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  • Thierry Spanjaard

EPI, the latest UFO

Every so often, we witness an announcement from major European financial institutions for the latest UFO: Unidentified Financial Object. The project backers vary, as well as the objectives that may range from an acquisition platform to a whole brand new payment scheme.

EPI, or European Payments Initiative, is the latest avatar in the UFO family. Their ambitious goal is to challenge the dominance of Mastercard and Visa in Europe. Of course, the new organization also ambitions to resist to the inroads in Europe of China UnionPay, Alipay and WeChat Pay or new entrants in the payment arena such as Facebook, Apple or Google among others.

The objective of EPI, the new incarnation of the PEPSI (Pan European Payment System Initiative) project, is to create a unified pan-European payment solution leveraging Instant Payments/SEPA Instant Credit Transfer (SCT Inst) standards offering a card for consumers and merchants across Europe, a digital wallet and P2P payments.

With this set of tools, they will cover a wide palette of financial services: in-store and online payments, cash withdrawals and P2P transactions. And, like all new announcements in the payment industry, EPI say they will, at first, aim at displacing cash that accounts for more than 50% of retail payment transactions in Europe.

The banks behind EPI first plan to create an interim company in Brussels, that will establish the project roadmap and initiate the implementation work. EPI expect their solution to be operational by 2022.

EPI is supported by 16 major European financial institutions from Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain: BBVA, BNP Paribas, Groupe BPCE, CaixaBank, Commerzbank, Crédit Agricole, Crédit Mutuel, Deutsche Bank, Deutscher Sparkassen- und Giroverband, DZ Bank Group, ING, KBC Group, La Banque Postale, Banco Santander, Société Générale, and UniCredit.

The European Commission issued statement welcoming the launch of EPI.

EPI also receives the support of the European Central Bank (ECB), which has repeatedly advocated for a pan-European market-led solution and said last year that dependence on non-European players for two-thirds of non-cash payments created a risk that the payments market would not be fit to support the EU single market and euro.

EPDIA, the European Digital Payments Industry Alliance, an advocacy body whose founding members are Ingenico, Nets, Nexi and Worldline issued statement saying they are “taking note” of EPI launch.

Let’s just hope EPI will not become one more tombstone in the already crowded cemetery of European UFOs, where EuroPay, PayFair, Euro Alliance of Payment Schemes (EAPS), Monnet and others are already resting in peace.

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