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  • Julien Haye

Payment Institution Licences

A comprehensive guide to payment institution licences

In the evolving landscape of digital payments, understanding the nuances of various financial licences is critical for businesses looking to operate in this domain. A key category is the Payment Institution (PI) Licence in the United Kingdom, which is designed for entities that intend to provide payment services without issuing electronic money (e-money). This article explores the intricacies of the PI Licence, focusing on its two main categories: the Authorised Payment Institution (API) and the Small Payment Institution (SPI). In a separate article, I am looking at the difference between Payment Institutions and Electronic Money Institutions.

What is a Payment Institution (PI) Licence?


A Payment Institution Licence allows businesses to offer payment services such as executing payment transactions, money remittance, and payment initiation services. This type of firm is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) in the UK and is essential for companies that handle client funds and facilitate payments between parties.

The Two Categories of PI Licence


The PI Licence is bifurcated into two distinct categories, each catering to different scales of operation:

  1. Authorised Payment Institution (API)

  2. Small Payment Institution (SPI)


In more details:


1. Authorised Payment Institution (API)


  • Targeted at Larger Providers: APIs are suited for businesses that handle a significant volume of payment transactions. They are ideal for companies with a large customer base and extensive payment processing needs.

  • Capital Requirements: Authorised Payment Institutions are subject to specific capital requirements. The amount of capital required depends on the volume and type of payment services provided.

  • Regulatory Compliance: APIs must adhere to rigorous regulatory standards. This includes robust internal controls, risk management processes, and compliance with Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Counter-Terrorist Financing (CTF) regulations.

  • Operational Infrastructure: Given their scale, Authorised Payment Institutions need to establish a strong operational framework, including secure payment processing systems, customer support mechanisms, and efficient dispute resolution procedures.

  • FCA Authorisation: To become an API, businesses must undergo a comprehensive authorisation process with the FCA, demonstrating their adherence to all regulatory requirements.


2. Small Payment Institution (SPI)


  • Designed for Smaller Operations: SPIs cater to businesses with lower transactional volumes. They are a suitable choice for start-ups and smaller enterprises entering the payment services market.

  • Reduced Capital Requirements: Small Payment Institutions have lower initial capital requirements compared to APIs, making it more accessible for smaller businesses.

  • Registration Process: While SPIs still need to register with the FCA, the process is generally less stringent than the full authorisation required for APIs. However, they must still demonstrate compliance with relevant regulations.

  • Operational Restrictions: Small Payment Institutions might face certain limitations in their operations, such as caps on transaction volumes and restrictions on cross-border activities.

Key Considerations for Obtaining a PI Licence


  • Business Plan and Model: A clear and comprehensive business plan outlining the nature of payment services, target market, and operational strategy is crucial.

  • Financial Stability and Resources: Demonstrating financial stability, including adequate capital and financial projections, is essential.

  • Governance and Management: Robust governance structures and competent management are necessary to ensure compliance and effective operations.

  • Compliance and Risk Management: Establishing strong compliance and risk management frameworks is vital to adhere to regulatory standards.

  • Technology and Security Infrastructure: Secure and efficient technology systems are critical for payment processing and data protection.

  • Customer Protection Measures: Policies and procedures for protecting customer funds and ensuring transparent services must be in place.


The Payment Institution Licence, whether as an API or SPI, opens avenues for businesses to partake in the dynamic field of payment services. Understanding the differences between these licences and the associated regulatory requirements is key for businesses to choose the appropriate category that aligns with their scale and scope of operations.


For any business aspiring to venture into payment services, navigating the application process and maintaining compliance can be challenging but rewarding. It is advisable to seek professional advice and thoroughly prepare to meet the FCA's standards. With the right preparation and strategy, obtaining a Payment Institution Licence can be a significant step towards success in the financial services sector.


Need Expert Guidance? We Can Help!


Are you considering applying for a Payment Institution Licence and feeling overwhelmed by the complexity? Our consultancy specialises in guiding businesses through the intricacies of obtaining a PI Licence. With our expertise in regulatory compliance, financial planning, and strategic consultation, we can streamline your application process, ensuring that you meet all the necessary requirements with ease.


Don't navigate this journey alone. Contact us today for a consultation, and let us help you to unlock the potential of your business in the financial services sector. With Aevitium LTD's support, your path to obtaining a Payment Institution Licence can be clear and achievable.

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