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Five decades of Bacs

Michael Chambers, Chief Executive Officer, BacsPosted on 17 April 2018

​This month marks Bacs’ 50th anniversary and, like reaching any major milestone, it offers an opportunity to reflect on the many successes achieved during that time, in a world that has changed more than anyone could have ever imagined back in 1968.

When our company launched, banks of computers filling entire rooms processed transactions, and the data was stored on huge magnetic disks. Yet a company that first opened its doors before man walked on the moon has continued to thrive, breaking record after record, year after year.

Originally known as the Inter Bank Computer Bureau, it was two years later that we launched Direct Debit, and a year after our name changed to reflect our new role as we became the Banker’s Automated Clearing Services – some people still mistakenly believe that stands today!

Of course, our bills have changed, too. Five decades ago, our regular household commitments were mostly limited to energy, rent, mortgages. Now, we have mobile phone bills, broadband bundles, gaming subscriptions, in-app payments, half a dozen different types of insurance, plus many more.

A substantial proportion of those are paid by Direct Debit, something evidenced by its growth; last year more than 4.2 billion payments were made this way, a new record. In addition, Bacs Direct Credit is used to pay over 90 per cent of the UK workforce, as well as a billion benefit payments, and pensions and dividends.

And that’s not all. Bacs also provides vital managed services to the sector and owns and manages the Current Account Switch Service, which has facilitated over 4.5 million account switches since 2013, and continues to be held up as an example of best practice.

As Bacs celebrates its 50th birthday, we are about to blaze a new trail. Next month, the company will become part of the New Payment System Operator (NPSO). It will be joined by Faster Payments and the Cheque & Credit Clearing Company, which incorporates the Image Clearing System (ICS) that will replace the paper processing system for cheques, bringing these major retail payments under one consolidated roof.

But, as the old adage goes, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Bacs will continue to run as it always has, and it will be business as usual for our payments and services that are widely relied upon by so many. So, as these 50 years come to a close, I’m thrilled with all that Bacs, and more importantly, its people have achieved – as a new era begins, we can, and should, look back at our accomplishments with a great deal of pride.