Fedwire® and National Settlement Services

  • The Federal Reserve Banks operate three wholesale payment services: the Fedwire Funds Service, which is a real-time gross settlement system to settle funds electronically between banks; the Fedwire Securities Service, which provides issuance, settlement and transfer services for U.S. Treasury securities and other government-related securities; and the National Settlement Service, which is a multilateral settlement service used by clearinghouses, financial exchanges, and other clearing and settlement groups.

  • These services date back to the early 1900s when the Federal Reserve Banks began using telecommunications to transfer funds between accounts maintained in different Federal Reserve Districts.

  • The Federal Reserve Banks currently offer an array of electronic and offline access options to eligible financial institutions to interact with the Federal Reserve Banks related to Fedwire and National Settlement Services.

Fedwire® Services
The Federal Reserve Banks operate two Fedwire services: the Fedwire Funds Service and the Fedwire Securities Service. The Fedwire services play a key role in the nation’s payments mechanism and enable depository institutions, the U.S. Treasury and other government agencies to transfer funds and book-entry securities nationwide.

Participants access the Fedwire Funds Service and the Fedwire Securities Service either electronically using the FedLine Direct® or FedLine Advantage® access solutions or by telephone using the Federal Reserve Banks’ offline access channel. A FedLine Direct connection is an Internet Protocol (IP)–based access solution designed for higher-volume Fedwire participants that require an unattended connection to the Fedwire services. A FedLine Advantage connection provides web-based access to the FedPayments® Manager tool, which allows participants to create and submit Fedwire funds and securities transfer messages, as well as to view incoming messages online.

Participants using the Federal Reserve Banks’ offline access channel provide Fedwire funds or securities transfer instructions by telephone. Once a telephone request is authenticated, the Federal Reserve Banks enter the transfer instruction into the Fedwire Funds Service or Fedwire Securities Service for execution. The manual processing required for offline transactions makes them more costly. Consequently, institutions generally choose to use the offline access solution only if they make relatively infrequent funds or securities transfers.

Fedwire funds and securities transactions are processed in real time when received by the Fedwire applications and, once settled, are final and irrevocable.

History of the Fedwire Services
The Federal Reserve Banks have been moving funds electronically since 1915. It was not until 1918, however, that the Federal Reserve Banks established a proprietary telecommunications system to process funds transfers. The system connected all 12 Reserve Banks, the Federal Reserve Board and the U.S. Treasury by telegraph. Treasury securities became transferable by telegraph in the 1920s. The nation’s funds and securities transfer system remained largely telegraphic until the early 1970s.

Until 1981, the Fedwire services were provided free but were available only to Federal Reserve member banks. However, the Depository Institutions Deregulation and Monetary Control Act of 1980 required most Federal Reserve Bank financial services to be priced, including funds transfers and securities safekeeping, and gave nonmember depository institutions direct access to these priced services. To encourage private-sector competition, the law requires the Federal Reserve Banks’ fees to reflect the full cost of providing financial services, including imputed costs, such as the cost of capital and taxes, that would have been incurred, and the profits that would have been earned, if a private firm had provided the services.

Subject to certain conditions, financially healthy institutions that have regular access to the discount window may incur daylight overdrafts in their Federal Reserve accounts. This exposes the Federal Reserve Banks to a risk of a loss. To limit this exposure, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System has adopted a comprehensive policy on payments system risk covering daylight overdraft pricing, net debit caps and collateral requirements.

Fedwire Funds Service
The Fedwire Funds Service is a real-time gross settlement system owned and operated by the Federal Reserve Banks in which participants initiate payment orders that are individually processed and settled in central bank money in real time upon receipt. Once settled, Fedwire funds transfers are final and irrevocable.

Depository institutions use the Fedwire Funds Service to send funds to other institutions for their own business purposes or on behalf of their customers. The Fedwire Funds Service is used for the purchase and sale of federal funds; the purchase, sale and financing of securities transactions; the disbursement or repayment of loans; the settlement of cross-border U.S. dollar commercial transactions; and the settlement of real estate transactions and other high-value, time-critical payments. The Treasury and other federal agencies use the Fedwire Funds Service extensively to disburse and receive funds.

