Libmonster ID: UK-1413
Author(s) of the publication: L. A. ANDREEV


Post-graduate student of the ISAA of Lomonosov Moscow State University

Keywords: Iran, finance, payment system, non-cash payments

Computer technologies have a major impact on the performance of private companies and public institutions, contributing to their growth. The impact of such technologies on payment systems is particularly great, since they provide convenience of settlements for all types of transactions, as well as a multiple increase in the speed of payments for the needs of all sectors of the economy. Significant progress in this area is characterized by modern payment systems of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Information and computer technologies (ICTs) are developing very intensively in this country. Modern information transfer mechanisms are being actively implemented in various spheres of life. According to the World Bank, from 2009 to 2012, the share of Internet users in the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) more than doubled , from 11% to 26%.1 At the current rate of growth, about half of the country's population will join the Internet audience by 2020, which will lead to significant changes in the socio-economic sphere. Today, it can be argued that the fifth information revolution has reached Iran*. Naturally, this process also affects such an important branch of the economy as finance.


The use of computer systems by Iranian banks began in the 1970s, when the first ATMs were installed in the country. However, due to the US embargo imposed after the 1979 Islamic Revolution and the Iran-Iraq war that began in 1980, the ATM network did not develop for a long time.2

Worldwide, the most extensive and significant actions on the introduction of ICTs in the banking sector date back to the late 1980s and 1990s. 3 At that time, the creation of electronic systems was aimed at solving security problems and exchanging information about checking operations, which had to be taken into account in a timely manner, as well as to prevent transactions that were then widespread using fake documents. In the future, as information technologies developed, the system evolved in the direction of simplifying operations, improving the quality of services provided and customer service.

In the 2000s, the development of electronic payment and clearing systems** in Iran was determined by several factors. First, reducing the cost of computer equipment. Secondly, the tightening of international sanctions against Iran, when the country was disconnected from the SWIFT, VISA and Mastercard information transfer systems, and the service of most foreign bank accounts was stopped. Third, the global financial crisis and the subsequent tightening of banking standards. To compensate for the lack of disconnected payment operators and meet the new international banking standards, the Iranian Central Bank was forced to take steps to organize a national settlement system.

Iran's payment system is developing according to the" catch-up " type, repeating in one way or another foreign practices. The Central Bank is the structural element of the payment system, and it has initiated and continues to develop mechanisms for mutual settlements between credit institutions. In addition, a significant part of clearing operations passes through the Central Bank.

The main electronic systems created in Iran to support banking activities are SHETAB (interbank information transmission network), SATNA (RTGS Real Time Gross Settlement - real - time settlement system), SAHAB (retail payment system), PAYA (ACH automatic clearing house-automated clearing house***), SHEBA (system of Iranian bank accounts), SEPAM (financial data transfer system, a replacement for SWIFT), SHAPARAK (a system for conducting card payment operations). On these systems-

* The first four information revolutions resulted, respectively, from the invention of writing, printing, electricity, and microprocessor technology. The fifth revolution is characterized by the formation and development of information and telecommunications networks covering all countries and continents. The speed and volume of information processed are increasing, new unique opportunities for producing, transmitting and distributing information, and new types of traditional activities in these networks are emerging.

** Clearing - mutual offsetting of equal interbank payments.

*** Automated Clearing House - an electronic system for mutual offsetting of equal interbank payments.

page 62

Scheme. How the SATNA system works.

Source: Satna chetoor kar mikonad? (How does SATNA work?) // Electronic Banking News Base -

we do the main work on transferring funds and regulating the requirements of banks to each other.

Informatics Services Corporation, founded back in 1993, was engaged in the development of SATNA, PAYA, SHETAB, SHEBA, SAHAB systems, an electronic digital signature system, as well as the implementation of the trading platform of the Tehran Stock Exchange (TSE). The fact that such significant projects were entrusted to one company may indicate both its connection with state institutions and possible control by them, and a well-thought-out decision aimed at creating an integrated payment system.

SHETAB was one of the first systems introduced in the Iranian banking system in 2002. It is a mechanism for the exchange of financial information between banks and automatic regulation of requirements for transactions with bank cards. With its help, it became possible to widely introduce and use POS-terminals* and ATMs. At first, only three banks joined the network - Saderat, Keshavarzi and the Export Development Bank. They provided services to each other's clients and exchanged information about completed transactions. As the system developed, other banks began to join it. By 2011, all banks and credit institutions in Iran were connected to SHETAB.

