Long reads

What is the SEPA Payment Account Access Scheme?

Níamh Curran

Níamh Curran

Senior Reporter, Finextra

Truelayer became the first participant in the SEPA Payment Account Access Scheme (SPAA), building on open banking initiatives.

The SPAA programme goes beyond PSD2 compliance and creates further opportunities in open banking. Yet not much has been discussed on what this scheme’s intentions are and what impact It might have on the open banking market.

What is the SEPA SPAA scheme?

SPAA is a messaging ecosystem and its main purpose is to provide ‘premium’ APIs for open banking.

It establishes a set of rules, practices and standards which allow asset holders, generally banks, to exchange payment accounts related data with asset brokers, these are typically third-party providers like fintechs. This is done in exchange for a fee with user consent.

The idea behind this is to foster an open and competitive European payments system by giving third parties ways to access customer data, and in turn, benefiting customers with more and potentially better choices.

It is also hoped this will help create some premium services, examples of these include payments to multiple counterparties, IBAN validation and personal finance management (PFM) related automated transfers.

It is also argued that this could be a stepping stone towards open finance and move Europe towards being an open data society.

It’s important to note that while this builds on PSD2, it is voluntary.

How did the SPAA scheme start?

The scheme has its origins in recommendations made by the Euro Retail Payments Board (ERPB). In the ERPB’s 2021 annual report, the European Payment Council (EPC) was appointed as the scheme manager.

Following this the EPC board established the SEPA Payment Account Access Multi-Stakeholder Group to further develop the scheme. In June of 2023 v1.1 of the SPAA scheme rule book was published, and in November 2023 this came into effect.

The EPC  is still taking change requests for possible modifications for the rulebook until February 2 2024. The EPC's current timeline shows a further public consultation between May and August 2024, before the expected publication of v2.0 of the SPAA scheme rulebook in November 2024.

What impact will SPAA have on open banking?

The main impact this is likely to have is for those value-added services. On their decision to take part in the scheme at this early stage, Joe Morley, EU CEO of TrueLayer said: “SPAA is the long-awaited commercial API framework which will allow banks to directly monetise their investment in open banking. It will complement PSD2 and help the EU become a global leader in payments. It represents the start of a new phase, where banks and fintechs collaborate to develop the next generation of account-to-account payments, to the benefit of European businesses and consumers.”

The ability to monetise the investments which have been put into becoming PSD2 compliant may become very appealing to banks. Yet, at this stage of the scheme it is hard to say what innovations we are likely to see. 

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