In a typical funds transfer, an individual or a business—known as an originator—will instruct a bank to pay or cause another bank to pay a beneficiary. The originator’s bank will debit its customer’s account and will send a payment order intended to carry out the originator’s request either directly to the beneficiary’s bank or to an intermediary bank such as a Federal Reserve Bank. Payment orders received by the Federal Reserve Banks are processed over the Fedwire Funds Service. The payment order serves as authorization to debit the account of the sending bank maintained by its Federal Reserve Bank for the amount of the transfer. The bank identified on the payment order as the receiving bank will be credited by the Federal Reserve Bank that holds the receiving bank’s account for the same amount. The Fedwire Funds Service will also notify the sending bank that the Fedwire Funds Service portion of the funds transfer has been successfully processed and will notify the receiving bank that funds have been credited to its Federal Reserve account. At this point, the payment made to the receiving bank is final and irrevocable.

The Fedwire Funds Service operates 21.5 hours each business day from 9:00 p.m. Eastern time on the preceding calendar day to 6:30 p.m. Offline participants can initiate payment orders or other requests from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Fedwire Securities Service
The Fedwire Securities Service provides issuance, transfer and settlement services for all marketable Treasury securities, as well as for many federal government agency and government-sponsored enterprise securities and for certain international organizations’ securities. The Federal Reserve Banks in their capacity as fiscal agents facilitate the issuance of book-entry securities to participants in the Federal Securities Service. Participants may maintain multiple Fedwire securities accounts and can use the Fedwire Securities Service to transfer securities to settle secondary market trades—including open market operations—to move collateral used to secure obligations and to facilitate repurchase agreement (repo) transactions.

The Fedwire Securities Service processes securities transfers on an individual, or gross, basis in real time, and the transfer of the securities and the related funds (if any) is final and irrevocable when made. Although Fedwire Securities Service participants can send securities free of payment, most securities transfers involve the delivery of securities and the simultaneous exchange of payment for these securities, a process known as delivery versus payment (DVP). A DVP system is a settlement mechanism that ensures the final transfer of one asset occurs if, and only if, the final transfer of another asset (or other assets) occurs. The Fedwire Securities Service plays a significant role in the conduct of monetary policy and the government securities market by increasing the efficiency of Federal Reserve open market operations and helping to keep the market for government securities liquid.

Access to the Fedwire Securities Service is limited to depository institutions and a few other entities, such as the Treasury, government-sponsored enterprises, state treasurers, and limited-purpose trust companies that are members of the Federal Reserve System. Nonbank brokers and dealers typically hold and transfer their Fedwire securities through depository institutions that are Fedwire participants and that provide specialized government securities clearing services.

The Fedwire Securities Service opens at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time each business day and closes at 3:15 p.m. for transfer originations, at 3:30 p.m. for transfer reversals, at 4:30 p.m. for repositions against payment, and at 7:00 p.m. for repositions free of payment. Each business day, offline participants can initiate securities transfers or other requests from 9:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. for same-day processing and until 4:00 p.m. for future-day processing.

National Settlement Service
In addition to the Fedwire services, the Federal Reserve Banks own and operate a multilateral settlement service known as the National Settlement Service. The National Settlement Service is available to depository institutions that settle for participants in clearinghouses, financial exchanges and other clearing and settlement groups. Settlement agents, acting on behalf of those depository institutions in a settlement arrangement, electronically submit settlement files to the Federal Reserve Banks. Files are processed on receipt, and entries are automatically posted to the depository institutions’ Federal Reserve accounts.

The National Settlement Service provides an automated mechanism for submitting settlement files to the Federal Reserve Banks, improves operational efficiency, and reduces settlement risk to participants by granting settlement finality on settlement day. The National Settlement Service also enables Federal Reserve Banks to manage and limit risk by incorporating risk controls that are as robust as those used in the Fedwire Funds Service. Participants can submit National Settlement Service files for processing between 8:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. each business day; files submitted earlier than 8:30 a.m. are queued for processing beginning at 8:30 a.m.

"Fedwire,” “FedLine Direct,” “FedLine Advantage” and “FedPayments” are registered service marks of the Federal Reserve Banks. A complete list of marks owned by the Federal Reserve Banks is available at FRBservices.org.

June 2009