Polish Banking and Payment Systems

Polish Banking and Payment Systems – By Ramachandran Seetharaman


Poland as a country is in the news for the right and wrong reasons. In being right, Poland is the only

country in the EU to have accepted the maximum number of refugees from Ukraine. The crisis has

also put Poland in the spotlight for the wrong reasons as its currency the Polish zloty (pronounced as

‘Zvote’) has fallen to record levels against the Euro. Though the fall has been attributed to the start

of the pandemic and the economy that has been hit due to the same, the current ‘WAR’ has

contributed more towards its fall. Due to these perceived notions being all negative and all, I would

like to dwell upon the overall banking and payments landscape in Poland and how the financial

systems are thriving and contributing to the development of the EU region.

Central Bank of Poland

The Central Bank of Poland also called as Narodowy Bank Polski established zloty as the country’s

currency in January 1924. This was from its erstwhile currency Polish Mark and based on the act

passed on the State Treasury Repair and Currency Reform. The Bank started its operation on April

28, 1924. It exchanged the Polish mark at an exchange rate of 1,800,000 marks to the zloty. The zloty

was on par with the gold franc (i.e. Swiss franc). The initially sound condition of the budget and the

balance of payments as well as the accumulated foreign currency and gold reserves provided

stabilization and ensured the success of the reform. Post this reform the currency has undergone

various stages of stabilization and destabilization due to various industrial crises and world

wars. It is only after various reforms and the forming of a strong constitution in and around the 80s

and 90s that the zloty started to stabilize. In 1995 a redenomination of the zloty was performed,

which was remembered as “the crossing out of four zeroes.” The balance of payments, which was

back to normal, enabled the exchange rate of the zloty to be shaped on the foreign exchange market

and allowed to make the zloty convertible according to international standards.

Payment Systems in Poland


The RTGS system or the Large-Value Payment system in Poland is the SORBNET2 which was launched

on 10 June 2013. The question here is was there a SORBNET1 and the answer is yes, but the purpose

and name were very different and have been explained further. As in all RTGS systems here, the

payments are settled one by one (without netting) on a continuous basis (real-time), in central bank

money with immediate finality. Settlement ”in central bank money” means that settlement takes

place on accounts held at the central bank and the settlement is final and irrevocable.

Facts and Statistics about SORBNET2

As of 2020 –

  •   There are 49 participants in the SORBNET2 system
  •   The system processed 4.3 million payments with the total value of PLN 96.7 trillion,
  •   The average value of a SORBNET2 transaction was PLN 22.4 million,
  •   It processed a daily average of 16,904 payments, representing a daily average value of PLN 379.4 billion.

Working hours and Cut off Times

The SORBNET2 system works on all operating days, i.e. Monday to Friday, except on public holidays,

from 7.30 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. The cut-off time for client orders is 4.00 p.m. (for orders sent via

MT103(+)or MT202COV) and 4.15 p.m. (for orders sent via MT202). Interbank orders are serviced

until 6.00 p.m. In the standard procedure, on each operating day, settlement sessions of the Elixir

system and settlement sessions of the kdpw_stream system are carried out, in accordance with their

agreed schedules. The settlement of orders from the SKARBNET4 system is also performed in the

SORBNET2 system

KDPW_STREAM – KDPW is a central infrastructure institution responsible for the management and

supervision of the depository, clearing, and settlement system (kdpw_stream) to enable the trading

of financial instruments in Poland.

SKARBNET4 – It is a system that provides support for conducting auctions of treasury securities and

bonds guaranteed by the State Treasury.


The SORBNET-EURO, the Polish RTGS system, was launched by the Central Bank of Poland on 7

March 2005. It was used for domestic and cross-border euro transactions that were fast, safe, and

cheaper than had been the case previously. It was connected with TARGET via Banca d’Italia and the

Italian RTGS system (called BIREL) and it was the first such system established in a new EU Member

State. It joined 16 RTGS systems: 12 systems from euro-area countries, Denmark, Sweden, the United

Kingdom and the system of the European Central Bank, all of which were components of the TARGET

system. The Central Bank of Poland became a settlement agent of euro payments for Polish banks; it

operated its accounts in SORBNET-EURO using its own infrastructure. This made it possible for

Poland to join the system of settlement of euro payments operated in most EU countries.

In November 2007, TARGET was replaced with the new generation system TARGET2.

The Central Bank of Poland migrated to the TARGET2 on 19 May 2008 (under the migration of the

third wave) and moved to the SSP(Single Shared Platform) having its own RTGS account and the

accounts of the first three banks, direct participants, thus launching the TARGET2-NBP system (Polish

component of TARGET2).

The European Central Bank introduced the transition period of a maximum of 4 years during which

central banks could provide indirect participation services in accessing TARGET2 (via their own RTGS

systems). During the transitional period, bank accounts were maintained in the Central Bank of


  •   in the SORBNET-EURO system for indirect participants,
  •   in the TARGET2-NBP system for direct participants.

