Economic Policy Review

Understanding Risk Management in Emerging Retail Payments

September 2008Volume 14, Number 2
JEL classification: G20, E42, D86

Authors: Michele Braun, James McAndrews, WilliamRoberds, andRichardSullivan

New technologies used in payment methods can reduce risk, but they can also lead to new risks. Emerging retail payments are prone to operational and fraud risks, especially security breaches and potential use in illicit transactions. This article describes an economic framework for understanding risk control in retail payments. Risk control is a special type of good because it can protect one payment participant without diminishing the protection of other participants. As a result, the authors’ economic framework emphasizes risk containment, primarily through the establishment and enforcement of risk management policies. Application of the framework to three types of emerging payments suggests that a payments system can successfully manage risk if it quickly recognizes problems, encourages commitment from all participants to control risk, and uses an appropriate mix of market and public policy mechanisms to align risk management incentives. The authors conclude that providers of emerging payment methods must mitigate risk effectively or face rejection in the payment market.

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