It’s Showtime for Real-Time Payments

Among the technologies that will transform the financial services sector in the future, real-time payments is entering stage-right.   A number of developments in faster network infrastructure, enhanced security features, and distributed ledger systems are converging to enable faster payments around the world.

The United States notably lags behind countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia, and even Nigeria, which are enabling near real-time transfers of funds.  While the U.S. Federal Reserve is currently developing a modernization plan for the payment system, new technologies are not waiting.  Neither are investors.  According to the recent Goldman Sachs report, “The Way We Pay,” over $2.4B has been invested in emerging payment companies, and this includes only publicly disclosed information by a discrete group of companies.

The CME Strategic Investment Group (SIG) is among this group of investors in real-time systems.  As CME Group’s corporate venture capital unit, the SIG makes minority investments in emerging technology companies whose innovative products or services could, in the longer term, have an impact on CME Group’s key business drivers and the financial services ecosystem.

Last fall, the SIG invested in Dwolla, an all-digital payments network.  Dwolla creates an end-to-end, open-loop payment solution for anything connected to the Internet. The back-end software uses strategic financial partnerships and existing bank accounts to turn mobile phones, computers, social communities, and even physical locations into a secure network that bypasses, streamlines, or replaces components of current card and bank transfer systems. This allows friends, families, merchants, enterprise businesses, even the U.S. Federal Government to electronically send and receive funds, like cash, but without the fees and constraints of traditional debit and credit cards.

More recently, the SIG invested in Ripple Labs as part of a $28 million Series A funding round for the company. The Ripple Labs team supports adoption of the Ripple protocol, which interconnects all the world’s disparate financial systems to power the secure transfer of funds in any currency in real time.  Their mission, according to CEO Chris Larsen, is “to modernize decades-old payments infrastructure with IP-based technology so value moves around the world as freely, easily, securely and transparently as information on the web today.”

In other words, the company is reducing the cost and time of traditional transactions.

Given that CME Group is where the world comes to manage risk, and that CME Clearing is one of the world’s leading central counterparty clearing providers, real-time payments are of tremendous importance and opportunity. We live in a world of cross-border transactions, and as real-time systems are more widely adopted across the globe, they can provide a more efficient means for individuals, companies and institutions to manage their risk.

Rumi Morales is Executive Director of the Strategic Investment Group at CME Group.

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