Gradually commercial banks and ancillary systems were migrated to TARGET2-NBP as direct

participants. On 21 November 2011 the indirect participation services in accessing TARGET2 via

SORBNET-EURO system ended and on 31 December 2011, the system was closed.


KIR is a key entity of the Polish payment system infrastructure, which renders complex clearing

services and provides top-quality solutions meeting the needs and expectations of the banking and

payment sectors. It actively works towards using innovative technologies extending the offer of the

banks. It actively participates in the works related to increasing the digitalization level of the country.

It has been supporting the development of cashless and electronic processes in the economy for

over 25 years.

KIR’s activity is based on four main pillars:

  •   ensuring complete and reliable interbank clearing in PLN and EUR;
  •   providing services supporting cashless payments;
  •   providing common services and R&D for the banking sector;
  •   providing services supporting participation of the banking sector in the programs for public administration.
  •   Products offered – ELIXIR, EURO-ELIXIR, EXPRESS-ELIXIR


Elixir is Poland’s low-value bulk payment system for payments in PLN and EUR. Domestic payments

have a maximum value threshold of PLN 1m. ELIXIR is operated by KIR SA, the National Clearing

House established by Poland’s leading banks, the NBP and the Polish Bank Association (ZBP). The

Elixir system employs the mechanism of multilateral netting, i.e. compensation of transfers effected

between the banks. Owing to this solution, the level of funds necessary for payment settlement may

be decreased even by 70%, which significantly facilitates liquidity management. It also allows to

reduce transaction costs.

Exchange of messages in the Elixir system is possible 24 hours a day. Transactions may be directed to

the system by the banks 24/7/365 and they are settled within one of three Elixir sessions held on

any business day.

The Elixir system employs the mechanism of multilateral netting, i.e. compensation of transfers

effected between the banks. Owing to this solution, the level of funds necessary for payment

settlement may be decreased even by 70%, which significantly facilitates liquidity management. It

also allows reducing transaction costs.

Facts and Statistics about ELIXIR

  •   ELIXIR currently has 43 direct participants, including the NBP, and 12 indirect participants.
  •   ELIXIR offers instant payments via its Express-ELIXIR service, EUR payments via ELIXIR-EUR
  •   Payments are processed and cleared via 3 different sessions of ELIXIR
  •   Authenticity and validity are taken care by facilities such as Szafir digital signature that ensures the integrity of the data sent and Elixir-ok application which verifies the correctness of themessages and prepares them for sending to the central application of the system.
  •   Elixir offers Clearing and Information messages


The Euro Elixir system handles domestic payments in EUR currency and is part of an integrated

infrastructure of the European payments area. It allows processing transfers sent between

institutions in Poland, as well as those sent abroad. Launched in 2005, at first as a local system

designed exclusively for handling payments exchanged between the KIR participants, as early as in

the first months of its operation, it was connected with the pan-European clearing house, STEP-2.

Since mid-2005, it has enabled the execution of transactions within the whole European Union.

Together with the deepening integration of European payment systems, at the beginning of 2008, it

became a part of then created Single Euro Payments Area – SEPA as SEPA CT Scheme Compliant

Automated Clearing House, which proves its compliance with SEPA requirements. Further

adaptation of Euro Elixir to the standards which are binding in Europe resulted in the transfer of

settlement to the European Central Bank platform, TARGET2, and diversification of clearing channels

based on the EACHA network.

Facts and Statistics about EURO-Elixir

  • Offers intra-system and inter-system clearings within participants of the EURO-Elixir system
  • Offers XCT clearings, which are based on MT103 label messages, compliant with the SWIFT standard
  • SCT clearings, which are based on the XML messages, in accordance with ISO20022 and the guidelines of the European Payments Council for SEPA
  • SEPA Direct Debit implementation is still in progress


Express Elixir is the first instant payment clearing system in Poland that allows the direct execution

of the transaction from the payer’s account in one bank to the payee’s account in another bank. It

allows the settling of transactions in near real-time, without any intermediary institutions. By using the

infrastructure of KIR and NBP (National Bank of Poland), the assets remain in the banking system.

The clearings are made without the use of accounts of non-bank intermediary institutions. The funds

collected for the purpose of clearing of transactions are deposited with NBP, therefore, the client’s

money does not leave the banking system. With the implementation of Express Elixir, the system of

instant transfers, the bank expands its offer to include a modern service, which becomes an additional source of income.


There are the below-market players who under the purview of the National Bank of Poland offer a platform for consumers to carry out transactions in modes useful and convenient to the end-users

Retail PaymentsSystem płatności BlueCashBlue MediaInstant Payments
Retail PaymentsKrajowy System RozliczeńFiserv PolskaCard Payments
Retail PaymentsSystem Płatności BLIKPolski Standard Płatności sp. z o.o.Mobile Payments
Card PaymentsVISA Europe
Card PaymentsMasterCard
Card PaymentsAmerican Express
Card PaymentsDiners Club




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Ramachandran Seetharaman

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