Promoting Safer Payments Innovation
Promoting safer payments innovation is one of the Atlanta Fed’s high priority initiatives. We are engaging with and influencing financial technology firms to practice responsible innovation. Staff in Supervision & Regulation, the Retail Payments Office, the Retail Payments Risk Forum, and Legal are working together to advance this priority.
The Atlanta Fed plays several key roles in the payments industry, including operator, supervisor, and researcher. Our district is also a major hub for domestic payments—approximately 70 percent of U.S. payments flow through Atlanta, earning the metro area the nickname of "Transaction Alley."
Roles the Atlanta Fed plays in payments include:
- Operator. Under Federal Reserve Financial Services, the Retail Payments Office is a payments network operator offering payments products and services to financial institutions and providing thought leadership to the industry.
- Supervisor. In addition to conducting exams of bank holding companies and domestic and international banks, we supervise technology service providers.
- Convener and researcher. We are exploring payments systems design and risks in technological innovation and bringing people together to share, educate, and collaborate.
Given the Fed's mission to promote the accessibility, efficiency, and integrity of the payments system, we at the Atlanta Fed have a keen interest in safe innovation. So along with payments industry stakeholders and Federal Reserve System colleagues, the Atlanta Fed is working to both encourage payments innovation and safeguard consumers and the payments system.
Our high-priority initiative to promote safer payments innovation currently has two key areas of focus: payments inclusion and payments integrity.
- Payments inclusion. Improve access to and awareness of efficient, secure, and affordable payment services—including electronic payment mechanisms—that meet the needs of low- to moderate-income (LMI) people, families, and communities, delivered in a responsible and sustainable way.
- Payments integrity. Enhance the integrity of retail payments to advance resiliency and safety, helping to ensure that payments reach intended recipients in the correct amounts and with personal and sensitive data protected.
Learn more by selecting the About Our Work tab.
About Our Work
We are building a comprehensive understanding of the risks and benefits associated with payments innovation, educating the industry, and advocating for change where needed. To reach our goals, the Atlanta Fed's safer payments innovation team has developed a three-pronged approach: Engage. Experiment. Explore.
Engage. The Atlanta Fed is developing partnerships with fintech firms and banks that work with fintechs to exchange information, collaborate, and educate. The aim is to influence the direction of innovation so that firms are more likely to incorporate security early in the development process. We are using our unique supervisory expertise and experience operating payment systems to educate other financial companies on what's required to safely process payments. We are working together to identify areas and issues to influence and to take deliberate actions to drive outcomes.
As part of this approach to engagement, we are focusing on payments inclusion. To support that work, we have established the Special Committee on Payments Inclusion.
Experiment. The Atlanta Fed is identifying new technologies and conducting proofs of concept with emerging financial technology to understand fintech solutions. We will likely conduct this work through targeted research topics.
Explore. As we engage with fintechs and conduct our experimental work, we will explore payments developments, identifying issues and areas for further study and collaboration. We will do much of this work by engaging broadly with stakeholders through Outreach events.
In a September 2020 paper, the Atlanta Fed looks at how the growth of digital payments benefits many businesses and consumers but can also shut out many households who are among the least economically mobile and resilient. This growth has led to an increasing number of businesses going cashless or adopting restrictive payment acceptance processes, practices that effectively exclude cash-based consumers, a population already marginally attached to the economy.
Work to increase financial inclusion have generally focused on bringing people without bank accounts or with limited access to financial services into the traditional financial system. The Atlanta Fed paper points out that the share of consumers who lack credit or debit cards is actually larger than the share of those who are unbanked, so proposes that focusing efforts on ensuring equitable access to new, more convenient payments services—without discouraging innovation—can increase financial inclusion.
What are the most important efforts we should pursue to ensure inclusion of this disconnected population? To identify those efforts and do the work, the Atlanta Fed has formed a special multidisciplinary committee made up of experts in the fields of payments and financial inclusion. View the charter of the Special Committee on Payments Inclusion.
The Special Committee on Payments Inclusion
The Committee, together with the Atlanta Fed, aims to play a pivotal role in supporting safe and inclusive payments innovation that advances economic mobility and resilience in the Sixth District and beyond. The Committee will work to advance ubiquitous access to safe, efficient, and inclusive payments for all.
To accomplish its goals, the Committee will commission its members to conduct research on emerging issues in payments inclusion, collect and analyze data to better understand trends in the evolving payments industry, and make recommendations to the industry or policymakers based on research findings.
The Committee will be active for two years. At the end of this term, Committee members and the Atlanta Fed will determine if there is additional work to pursue and may decide to extend the Committee's work.
- David Benck, senior vice president and general counsel, Hibbett Sports
- Sudheer Chava, Alton M. Costley chair and professor of finance, Georgia Institute of Technology
- Denise Dias, digital finance policy, regulation and supervision expert, CGAP-The World Bank-Toronto Centre
- Andrea Donkor, vice president, regulatory relations, PayPal
- Timothy Flacke, cofounder and executive director, Commonwealth
- John Garratt, executive vice president and chief financial officer, Dollar General
- Mark Pearce, director of the Division of Depositor and Consumer Protection, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
- Bruce Renard, executive director, The National ATM Council Inc.
- Courtney Robinson, head of financial inclusion and public policy development, Square Inc.
- Bob Skiba, executive vice president, InComm Payments
- John M. Turner Jr., chief executive officer and president, Regions Bank
- Silvanus J. Udoka, dean of the School of Business Administration, Clark Atlanta University
- Robert Ward, senior vice president, Global Payments
- Brian K. Williams, president, First Farmers and Merchants Bank in Columbia, Tennessee
2021 meeting dates (limited to members)
- May 3, 2021, 10 a.m.–noon
- July 19, 2021, 2–4 p.m.
