Press release

UK retail payments industry acts to ensure Covid-19 support payments are made safely and at scale

19 MAY 2020

  • Retail payments organisations establish industry taskforce to offer payments advice and services to Government during Pandemic
  • ‘Confirmation of Payee’ and ‘Mule Insights Tactical Solution’ capabilities utilised by HMRC
  • All UK payment methods remain fully operational whilst social distancing measures are in place

Organisations central to the UK’s retail payments Industry have joined forces so additional payments needed as a consequence of Covid-19 from Universal Credit accounts, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme are delivered safely, at scale and to the right people.

With millions of extra payments to be made by UK Government in response to Covid-19, Pay.UK, the not-for-profit company responsible for operating the UK’s interbank payments services (Bacs, Faster Payments and Cheques), its technology partner Vocalink, industry trade body UK Finance and a cross section of UK banks, came together to create a ‘Retail Payments Taskforce’ to act as a knowledge resource for Central Government.  Key activities of the Taskforce have included advising on the different payment options available and recognising the need to move at pace in the most effective way to safely and securely distribute a huge volume of payments to the right people in a concentrated period.

The Retail Payments Taskforce also worked closely with HMRC to ensure that necessary ‘Payment overlay services’ were incorporated into the system architecture of the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme.  With additional support from both NatWest and SurePay to ensure safe integration, elements of the Confirmation of Payee (CoP) name checker service and the Mule Insights Tactical Solution (MITS) mule account identifier were included.  

At such a critical time for the self-employed and to help ensure grant payments are distributed in the most straightforward manner, both these services were developed with HMRC at pace.  In this instance grants are made as a Direct Credit payment. 

Paul Horlock, CEO of Pay.UK says: “CoP is the name checking service which banks and building societies were rolling out when the Pandemic began.  Whereas payments previously were made on sort code and account number alone, CoP checks the account name as well.  To reduce unnecessary delays when making such payments in bulk, this Taskforce has provided the capability to help HMRC identify a ‘match’ between who is applying for the grant and the account it is to go in to.”    

Gregor Dobbie, CEO of Vocalink, a Mastercard company, says: “In just six weeks, we have worked with Pay.UK and HMRC to build on our existing anti-fraud MITS technology and develop a new solution that meets the Government’s needs. Our MITS technology, in partnership with Pay.UK, already puts the payments industry one step ahead of fraudsters by tracking stolen money across the banking network and unearthing illegal money mule accounts. Through deploying our existing fraud detection capabilities in a different way, we are helping to support HMRC’s disbursements and ensure grants are paid out securely, to the correct destination.”

In parallel to this work with Government, the Industry has continued to ensure that all payment methods are fully operational whilst social distancing measures are in place.  It has also run various awareness programmes to help people understand the range of payment services that can be accessed digitally and through the Take Five campaign, how not to fall victim to fraud.  

Stephen Jones, CEO of UK Finance says:  “The payments industry is committed to helping the country through these difficult times, ensuring that all customers can continue to pay safely and in the way that best suits their needs. With many businesses and people relying on extra financial support during this period, the industry has worked together to provide its expertise to Government so it can make payments quickly and securely.” 


For further information please contact or call 020 3217 8309.

Ellie Lewis
Director, External Communications

Emma Harvey, Robyn Margetts
Seven Consultancy

About Pay.UK

Pay.UK maintains and develops the UK retail payment systems and standards that are core to the economy being able to function on a day-to-day basis.  Our vision is to enable a vibrant economy, with Pay.UK delivering best-in-class payment infrastructure and standards for the benefit of consumers and businesses nationwide.

From Bacs Payments to Faster Payments and Cheque Payments – we act as the single operator for all UK retail payments. We put the needs of consumers and businesses at the heart of everything we do, working in the public interest to ensure that the payments systems the country relies on for its banking transactions are safe, open, innovative and resilient. 

Every day, individuals and businesses use the services we provide to get their salaries, pay their bills and make online and mobile banking payments. In 2019 this totalled 9.2 billion transactions worth £7.4 trillion via Direct Debits, Direct Credits, Faster Payments and Cheque Payments.

Find out more on our website: or get more detail on the payments systems we manage at:

About Vocalink  

A Mastercard company, Vocalink designs, builds and operates industry-leading bank account-based payment systems. Our technologies power the UK’s real-time payments, settlements and direct debit systems, as well as the UK’s network of nearly 60,000 ATMs. In 2018, we processed over 90 percent of salaries, more than 70 percent of household bills and almost all state benefits in the UK. 

For payments news and insights from Vocalink, visit