Real Time Payments: The next major treasury disruptor?

Organizations are gradually warming to the idea of real-time payments. What are they expecting to see from the technology in the next few years?

Tags: Payments, Treasury management
Published: July 17, 2019

In 2017, The Clearing House (TCH) unveiled their Real-Time Payments, delivered through the RTP® network, and several small-to-large banks have since joined the effort. The dialogue in the U.S. payments ecosystem has irreversibly shifted toward offering faster speed, more choices and simpler ways of sending and receiving payments.

Some organizations have already experimented with the new program, and others wonder about practical applications for their operations. Is RTP a game changer? Listen to a podcast from U.S. Bank Working Capital Consultant Adam Kruis on how RTP can be part of a broader payments strategy.

Adoption of Real-Time Payments is a two-way street. The network generates a lot of excitement due to its obvious benefits, and individuals and businesses want to take advantage of its unique features. However, organizations must be willing (and financially able) to make changes within their payments systems and processes to take full advantage of the efficiencies the network offers.


RTP overview

At its heart, real-time payments offers the means to provide faster, more reliable and safer payments. You aren’t restricted by processing times, since RTP transactions occur instantaneously, 24/7. However, the key RTP differentiator is that it enables organizations to communicate the context of the payment through the introduction of innovative messages such as request for information and request for payment.

In a business-to-business request for payment transaction, the RTP workflow processes payments through the following steps:

1. The supplier sends a request for payment to its bank

2. The supplier’s bank validates and routes the request for payment to the buyer’s bank over the RTP network

3. The buyer sends the payment to its bank

4. The RTP network validates the buyer’s payment, and updates the multilateral-net settlement (MNSP)

5. The RTP network sends the payment to the supplier’s bank, who then pays the supplier, who then credits the supplier’s account. The supplier provides ordered goods to the buyer.

6. Confirmation of the payment is provided back to the buyer’s bank. 

The graphic below from TCH provides a visual representation of the RTP process:

Representation of the RTP process Source: The Clearing House

This exchange of information takes literally seconds to complete, rather than the customary one to two days from a standard ACH transaction. From a settlement standpoint, that can save suppliers and buyers time and expense from more traditional payment methods.


RTP benefits

In the first year following its debut, RTP provided a direct response to traditional, multi-day payment processing. The potential of RTP, while still to be fully determined, lies with its broad applicability and enhanced capabilities.

Here are some of the major benefits noted by early adopters of RTP:

  • Large-scale process automation and simplification, aligning with the global ISO 20022 standard
  • Flexibility to control payment timing and make payments on weekends and holidays
  • More than just a faster solution, it’s a complete overhaul of outdated processes

The RTP network provides an exciting path forward for treasury managers. But it may take several years for some organizations to test its capabilities beyond small-scale pilots.


What this means for treasury professionals

The RTP network is still new, independent from other long-existing networks like ACH. It must yet prove itself in the eyes of organizations who are hesitant to invest in the system.

Banks currently connected to the RTP systems cover approximately 50 percent of accounts in the U.S., with anticipated coverage of 66 percent by the end of 2020. U.S. Bank was one of the first banks live on the RTP network and took part in the first ever payment on the RTP network. As of April 14th, 2019, U.S. Bank opened all their routing number to receive and send Real-Time Payments and message capabilities. Business customers can send and receive messages via the RTP network, while consumers can receive RTP credits.

Piloting organizations have noted that, while RTP doesn’t necessarily replace the need for other digital platforms like ACH, or credit and debit cards, it will likely cause a dramatic reduction in paper check payments.

Analysts have long predicted the demise of paper checks, yet checks are still being widely used – especially in B2B settings with vendors who cannot accept digital payment methods and payers who cannot send remittance detail electronically. To successfully reduce the volume of checks used for these transactions, RTP can be a great option.


As always, though, RTP is just one part of a comprehensive payment strategy. If you need help building that strategy, we have the resources to get you started.


The payments landscape is being disrupted every day. Contact U.S. Bank for more information.

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