- September 29, 2–4 p.m.
- December 6, 2–4 p.m.
New payment types such as digital currencies and instant payments require new approaches to ensure the safe delivery of payments to the intended recipients.
Academic institutions, on the forefront of technology, are adept at quickly addressing real-world opportunities through research and innovation. The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta will partner with academic institutions to work on promoting payments integrity. We will share data and ideas that result from these partnerships with the payments industry to influence new solutions and processes.
Georgia State University
Payment innovations such as digital wallets, mobile payments, and person-to-person payment apps offer convenience, but they also expose users to new types of fraud. Bad actors can steal users' social security numbers, addresses, authentication credentials, and account details and sell them in markets hosted on encrypted web channels. This identity fraud causes harm that reaches across the financial system and broader economy.
The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta and Georgia State University's Evidence-Based Cybersecurity Research Group are collaborating to find solutions to address online payments-related financial fraud.
- Using a strategy identified by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, the research group is surveilling the dark web and encrypted web channels to better understand the implications of online criminal payments-related activity. The two teams will analyze their findings and share them within the Federal Reserve System and with the payments industry to promote safer, more efficient payment solutions and practices.
- The research group is also working to identify how the introduction of central bank digital currencies (CBDC) will affect online criminal markets in other countries. CBDC is a general term for a version of currency that may use an electronic record or digital token to represent the digital form of a nation’s currency.
The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta is committed to sharing knowledge and encourages an open dialogue through a variety of channels. Channels can include conferences, forums, webinars, and podcasts. We also write research papers and articles.
Audiences that we frequently engage with are:
- Fintechs and payments providers
- Depository and financial Institutions
- Third-party processors and technology service providers
- Trade groups
- Local and state government agencies
Atlanta Fed events are typically open to these audiences. We will post event details here and on the Atlanta Fed News and Events page.
Atlanta Fed cohosts webinar
Financial inclusion is of central importance to countries across the globe, and fintechs offer great promise. On May 20, 2021, the Atlanta Fed's Americas Center and the Consulate of Brazil cohosted the Financial Inclusion and Open Banking webinar. Panelists explored how fintech and open banking are shaping financial services in the United States and Brazil and holding out the hope that innovative, technology-based financial institutions can offer financial services to the historically unbanked and underbanked. Watch the video.
Economy Matters Payments Series Podcasts
Each quarter, we will explore hot topics in payments innovation as they relate to payments inclusion, payments integrity, banking and regulation.
PublicationsDigital Currency, Digital Payments, and the 'Last Mile' to the UnbankedUsing digital forms of payment requires funding from a source of money, such as cash or a bank account. Consequently, the unbanked population lacks access to digital payments—the so-called "last-mile" problem. This Policy Hub article examines some proposed solutions to this problem.2020 Annual Report: Looking Back at a Tumultuous YearIn 2020, the nation and Fed dealt with several interrelated challenges: a global pandemic, a steep economic downturn, and racial turmoil. Atlanta Fed president Raphael Bostic reflects on the year gone by and looks ahead with optimism.Atlanta Fed Considers Ways to Expand Inclusion in Payments SystemBurgeoning technologies and societal changes have increased the importance of participation in the payments system. This Economy Matters article looks at ways the Atlanta Fed hopes to foster greater overall participation.Digital Payments and the Path to Financial InclusionPayments innovations offer convenience, but they can also exclude some people from our financial system. A new paper from the Atlanta Fed suggests that, to increase financial inclusion, a more effective approach than focusing on helping the underbanked become banked could be giving cash users access to digital payment vehicles that don’t depend on traditional bank accounts.As Fintech Transforms Payments, the Atlanta Fed Seeks to Guide InnovationLast year, the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta launched a multipronged strategic priority aimed at helping to balance innovation and safety in the payments industry. Explore our 2019 annual report, which looks at how fintech has changed the landscape of payments and how the Atlanta Fed seeks to help guide that innovation."You Can Build the Infrastructure from Zero": A Conversation about Digital Adoption in Emerging EconomiesMuch has been written about the digital revolution's impact on developed economies, but what about developing and emerging economies? The Economy Matters podcast features an Atlanta Fed economist who discusses his research into the question.Atlanta Fed Holds "Office Hours" SessionThe Atlanta Fed considers encouraging safe payments innovation to be one of its top strategic priorities. Read about a recent Atlanta Fed event where fintechs met with experts from the Atlanta Fed and the Board of Governors to discuss payments security, regulation, financial inclusion, and other matters.FraudClassifier model addresses inconsistent fraud classificationThe new FraudClassifierSM model enables payments stakeholders to classify fraud in a simple and consistent manner. For organizations, the key advantage of the model is the ability to classify fraud regardless of payment type, payment channel, or other payment characteristics.Delivering Benefits of Faster Payments to the UnderservedLearn how faster payments could help cash-strapped consumers mitigate misalignments between the time that incoming funds are received and the time that payments need to occur.Comparing Means of Payment: What Role for a Central Bank Digital Currency?Discover the potential benefit that a central bank digital currency (CBDC) could provide in the context of existing payment mechanisms.
Meet the Team
To help support responsible innovation, staff routinely communicate with banks, technology firms, and other stakeholders. If you are interested in discussing topics on financial innovation and technology, please complete the form and briefly describe your request. Be aware that we do not respond to commercial solicitations.
We look forward to hearing from you.
Executive Vice President, Supervision, Regulation, and Credit
Senior Vice President, General Counsel, Legal
Senior Vice President, Risk and Compliance
Executive Vice President, Retail Payments Office
Retail Payments Office
Retail Payments Office
Supervision, Regulation, and Credit
Supervision, Regulation, and Credit
Retail Payments Office
Retail Payments Risk Forum
Retail Payments Risk Forum