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Payment systems, Financial Market Infrastructures (FMIs) and digital financial services (DFS) help expand financial inclusion, foster economic development, enable digital economy, and support financial stability. Given this, promoting safe, reliable, and efficient domestic and cross-border payments systems, and FMIs is an integral component of the World Bank Group’s (WBG) work to reduce poverty and boost shared prosperity.

The work of the WBG on these topics span development of legal/regulatory framework, large value payment systems, securities settlement, foreign exchange settlement, retail payment systems, government payments, cross-border payments, oversight and cooperation, as well as the latest developments in fintech notably crypto, central bank digital currency, and open banking. Over the last two decades, the WBG has contributed to the global payment systems knowledge agenda and has supported payment systems reforms in over 120 countries through:

  • The development of Payments Systems Strategies and formulation of reforms.
  • The establishment of appropriate institutional arrangements for central banks / other regulators for steering National Payments System (NPS) development.
  • The formulation of international standards related to payment systems, alongside other standard setting bodies.
  • Global convening.
  • Technical and financial assistance for implementation of specific payment system components such as Automated Clearinghouses (ACH), Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) Systems, Fast Payment Systems (FPS), Central Security Depositories (CSD), Securities Settlement Systems (SSS).
  • The creation, curation, and dissemination of knowledge around global payment systems.  

The WBG delivers technical and financial assistance to public sector authorities including financial sector authorities, central banks, securities commissions, as well as other supervisory and regulatory authorities, and in partnership with public authorities to specific market level initiatives.

The WBG engages private sector and public sector donors such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the United Kingdom’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), AusAID, Global Affairs Canada, and the Swiss Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO). Globally, WBG partners include, among others regional development banks; standard setters such as the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), particularly the Committee on Payments and Market Infrastructures;  the International Organization of Securities Commission (IOSCO); the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to develop global standards, guidance, best practices, and to conduct formal assessments such as the Financial Sector Assessment Program (FSAP). Furthermore, the WBG has developed structured engagements with various global private sector players and convenes public-private partnership fora.

Development and implementation of standards for financial market infrastructure and payments systems

At the country-level, the WBG helps countries to adopt international best practices and standards such as CPMI–IOSCO Principles for Financial Market Infrastructures (PFMIs). It also contributes to the work of the standard-setting bodies by participating in working groups that develop and monitor implementation and adequacy of standards, leading joint task forces such as CPMI-WB Payment Aspects of Financial Inclusion and CPMI-WB General Principles for International Remittances, and disseminating standards and guidance through convenings such as the biennial Global Payments Week and the Regional Payments Weeks.

Payment aspects of financial inclusion (PAFI)

Having access to useful and affordable financial products and services– transactions, payments, savings, credit, and insurance – is a hallmark of financial inclusion. Accessing a transaction account and being able to make/receive digital payments are considered as an entry point to the broader set of digital financial services and financial inclusion overall. The CPMI-WBG Report on Payment Aspects of Financial Inclusion (PAFI) application guidance serves as a framework based on which the WBG provides technical assistance on several intersectional aspects of financial inclusion and payments such as: legal/regulatory framework, financial infrastructures, transaction account and payment product design, readily available access channels, awareness and financial literacy, and leveraging large volume recurrent payment streams.   

International remittances cost reduction and monitoring

Payment flows such as remittances are three times larger than official development assistance and steadier than both private debt and portfolio equity flows. In more than 60 countries, remittances account for 3 percent or more of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and small/fragile states are more heavily dependent on remittances. As such, it is critical that both, remittance senders and receivers have access to a multitude of payment methods and channels in order to deliver and receive remittances in an affordable and fast manner. This requires interventions and coordination at the domestic and regional/global level. To support those objectives and more broadly the global remittances agenda, the WBG provides assistance and engages in this area by:

Government payments

The Government is typically the largest payer/payee in a country. As such, it is important to design inclusive, efficient and modern payment systems as well as a variety of cost-effective collection/disbursement channels that would facilitate government payments and take into consideration beneficiary choice and convenience. Indeed, the WBG supports countries in the digitization of Government payments in areas such as social protection, e-Government and public financial management reforms. This includes large-scale programs like tax collection, public sector salary payments, public procurement and other Government to Person (G2P) payments, including through cross-sectoral initiatives like G2Px. The WBG has also played a crucial role in facilitating timely and efficient cash transfers during emergencies and crises, most recently during the Ebola crisis in West Africa.

Fintech agenda

In the payment systems domain, the FinTech specific focus is on e-money, fast payment services, central bank digital currencies (CBDC), open banking, tokenization, Quick Response (QR) codes, and policy formulation for crypto-assets and leveraging the underlying technology. In October 2018, the WBG and the IMF launched the Bali FinTech Agenda. Under the Bali Fintech Agenda (BFA), the WBG is supporting countries in developing their fintech ecosystems and advancing the work of the global standard setting bodies. In 2022, the World Bank published a flagship report on Fintech and the Future of Finance.