"A key role of the Federal Reserve system is to foster the integrity of the payments system," explains Stanford. "The Atlanta Fed formed the Retail Payments Risk Forum to help fulfill this role using a unique approach. We are staffing it with people dedicated to this area full-time. Our mission is to be a catalyst for collaboration. We work with industry players from banks, nonbank payments providers, industry groups, regulators, merchants, law enforcement and academia -- all who think about retail payments risk issues. With all those connections, there's a lot to talk about."
The forum's earliest push was to establish a blog, Portals and Rails, to establish a dialogue on emerging risks in the retail payments system. The cooperative also has begun hosting live meetings and teleconferences, with potential plans to introduce Web conferences. But the blog, according to Stanford, is the best way for a wide audience to engage with the forum. "This is a key vehicle for us as an output vehicle for our thinking closer to real time and looking at events as they happen and evolve in payments fraud and risk, rather than writing a paper on subjects looking back a year later," he explains, adding that the forum is looking to bring on board guest bloggers to facilitate the discussion.
Obviously, Stanford notes, technology that fights payments fraud is frequently a topic of conversation for the forum's participants. "This is definitely an area of interest for us -- the tools available for banks and others to monitor, track and mitigate fraud; the breach phenomenon and the concept of data security in moving money; PCI standards," he says. "But hard information security isn't our sole focus separated from its relevance to retail payments."
An advisory committee, Stanford continues, helps bring together the voices of the various players. Although the committee itself is not an open forum, he points out, it does encourage feedback, and the blog provides a tool for collaboration.
"Response from the payments players to the forum has been positive and shows the importance of these issues," Stanford comments. "We want feedback too, so we know whether the information we're providing is useful and if there's anything we can do better."