The instant payment infrastructure, developed and maintained by Latvijas Banka, has been operating since 28 August 2017. Instant payments have become a normal payment service and bank customers no longer have to think about bank business days and business hours when making their interbank payments: they are executed instantly 24/7/365.

According to statistics compiled by Latvijas Banka, 2.4 million instant payments amounting to 494 million euro were made in Latvia in 2018.

On business days, the highest intensity of instant payments is observed at midday; nevertheless, instant payments are also made outside business hours, inter alia at weekends and on holidays: their number is smaller, but the payment intensity flow is on average steady throughout the day and also at night. This shows that the availability of instant payments also at weekends and on holidays is a really necessary, customer-oriented and user-friendly feature.

The number of instant payments has surged since October 2018 when they became available to Swedbank AS customers. At this stage, already over 90% of the customers of Latvian commercial banks have access to instant payments. Instant payments are executed by Latvijas Banka, and Swedbank AS, AS Citadele banka and AS SEB banka also provide this service to their customers. Instant payments can be made to a number of other euro area banks as well (for the list of those banks, see https://www.ebaclearing.eu/services/instant-payments/participants/).

The Baltic States and Latvia in particular are the euro area leaders in implementation of the instant payments infrastructure. With instant payments continuing to develop, commercial banks and financial sector companies can soon be expected to start offering their customers an option to execute instant payments based on their mobile phone number only; without having to enter the customer account's IBAN number for every payment. Latvijas Banka maintains the IBAN Register storing the IBAN numbers of customer accounts and mobile phone links. The IBAN Register was established as part of the EKS, the electronic clearing system of Latvijas Banka, and can be used for executing instant payments as well as other payments, including intrabank payments, more easily.

The development of instant payments will help consumers significantly save their time and provide various ways of better managing their finances, including an opportunity to use instant payments at points of sale and in online shopping or e-commerce in the future. This innovative financial service will also support the development of the financial sector and improve the competitiveness of businesses operating in this sector.

For reference
Latvijas Banka is the central bank of Latvia – an independent institution and a member of the Eurosystem. The primary objective of Latvijas Banka is the same as that of the central banks of other euro area countries and the European Central Bank: price stability (inflation rates below, but close to, 2% over the medium term). This is an essential precondition for a strong and growth-oriented economy. To achieve that, Latvijas Banka participates in the formulation of the Eurosystem's monetary policy, related decision-making and implementation.

Latvijas Banka organises and maintains the payment infrastructure in Latvia, including two fully automated payment systems helping to ensure interbank settlements in euro. TARGET2-Latvija is an interbank euro payment system falling within the Trans-European Automated Real-time Gross Settlement Express Transfer System TARGET2. The EKS is used for the processing of retail payments.

As a further step in the development of the existing payment infrastructure, an instant payment service was introduced in the EKS at the end of August 2017, providing a significant stimulus for development of innovative payment instruments in Latvia.

Latvijas Banka, acting in the public and economic interest, carries out several tasks significant for each and every inhabitant, financial markets and the public at large:
– participates in the formulation and implementation of the euro area's monetary policy;
– issues cash in Latvia and participates in ensuring the cash circulation process in the euro area;
– discharges the function of the central national currency authentication centre;
– maintains the interbank payment systems' infrastructure and promotes their smooth operation;
– manages the foreign reserves and other financial investments;
– acts as the financial agent of Latvia's government and provides financial services to other market participants;
– compiles and publishes financial, monetary statistics and balance of payments statistics;
– maintains and develops the Credit Register;
– acts as an advisor to the Parliament and Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Latvia on monetary policy issues and other issues related to Latvijas Banka's operation.

Latvijas Banka promotes analysis and research of macroeconomic and financial issues, thereby laying a secure foundation for professional activities in these areas. The role of the leading industry expert helps Latvijas Banka raise public awareness of the development of the economy and the monetary system, the current situation and the economic policy being pursued. Latvijas Banka takes an active part in educating the general public on various economic topics.