The SATNA real-time settlement system is designed to automate clearing when transferring large amounts of money and is used for transactions with a volume of more than 150 million rubles. rials**. Prior to its launch in 2006, such transactions required the personal presence of each client both in their own bank and in the bank of the recipient of the transfer, which led to significant time losses and other transaction costs.

Payment processing and verification is performed by the Central Bank of Iran (see diagram). Thus, this bank can track the movement of large amounts of money within the entire banking system4.

If the volume of the money transfer does not exceed 150 million riyals, the automatic clearing system RAUA is used for its implementation. It was first launched in January 2010 and is used for transferring relatively small amounts, as well as for making payments to several recipient banks, for example, when calculating wages. In fact, this system is similar to SATNA, connected to it and complements it in small-volume operations.5 Operations in the SATNA system are carried out within a short period of time-from 2 to 20 minutes, and in the PAYA system - during the working day (from 8 to 13 hours. from Saturday to Wednesday, and from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.-on Thursday) or the next business day. Thus, the RAUA system is significantly slower than the SATNA6.

The SAHAB system is designed to minimize the disadvantages of PAYA transfer in transactions between card accounts. SAHAB, as well as PAYA, is focused on large volumes of small money transfers. The difference and advantage of the system is that it processes the transaction in real time. Thus, the time required to complete operations is reduced and transaction costs are reduced, which leads to an improvement in the quality of banking services provided.

At the initiative of the Central Bank and with the participation of all Iranian banks, an electronic processing system*** for payment cards SHAPARAK (Persian: butterfly) was launched in early 2012, which is serviced by the eponymous company established by the Central Bank. Since December 2013, transactions on card accounts should be carried out only using this system. In other words, this mechanism acts as a national payment card system and makes it possible to compensate for the absence of international players in the Iranian market, such as VISA and Mastercard. The system works "in tandem" with SHETAB, which initially caused some difficulties. So, in the first months of work, when calculating benefits for the population-

* POS-terminal - a device for reading payment card data, transmitting data to the settlement center, and making payments.

** As of June 26, 2014, 1 US dollar = 31,750 rials (ed.).

*** Processing system - a set of elements that ensure automatic processing and transmission of information when making payment transactions.

page 63

Table 1

Share of non-cash payments in retail trade








Volume of card payments in retail trade, mln. $

4 390,0

4 783,3

5 301,6

6 134,5

7 361,0

8 598,7

Volume of payments in retail trade, mln. $

147 347,7

128 185,8

67 659,5

62 589,0

63 007,9

72 563,0

Share of non-cash payments in retail trade







Calculated by the author on: Euromonitor International.

Table 2

Number of plastic cards and card acceptors of major banks at the end of 2013

Bank name





46 522 784

3 194

3 574

Saderat-e Iran

37 847 043

4 050

8 071


33 451 393

6 454

16 117


29 309 755

3 284

5 450


22 074 147


3 650


21 030 982

2 500

5 183


16 473 975




13 197 203

1 712

6 980


10 450 225

1 621

1 643


9 028 464



Ektesad-e novin

8 768 355


1 066


266 318 806

32 908

55 665

* Pinpad - a device for entering and encrypting the PIN code of a plastic card, which is connected to the cash register at the point of sale.

Source: data from the Central Bank of Iran.

the SHAPARAK system regularly failed 7.

SEPAM, a telecommunications system for transmitting interbank information, was introduced by the Central Bank in response to Iran's disconnection from the SWIFT protocol. One of the main tasks of SEPAM is to ensure the operation of letters of credit provided by Iranian banks within the country. In addition, it allows banks to exchange messages and other financial information among themselves. The system is designed to reduce document flow between banks and reduce operational costs of credit institutions 8.

The systems described above use a single standardized system of bank accounts - SHEBA, which is used to identify both legal entities and individuals.

Thus, the banking system of Iran includes all the main money transfer mechanisms currently used in the world. There is a single automated clearing house( ASN), a bank card service system, and a system for transmitting interbank information. In other words, the IRI has its own unified centralized payment system, independent of external influences, which indicates the self-sufficiency and reliability of the banking infrastructure, its resistance to exogenous shocks.

In addition to banking information transfer systems, there are several payment service providers operating in Iran*. These companies provide customers-individuals and legal entities-with access to the infrastructure described above in the form of POS terminals, Internet, mobile, SMS and telephone banking, ticket purchase sites, and also provide acquiring**. These companies include: Asan par-dakht (easy payment), Behpar-dakht-e Mellat, Pasargad Bank Electronic payment Organization, Saman Electronic payments, Pardakht-e novin arin, Demavand Electronic card, Dade-varzi-e sadad, Mabna kart aria, Kish Iranian credit Cards, Fanava kart, Sayan kart, Parsian e-commerce (Pekko). Some of them are subsidiaries of Iranian banks. Their activities are subject to licensing by the Central Bank and Shaparak.


