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Half a century of Bacs payments – household name marks major milestone



​A household name that launched before man walked on the moon, when mobile communicators only existed on sci-fi shows, and as Apple’s Steve Jobs was just entering his teens, marks its 50 th anniversary this month.

Bacs Payment Schemes Limited (Bacs), the organisation behind Direct Debit and Bacs Direct
Credit in the UK, is celebrating half a century of operation, having started life as the Inter Bank Computer Bureau.

And since those heady days when Cliff Richard was topping the charts with ‘Congratulations’ and film-goers were wowed by the likes of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Planet of the Apes, Bacs has become a staple part of the UK’s financial landscape.

In fact, a company that first opened its doors five decades ago has continued to thrive, breaking record after record, year after year, processing over 125 billion payments since launching. In 2017 alone, 6.35 billion transactions passed through the Bacs system, at a value of £4.9 trillion, including 4.2 billion Direct Debits.

Perhaps unsurprising when you consider that nine out of 10 adults in Great Britain have at least one Direct Debit commitment, while 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. Between the two payment types, a new combined daily record was set last year, too, with 111.7 million transactions processed in a single 15 hour window.

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.

Bacs’ chief executive officer is Michael Chambers. He said: “We provide access to some of the most important payment methods to an ever-more- demanding consumer, as well as to business, charities, government – almost everyone in the UK is touched by our products and services, which now extend far beyond our two core payment schemes.

“In 2017, between Direct Debit and Bacs Direct Credit, we set an annual record of 6.35 billion transactions, with a new high of 111.7 million payments processed in a single 15 hour window. To me, that demonstrates the continued importance of a company that has its roots in the 1960s, but its focus on the future.”

As Bacs reaches this important milestone, next month will herald another historic development as the organisation becomes part of the New Payment System Operator (NPSO), along with Faster Payments and the Cheque & Credit Clearing Company, which incorporates the Image Clearing System (ICS) that will replace the paper processing system for cheques. The new body will develop the capability and capacity of the UK’s retail payment systems, as well as develop the New Payments Architecture (NPA).

Paul Horlock, chief executive officer of the New Payment System Operator, said: “As Bacs reaches this important milestone, it is fitting that we also look forwards, towards what promises to be an exciting future for Bacs and the NPSO.

“Our new organisation will play an essential part in enabling a vibrant UK economy; facilitating a globally competitive payments infrastructure. We will provide robust, resilient, and collaborative retail payments services which benefit all of our many users, and Bacs will be integral to that.”

Key stats

  • Bacs launched in April 1968, known originally as the Inter Bank Computer Bureau
  • Direct Debit launched in 1970
  • 125 billion payments have been processed over last 50 years, which is greater than the number of people to have ever walked the earth
  • A record 6.34 billion payments were processed by Bacs in 2017
  • 4.2 billion payments made by Direct Debit last year, also a new high
  • A record 111.7 million payments were processed in a single day at the end of June 2017
  • Nine in 10 adults in Great Britain have at least one Direct Debit commitment
  • 90 per cent of UK workforce paid by Bacs Direct Credit
  • Films released in April 1968 included 2001: A Space Odyssey and Planet of the Apes
  • The likes of Tom Jones (Delilah), Cliff Richard (Congratulations), The Beatles (Lady Madonna) and Manfred Mann (Mighty Quinn) were all topping the charts when Bacs launched
  • The average cost of a house was yet to break the £4,000 barrier (£3,996*) and we were
    clamouring to drive the Austin Morris 1100.

*According to house price data published by Nationwide:

For further information contact our press office​.​​​​