Irish banks’ rival to Revolut approved by competition regulator with conditions

Money-transfer app Synch Payments may be introduced before end of year

A plan by the main Irish banks to set up a mobile money-transfer app called Synch Payments, to take on the likes of Revolut and N26, has been approved by the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC).

However, the authority has imposed conditions to make sure the founding shareholders of the planned system — AIB, Bank of Ireland, Permanent TSB and KBC Bank Ireland — would not deny or delay access to the platform to any new market entrants or influence future innovation decisions within Synch itself.

It is understood that Synch is planning to lunch the app as soon as the fourth quarter of this year, though the timing may drift to 2023 if it is too close to the busy Christmas shopping season. The future of the KBC stake is not yet known, as the Belgian-owned bank is in the process of exiting the market.

The regulator said on Thursday that Synch had set out “objective eligibility criteria” for any banks or other financial institutions that wished to become participants in the service, with defined timelines for processing new applications. The company will also have a corporate governance structure, including independent board members, that will allow Synch “to operate with a greater level of independence from its founding shareholders”, the authority said.


Synch will have “substantial safeguards” to prevent the disclosure of commercially sensitive information, it added.

“Following detailed consideration and further analysis and, having taken into account the above commitments given by the parties, the CCPC has determined that the result of the proposed transaction will not be to substantially lessen competition and, therefore, that the joint venture can be put into effect,” the authority said, adding that it would publish its full determination on its website within 60 working days.

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Synch’s managing director, Inez Cooper, welcomed the decision, saying: “We are now ready to move forward with our exciting launch plans to bring a new mobile instant-payments solution to Ireland at the earliest opportunity.”

Sources previously said Italian fintech group Sia had been lined up to provide the technology behind the system.

The planned app will allow all payment types — between friends and family and to retail and ecommerce companies — with a “simple, instant mobile payment experience for all consumers and businesses in Ireland”, according to Synch.

“Over the past two years we’ve all witnessed the rapid growth in the mobile-payments market throughout the country. People have become increasingly comfortable paying for goods and services in shops and restaurants with a simple tap with their phone,” Ms Cooper said. “The Synch app will revolutionise the mobile payments sector in Ireland, enabling consumers to make instant person-to-person payments using just their contact details, irrespective of who they bank with, as well as point-of-sale and ecommerce payments.”

Ms Cooper said Synch had had “lots of interest” from so-called merchant acquirers, which handle payments for companies, financial institutions and retailers wanting to join the company’s open platform.

“Some institutions and organisations will be there on day one while others will be added in the weeks and months post launch as we continually grow and evolve our proposition,” she said. “We look forward to licensing many financial institutions, payment service providers, acquirers and retailers and to continually growing the payment ecosystem for the benefit of consumers and businesses in Ireland.”

The regulator approval follows an in-depth, so-called phase two competition assessment by the authority, which was launched in December. The banks submitted a notification of the plan in April last year.

Joe Brennan

Joe Brennan

Joe Brennan is Markets Correspondent of The Irish Times