Let us consider the structure of the use of electronic payment instruments in Iran based on the data in Tables 1, 2 and 3. As can be seen from the data in Table 1, in

* Payment service provider - a company that provides entrepreneurs and banks with services for making electronic payments using the Internet.

** Acquiring - accepting payment cards as a means of paying for goods and services.

page 64

Table 3

Key indicators of payment service providers in Iran in 2013/14

Company name

Transaction value, million riyals

Number of transactions

Number of payment terminals in retail outlets

Behpardakht-e Melyat

324 842 863

173 895 519

620 977

Kish Iranian Credit Cards

101 420 773

40 937 789

408 118

Dadevarzi-e sadad

98 833 644

51 762 223

374 966

Parsian e-commerce

87 925 184

88 245 648

687 945

Saman Electronic Payments

66 584 685

96 396 762

277 342

Electronic payments of Pasargad Bank

48 308 375

39 283 453

254 835

Yandex. Maps Fan Base

29 617 890

15 044 543

158 835

Mabna karth aria

20 182 566

10 595 735

96 099

Asan pardakht

19 587 449

99 105 547


Pardakht-e novin arin

12 031 746

6 785 570

74 398

Saiyan Maps

3 263 073

1 971 843

39 497

Demavend Electronic Card

49 508

17 425



812 647 756

624 042 057

3 109 507

Source: data from the Central Bank of Iran.

In 2010, after the tightening of sanctions against Iran and the fall in the purchasing power of the rial, the total volume of payments in retail trade almost halved. Against this background, the volume of card payments continued to grow. Thus, the share of non-cash payments in the retail trade of Iran from 2008 to 2012. it has grown 4 times - from 3% to 12%. Note that the volume of non-cash payments increased following the introduction of new elements of the payment infrastructure.

Plastic cards issued by state-owned or former state-owned banks are the most popular among Iranians: only 3 private commercial banks are among the leaders in issuing plastic cards - Parsian, Pasargad and Ektesad-e novin. This fact indicates a greater trust of customers in state-owned companies.

The situation is similar among payment service providers. Here, the leader both in terms of the number of transactions carried out and their cost* is the structure controlled by the state bank Behpardakht-e Mellat (see Table 3). It accounts for almost 40% of the cost of all electronic transactions made in Iran in 2013/14 fin.g., and it is the leader in the number of payment terminals serviced.

According to this indicator, it competes with the companies Iranian credit cards Iran Kish (a subsidiary of Informatics Services Corporation), Parsian E-commerce and Dadevarzi - e sadad (the main client is Bank Melli), which account for approximately 10% of the transaction cost. Thus, we can talk about a significant monopoly of state-owned companies in the field of providing electronic payment services.

By 2012, the effects of international restrictions on Iran's payment system were minimized. Today, from the point of view of servicing domestic transactions, a full-fledged, self-sufficient, autonomous system of electronic payments, money transfers and clearing has been formed and is being implemented in Iran. Against this background, the share of non-cash payments in retail trade is growing in the Iranian economy.

* Transaction value - the total amount of all transactions made by the payment service provider since the beginning of the Iranian year (March 21).

1 The World Bank. World Databank - ports/tableview.aspx?isshared=true&ispopular -series&pid-ll

Alagheband P. 2 Adoption of electronic banking services by Iranian customers // Master's thesis. Luela University of Technology. Iran. 2006.

Sadeghi T. Kambiz H.H. 3 Customer satisfaction factors (CSFs) with online banking services in an Islamic country: IR Iran // Journal of Islamic Marketing. 2010. Vol. 1, N 3, p. 251.

4 Satna chetoor kar mikonad? (How does SATNA work?) / / Electronic Banking News base - 48301/...

5 Annual Review 1390 (2011/12) // Central bank of the Islamic Republic of Iran -

6 Paya va satna chegune kar mikonand? (How do SATNA and RAUA work?) / / Information Agency for Banking and Electronic Payments -

7 An che bar shabake-e pardakht-e karti-e keshwar gozasht; az hasht-e avval ta ghasr-e ta-lai (Changes in the country's card payment system; from the first brick to the golden Palace) / / Information Agency for Banking and Electronic Payments

8 Siasat-e jadid-e pardakht-e taskhilat-e banks (New policy of payment for banking services) / / News of research on the money and financial markets of Iran and the world- html


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