Why banks need to deliver on instant account-to-account transfers in Europe

When bank customers want to make fast ‘me-to-me’ payments, real-time account-to-account transfers are the easy, secure way to do it

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Today, we’re all used to sending and receiving money on demand. The ease of making digital payments via innovative platforms and neobanks has made it quick and simple to shop online, receive refunds for returns, pay the dog-walker or make an immediate and secure transfer to a loved one living abroad.

But in many cases, these payment experiences haven’t quite caught up when it comes to moving money between personal bank accounts. This can leave people frustrated when they need to move money quickly. From the customer’s perspective, why wouldn’t these personal transfers be as easy as any other payment?

Why real-time transfers between accounts matter

This experience gap highlights the immense value of real-time1 account-to-account (A2A) transfers, which enable fast and efficient movement of funds within and across financial institutions. 

Anastasia Serikova, head of Visa Direct, Europe, emphasises the importance of this technology: “From funding big transactions to emergency expenses, instant A2A transfers are critical in getting money to the right place, at the right time.”

The significance of this capability cannot be understated, given that, according to a 2020 Aite Group and Visa Inc. consumer study of 1,957 U.S. consumers, the average consumer holds eight financial accounts and conducts 15 transactions between them each year. In Europe alone, A2A transfers contribute to an estimated €1.85tn in total payment volumes2

Despite this, a 2022 Visa-commissioned global market sizing analysis found that a significant majority (73%) of these transfers still rely on traditional methods such as automated clearing house (ACH), wire or bank-transfer rails, resulting in lengthy processing times of up to five days. 

“As people come to expect more from their financial institutions, it’s critical that banks listen, evolve and deliver real-time1 access to funds – when and where their customers need them,” says Serikova. With real-time1 A2A transfers, individuals can fund new or existing accounts, load money into digital wallets3 or crypto wallets, transfer funds to brokerage accounts, receive dividends and cash out of an account. 

A mutual benefit for banks and customers

Beyond the clear benefits to customers, the adoption of real-time1 A2A transfers can offer significant advantages for financial institutions. By embracing this innovative approach, banks can enhance their value proposition and drive customer loyalty. Moreover, real-time1 transfers contribute to the creation of a level playing field, helping to enable financial institutions of all sizes to meet the evolving demands of their customers. 

“Having the ability to move money effortlessly between financial accounts is particularly important in Europe, where there are over 30 countries that people frequently move between,” says Serikova.

“European citizens want consistent, sleek and innovative digital banking experiences across their financial institutions, regardless of the country they reside in. If they’re not getting that user experience from their current banks, we see them taking their banking relationships elsewhere.”

Elevating A2A capabilities

Visa Direct recognises the growing demand for fast and secure A2A transfers and offers solutions that empower people to move funds with ease. “At Visa, we strive to help all of our partners – irrespective of their size and level of innovation – implement customer-centric solutions that transform payment experiences and help their businesses grow,” says Serikova.

European citizens want consistent, sleek and innovative digital banking experiences across their financial institutions, regardless of the country they reside in

Currently, more than 100 neobanks and more than 40 brokerages and trading platforms across the globe use Visa Direct to help their clients move money between accounts. Partners like Revolut and Vipps can offer real-time1 money movement solutions that meet their customers’ ever-changing needs.

Real-time1 A2A transfers use card credentials all backed by Visa’s multi-layered security and robust risk controls. Customers can transfer money between their own accounts; send remittances; fund savings, investments, and crypto accounts; top up their gaming accounts and digital wallets3 and cash out of accounts.

The rise of real-time A2A transfers represents a pivotal moment in banking. By enabling seamless movement of funds between accounts, institutions can offer their customers the convenience, flexibility and security they’ve come to expect across every digital interaction. Banking leaders must seize this opportunity to redefine their institutions and deliver exceptional experiences that transcend borders and meet the changing needs of a digital-first world.

For more information, visit visa.co.uk

1Actual fund availability depends on receiving financial institution and region.

2 Case studies, comparisons, statistics, research and recommendations are provided “AS IS” and intended for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon for operational, marketing, legal, technical, tax, financial or other advice. Visa neither makes any warranty or representation as to the completeness or accuracy of the information within this document, nor assumes any liability or responsibility that may result from reliance on such information. The Information contained herein is not intended as investment or legal advice, and readers are encouraged to seek the advice of a competent professional where such advice is required.

3 Wallet functionality varies by market. Please consult your Visa Representative.