of accounts, a regulatory framework for coding and various EDP systems for communicating and implementing the payments. The central point of the Swedish payment system is the Riksbank’s RIX system. All of the banks have access to accounts in RIX, either directly or via an intermediary, that is a clearing bank. When the banks make payments to one another they transfer funds via accounts in RIX. One can therefore say that the Riksbank is the banks’ bank. The RIX system has a weekly turnover that corresponds to the entire Swedish annual gross domestic product, which in 2007 amounted to over SEK 3,000 billion.
The larger banks and a number of clearing organisations take part in RIX.
More information about clearing organisations can be found in the menu on the left under the headings BGC, VPC, OMX Derivatives Markets and CLS.
The Riksbank oversees the financial system
The Riksbank has the statutory task of promoting a safe and efficient payment system.
This includes overseeing the financial infrastructure. Security and efficiency are key words as an efficiently functioning payment system oils the wheels of the economy. However, a major disruption could entail serious consequences for the economy as a whole.
The Riksbank’s oversight of the financial infrastructure includes assessing the various clearing and settlement systems in terms of international standards. One component of this work is to evaluate the continuity planning of the systems. More information about the Riksbank's work in this area can be found in the menu on the left under the heading Continuity Planning in the Swedish Financial Infrastructure.
The Riksbank also carries out studies of risks and efficiency regarding the payment system and the use of various payment instruments, such as cash, card payments and giro transfers. One example of such a study can be found in the article Prices and costs in the Swedish payment system in Financial Stability Report 2004:2, see the internal link below.
Every year, the Riksbank compiles payment statistics for the financial infrastructure. The statistics are published in The Swedish Financial Market and in two international publications called the Blue Book and the Red Book, see the links below.
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