BI-COMP and CABI: retail payments systems

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In the retail payment sector, which concerns payments of small amounts generally made by households, firms and the general government, Banca d'Italia manages BI-Comp, a multilateral clearing system. This system was created to guarantee the settlement in central bank money of all interbank payments, and has been in its current form since the end of the 1990s: it is where operations such as credit transfers, direct debits and payments made with debit cards and cheques are cleared and sent to TARGET2 for settlement.

Banca d'Italia manages this system with a view to promoting efficiency, innovation in the field of retail payments and secure settlement, intervening in the multilateral clearing phase and exclusively managing the Clearing Houses in Rome and Milan for the exchange of cheques.

In BI-Comp payments are cleared in six daily cycles, one of which is at night. At the end of each cycle, BI-Comp calculates a multilateral credit or debit balance for each participant which it then sends for settlement in central bank money on the accounts held by intermediaries in TARGET2. The activities preceding the multilateral clearing of electronic payments are carried out by subjects operating in a regime of open competition (ACH - Automated Clearing Houses). BI-Comp participants are charged fees calculated in compliance with the Eurosystem's cost recovery principle.

In order to foster the integration of the single market of euro retail payments, BI-Comp handles pan-European payments, or rather SEPA Credit Transfers - (SCT), SEPA Instant Credit Transfers (SCT Inst) and direct debits (SEPA Direct Debit - SDD, Core and B2B). In addition, Banca d'Italia provides BI-Comp participants with an interoperability service, which makes possible the execution of payments with participants in other European infrastructures without the need for participation, thereby avoiding additional costs. This interoperability was achieved by using communication schemes inspired by the European Automated Clearing House Association (EACHA) model, of which Banca d'Italia is a member. BI-Comp, together with Nexi Payments SpA, which manages the Nexi ACH clearing system, is currently connected with the German-Dutch system Equens, the Clearing Service International (CS.I) system operated by the Austrian central bank and STEP2, the pan-European system, in which the major European banks participate. As an alternative to interoperability, Banca d'Italia provides an intermediation service to its BI-Comp participants, which makes it possible to exchange payments with intermediaries that are reachable only in the STEP2 system.

The Centro Applicativo della Banca d'Italia (CABI - that is, the Italian central bank's clearing system) is the infrastructure that makes it possible for Banca d'Italia to clear both its own payments and those pertaining to general government (made in SEPA Credit Transfer - SCT - format) independently, without needing to use external clearing systems. Payments are sent through CABI to national and foreign banks, provided that they participate in the retail payment systems that are interoperable with BI-Comp or in the STEP2 system.

CABI was set up on the one hand, to ensure the efficient management of retail payments and on the other hand, to align Banca d'Italia's infrastructure with SEPA schemes to promote the compliance of payments made by the Italian banking community and the general government with pan-European payment instruments.


Markets and Payment Systems Directorate General
Payment Systems Directorate
Retail Payment Systems Division
Via Pastrengo, 14 - Rome

Tel: +39 06 4792 4884