DEFINITION of Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS)

Real time gross settlement is the continuous process of settling payments on an individual order basis without netting debits with credits across the books of a central bank (e.g. bundling transactions). Once completed, real time gross settlement payments are final and irrevocable.

BREAKING DOWN Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS)

Real time gross settlement is a system, generally employed for large-value interbank funds transfers. These often require immediate and complete clearing and are usually organized by a country’s central bank. Real time gross settlement lessens settlement risk overall as interbank settlement usually occurs in real time throughout the day – instead of simply all together at the end of the day. This eliminates the risk of a lag in completing the transaction. (Settlement risk is often called delivery risk.) RTGS can often incur a higher charge than processes, which bundle and net payments.

A real time gross settlement system is in contrast with net settlement systems, such as the U.K.’s Bacs Payment Schemes Limited (previously the Bankers' Automated Clearing Services, or BACS). With BACS, for example, transactions among institutions are accumulated during the day; at the close of business, a central bank will adjust the active institutional accounts by the net amounts of the funds exchanged.

While RTGS does not require a physical exchange of funds; most often a central bank will subsequently adjust the accounts of the sending and receiving bank, in electronic form. For example, Bank A (the sender's) balance will be reduced by $1 million, while Bank B’s (the recipient's) balance will be increased by $1 million.

Real Time Gross Settlement and Cybersecurity

RTGS systems, increasingly used by central banks worldwide, can help minimize the risk of high value payment settlements among financial institutions. Although companies and financial institutions, which deal with sensitive financial data, have high levels of security in place to protect information and funds, in reality, the range and nature of online threats is constantly evolving. Real time gross settlement can allow a smaller of window of time for critical information to be vulnerable, thus helping mitigate threats. Two common examples of cybersecurity threats to financial data include social engineering or phishing (tricking people into revealing their information) and data theft, whereby a hacker obtains and sells data to competitors.