Changes in the Timing Distribution of Fedwire Funds Transfers


The Federal Reserve’s Fedwire funds transfer service—the biggest large-value payments system in the United States—has long displayed a concentrated peak of activity in the late afternoon.

Theory suggests that the concentration of late-afternoon Fedwire activity reflects coordination among participating banks to reduce liquidity costs, delay costs, and credit risk; as these costs and risk change over time, payment timing most likely will be affected.

The sending of large payments late in the day can heighten operational risk by increasing the potential magnitude of liquidity dislocation and risk if operational disruptions were to occur.

Armantier, Arnold, and McAndrews quantify how the changing environment in which Fedwire operates has affected the timing of payment value transferred within the system between 1998 and 2006.

The study finds that the peak of the timing distribution has become more concentrated, has shifted to later in the day, and has divided into two peaks.

The authors attribute the changes in payment timing in Fedwire to several factors:

Federal Reserve Bank of New York Economic Policy Review