Brazil central bank launches instant payments system ‘Pix’

By on 19/11/2020 | Updated on 19/11/2020
BCB president Roberto Campos Neto speaking at this week's press conference to launch Pix | Credit: Banco Central do Brasil

Brazil’s central bank launched a state-run instant payments platform this week for citizens, the private sector and government entities.

The scheme, known as Pix, is part of Agenda BC#, which launched 18 months ago. The initiative by Banco Central do Brasil (BCB) aims to promote structural change across the financial sector to keep pace with and capitalise on technological advances.

Pix falls under the “competitiveness” stream of Agenda BC#. The BCB’s recent announcement of a regulatory sandbox for new fintech initiatives is part of the same strand.

Digital payments

Pix transactions are made in two ways: through an “alias” (effectively a personal code that looks similar to a zip code); or by a QR (quick response) code. In its announcement of the rollout, the BCB said the scheme is an “instant, low-cost, safe and intuitive” means of payment.

After a couple of weeks of “restricted” use, Pix is now free for citizens and operational across 734 organisations. These include payment institutions, banks, fintechs, credit companies, credit unions, and saving and loans associations.

As of 15 November, more than 71 million Pix aliases had been registered and more than 1.9 million transactions had been carried out, the central bank reported. This was worth over BRL 780 million (about US$144.5m), according to the BCB.

WhatsApp authorisation ‘advancing a lot’

Pix’s aim is to encourage competition in the financial sector, improve services for citizens, businesses or governmental entities, and support financial inclusion, the BCB said.

It is also focused on encouraging digital payments which, the BCB noted, can reduce the “social cost associated to paper-based instruments” such as cash and cheques. The central bank believes Pix will mean a “better payment experience” for the Brazilian population.

The bank’s president, Roberto Campos Neto, told a press conference (in Portuguese) that the BCB seeks to encourage all payment arrangements that are competitive, inclusive and fully regulated.

The BCB suspended WhatsApp’s payments service in June this year, just days after the Facebook-owned messaging service announced its rollout. But, this week, Campos Neto said that WhatsApp would start P2P (peer to peer) payments “soon” and that its journey towards authorisation is “advancing a lot”.

Pix open to expansion

From next month, a new window will open up for further institutions and organisations to join Pix. Organisations looking to take part must apply and register with the BCB to start the authorisation process.

About Ian Hall

Ian is editor of Global Government Fintech a sister publication to Global Government Forum. Ian also writes for media including City AM and #DisruptionBanking. He is former UK director for the pan-European media network Euractiv (2011-2018), editor of Public Affairs News (2007-2011) and news editor of PR Week (2000-2007). He was shortlisted for ‘Editor of the Year’ at the British Society of Magazine Editors (BSME) Awards in 2010. He began his career in Bulgaria at English-language weekly the Sofia Echo. Ian has an MA in Urban and Regional Change in Europe and a BA in Economics, both from Durham University.

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