In a move to create a more focused approach to payments, BITS, the business strategy and technology division of The Financial Services Roundtable, and The Clearing House Payments Company, the bank-owned, global payments clearing and settlement organization, announced that the BITS Payment Services Steering Committee (PSSC) will join the Clearing House's Strategic Payments Forum. The result, claim the groups, will be a single, bank-driven focal point for payments issues for the financial services industry.
The decision to merge the committees came out of joint discussions, according to Catherine Allen, founder and former CEO of BITS. "The [BITS] Payments Strategies group consists of payments czars from the large financial institutions. When BITS became part of the Financial Services Roundtable, the focus on payments was augmented by other topics, such as risk management," she relates.
At the same time, the Roundtable included financial services firms other than banks. The PSSC members were looking for something a bit more bank-centric in which to advance their payments efforts, Allen says. The result was joining the PSSC with the Clearing House's Forum. "Strategically, this is a better place for the group," she continues. "This will not only reduce redundancy of efforts in the industry, but many of the PSSC members were members of the Forum as well, so this just made sense."
According to Rick Leander, EVP of The Clearing House responsible for the Strategic Payments Forum, participants in both groups were looking for a way to create one place where they could concentrate on payments issues. "The industry is going to face some pretty important issues over the next few years, and they need a place where the right constituency can come together and deal with payments issues across the various silos."
Payments Execs Come Together
Leander indicates, however, that it is not the goal of the new group to be an oversight body for all things payments in this country. "The goal of this organization is to provide a place where payments executives can come together and share ideas and work on the issues that are important to them," he comments. "Getting the right players together with a common vision adds clarity to the marketplace." Among the primary agenda items for the newly combined organization are mobile payments and associated security issues, remittance standards for B2B payments, payments fraud and risk, and the migration from paper to electronic payments.
The new group, which will continue to operate under the Forum moniker, will be cochaired by Wells Fargo EVP Mitch Christensen and SunTrust SVP Ward Gailey. San Francisco-based Wells Fargo is a member of the Clearing House while SunTrust is not. This combination was deliberate, explains Leander. "Because we are going to continue to operate under the umbrella of The Clearing House, we want to make it clear that nonowners have an equal voice in this forum too," he says.
"The industry recognizes the need for a more centralized payments focus," BITS' Allen says. "Everything is very siloed so we need more consolidation in the payments area, but it must be bank-driven."
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