Russian banks to test new national payments system

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Several Russian banks, including some that fell under Western sanctions over the country’s annexation of Crimea, will test a new national payment system on December 15th.

Russia’s Rossiya and SMP banks faced Western sanctions earlier this year, and will be joined in testing the new system by Gazprombank, Rosbank, Alfa Bank and Ural Bank for Reconstruction and Development, among others.

“The pilot project involves SMP Bank and Rossiya Bank, those for which the story is very critical and important. These are quite large banks,” the head of the Russian national payment system (NPS) Vladimir Komlev said in an interview with Rossiya 24 TV, Russia Today reported.

Banks were selected by size, location and technology platform, Komlev added. The new system will operate in mostly the same way as previously, and banks will not have to reconfigure software to integrate with it.

In May, President Vladimir Putin signed a law ordering the establishment of a Russian national payment system in a bid to curb Russia’s dependence on foreign systems after Visa and Mastercard stopped servicing cards issued by Russian banks in March following the introduction of EU sanctions. The decision effectively cut the two card issuers out of the Russian market, asking for a £2.9 billion security deposit unless they found a Russian payment system to process their transactions by an initial October 31st 2014 deadline. As the deadline loomed MasterCard and Visa were given a March 31st extension.

But some market participants – both national and internationally – worry that the national payments system will not be able to reach agreements with both the payment systems and the hundreds of banks operating in Russia by March.

Last month the Russian Central Bank committed to having its own international inter-bank system up and running by May 2015 as an alternative to the global SWIFT network.

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