BI-COMP is the clearing system managed by Banca d'Italia. It enables participants to settle retail payments in euro made by customers using paper-based instruments (e.g. cheques) or electronic ones (e.g. credit transfers) (1).
At the end of every clearing cycle (three per day), BI-COMP calculates each participant's multilateral debit or credit balance. These balances are settled in central bank money on the accounts held by the intermediaries in the European TARGET2 settlement system (2). "Clearing systems operators" (3), i.e. entities operating in free competition, are entrusted with the activities preparatory to clearing payments handled via electronic procedures. BICOMP participants are charged fees (4) the amount of which is calculated in compliance with the Eurosystem's cost recovery principle (5).
To foster the integration of the single market for retail payments in euro, BI-COMP has been revamped to handle pan-European credit transfers (SEPA Credit Transfers) following the launch of the Single Euro Payments Area (6). From November 2nd, 2009 BI-COMP also handles pan-European direct debits (SEPA Direct Debit, both Core and B2B). Moreover, Banca d'Italia and the clearing system operator ICBPI (Istituto Centrale delle Banche Popolari Italiane) have made BI-COMP interoperable with other clearing systems at crossborder level (7), based on the model developed by the EACHA (European Automated Clearing House Association) (8), which Banca d'Italia is a member of. BICOMP also offers an "intermediation" service whereby intermediaries can exchange payments with participants in the STEP2 system managed by EBA-Clearing and settle them via Banca d'Italia. The interoperability and "intermediation" services give Italian banks greater reachability, enabling them to exchange SEPA payments with participants in other systems.
Banca d'Italia, as manager of BI-COMP, and the clearing systems operators ICBPI and SIA assessed on their own the compliance of their infrastructures with the requirements for migration to SEPA laid down by the Eurosystem as "catalyst for change" (9). The outcome was positive, and so far the system's adaptation to the pan-European standards has met all the SEPA deadlines.
As the BI-COMP system manager, Banca d'Italia has also subscribed a joint statement together with nine other European infrastructures calling for the adoption of SEPA Credit Transfers and SEPA Direct Debits by public administrations and the corporate sector as preferred payment instruments, and a final deadline for supplanting the corresponding national payment instruments (9).
BI-COMP is compliant with the security and efficiency standards for retail payment systems (10) set by the ESCB (European System of Central Banks).