Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Questions (61)

Joan Burton


61. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to a recent report by an organisation (details supplied) which states that there is increased vulnerability of payment systems to information technology failures and cyber attacks; his plans to ensure the integrity of payment systems here as businesses and public bodies move increasingly to electronic payments and towards a cashless society; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46551/19]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

My officials were aware of the publication of this report. To first address the point about moving towards a cashless society, earlier this year I launched a study commissioned by my Department benchmarking Ireland’s payment industry. That study found that cash remains a vital part of the Irish payment system and concluded that a fully cashless society would not be an appropriate objective.

In relation to payment systems, I am informed by the Central Bank that Ireland’s retail electronic payments are processed by pan-European based payment systems, primarily the Eurosystem’s large value payment system TARGET2 and EBA Clearing’s retail payments system STEP2.

Both of these systems have high levels of reliability and resilience, resulting from the very high standards to which they are held. Both systems are subject to Eurosystem oversight, with the ECB having the leading oversight role. Both are assessed against the Systemically Important Payment Systems Regulation, which imposes strict requirements, including in relation to operational risk, business continuity, credit risk, liquidity risk, settlement finality, and participation default rules and procedures.

From the perspective of the Central Bank’s supervision of financial institutions that participate in the payments system in Ireland (i.e. banks, payment institutions, etc.), the risks associated with information technology and cyber-attacks are a key concern given the potentially serious implications for prudential soundness, consumer protection, financial stability and the reputation of the Irish financial system.

Strengthening the operational and cyber resilience of the financial system is a key priority for the Central Bank. This includes enhancing the resilience of the firms within that system to operational disruptions due to information technology issues, particularly as these issues can negatively impact on consumers.

The volumes of retail and wholesale payments settled daily are substantial, and issues occur from time to time. Where this happens, the vast majority are resolved within the business day. The Central Bank expects financial institutions to take all necessary steps to minimise the number of occurrences and, when they happen, to respond with appropriate urgency and to minimise the impact on consumers. These expectations are communicated to all firms as part of ongoing supervisory engagement.