Fedwire Funds Service
The Fedwire Funds Service provides a real-time gross settlement system in which more than 9,500 participants are able to initiate electronic funds transfers that are immediate, final, and irrevocable. Banks and other depository institutions that maintain an account with a Reserve Bank are eligible to use the service to send payments directly to, or receive payments from, other participants. Depository institutions can also use a correspondent relationship with a Fedwire participant to make or receive transfers indirectly through the system. Participants generally use Fedwire to handle large-value, time-critical payments, such as payments to settle interbank purchases and sales of federal funds; to purchase, sell, or finance securities transactions; to disburse or repay large loans; and to settle real estate transactions. The Department of the Treasury, other federal agencies, and government-sponsored enterprises also use the Fedwire Funds Service to disburse and collect funds. In 2003, the Reserve Banks processed 123 million Fed-wire payments having a total value of $436.7 trillion.
Fedwire funds transfers are processed individually, rather than in batches as ACH transfers are. The Federal Reserve uses secure, sophisticated data-communications and data-processing systems to ensure that each transfer is authorized by the sender and that it is not altered while it is under the control of a Reserve Bank. Although a few depository institutions use the telephone to initiate Fedwire payments, more than 99 percent of all Fedwire funds transfers are initiated electronically. The Federal Reserve processes Fedwire funds transfers in seconds, electronically debiting the account of the sending institution and crediting the account of the receiving institution. The Federal Reserve guarantees the payment, assuming any risk that the institution sending the payment has insufficient funds in its Federal Reserve account to complete the transfer.
Fedwire Securities Service
The Fedwire Securities Service provides safekeeping, transfer, and settlement services for securities issued by the Treasury, federal agencies, government-sponsored enterprises, and certain international organizations. The Reserve Banks perform these services as fiscal agents for these entities. Securities are safekept in the form of electronic records of securities held in custody accounts. Securities are transferred according to instructions provided by parties with access to the system. Access to the Fed-wire Securities Service is limited to depository institutions that maintain accounts with a Reserve Bank, and a few other organizations, such as federal agencies, government-sponsored enterprises, and state government treasurer’s offices (which are designated by the U.S. Treasury to hold securities accounts). Other parties, specifically brokers and dealers, typically hold and transfer securities through depository institutions that are Fedwire participants and that provide specialized government securities clearing services. In 2003, the Fedwire Securities Service processed 20.4 million securities transfers with a value of $267.6 trillion.
Fedwire securities are processed individually, in much the same way that Fedwire funds transfers are processed, and participants initiate securities transfers in the same manner, using either a computer connection or the telephone. When the Federal Reserve receives a request to transfer a security, for example as a result of the sale of securities, it determines that the security is held in safekeeping for the institution requesting the transfer and withdraws the security from the institution’s safekeeping account. It then electronically credits the proceeds of the sale to the account of the depository institution, deposits the book-entry security into the safekeeping account of the receiving institution, and electronically debits that institution’s account for the purchase price. Most securities transfers involve the delivery of securities and the simultaneous exchange of payment, which is referred to as delivery versus payment. The transfer of securities ownership and related funds is final at the time of transfer, and the Federal Reserve guarantees payment to institutions that initiate such securities transfers.
National Settlement Service
The National Settlement Service allows participants in private-sector clearing arrangements to do multilateral funds settlements on a net basis using balances in their Federal Reserve accounts. The service provides an automated mechanism for submitting settlement information to the Reserve Banks. It improves operational efficiency and controls for this process and reduces settlement risk to participants by granting settlement finality for movements of funds on settlement day. The service also enables the Federal Reserve to manage and limit the financial risk posed by these arrangements because it incorporates risk controls that are as stringent as those used in the Fedwire Funds Service. Approximately seventy arrangements use the National Settlement Service—primarily check clearinghouse associations, but also other types of arrangements.