The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), the country’s central bank, has decided to provide non-banks with direct access to the banking system’s retail payments network.

From February 2021, eligible non-bank financial institutions (NFIs) will have direct access to Fast and Secure Transfers (FAST) and PayNow.

NFIs licensed as major payment institutions under the Payment Services Act are eligible to connect with these payment services.

FAST is an electronic fund transfer service, while PayNow is an overlay service that runs on the FAST payment system.

FAST enables customers to instantly transfer Singapore dollars from one entity to another, while PayNow allows consumers and businesses to use a proxy to make instant payments across accounts.

These proxies include mobile number, NRIC/FIN number, or a Unique Entity Number (UEN).

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NFI e-wallets users can now make fund transfers between bank accounts as well as e-wallets, in real-time.

Currently, there are 23 FAST and 9 PayNow banks or e-wallets in the Singapore payments ecosystem.

Businesses partnering with these entities can receive instant payments from other banking apps or e-wallets joining FAST or PayNow.

NFIs can use Direct FAST Working Group’s (DFWG’s) new API payment gateway to establish connection.

The API was developed by the Singapore Clearing House Association (SCHA), which monitors FAST, and the Association of Banks in Singapore (ABS), which monitors PayNow.

Over 12.5 million FAST payments were processed per month, of which half the transactions were handled by PayNow, during the September-ended quarter.

MAS MD Ravi Menon said: “Direct access by NFIs to FAST and PayNow closes the last-mile gap in Singapore’s e-payments journey.

“Consumers who may not have ready access to debit or credit cards to fund their e-wallets will now have the option to do so directly through their bank accounts.

“Our vision to enable complete real-time payments interoperability will now become a reality. Adoption of e-payments will become even more simple for individuals and businesses.

“MAS thanks the members of the DFWG for their spirit of partnership that brought to fruition this major milestone for e-payments in Singapore.”

Banking Computer Services (BCS) chairman Lawrence Chan said: “As the operator of FAST and PayNow, we are proud to be part of this ongoing progress of Singapore’s real-time payments infrastructure that will serve as both a catalyst and an enabler for innovative e-payments.”

ABS director Ong Ai-Boon said: “ABS welcomes new participants to FAST and PayNow. This is the first time the industry has opened access to these two important e-payment platforms to non-banks.

“FAST and PayNow adoption rates have exceeded expectations and we are confident that the addition of new players will help accelerate the national path towards a less-cash economy.”