Small Payment Institutions: – Complete Guide to Meeting Legal and Regulatory Requirements

In an increasingly digitized and globalized world, financial transactions have become an integral part of our lives. From exchanging money between friends to online purchases, the options for transferring funds are numerous and diverse. In this scenario, Small Payment Institutions (SPIs) play a crucial role in providing agile payment services tailored to the needs of small businesses and individual users. However, to operate legally and ensure the security of these transactions, SPIs must comply with a series of authorizations, legal procedures, and licenses. In this article, we will explore these aspects in detail to provide a clear understanding of the legal requirements faced by SPIs.

 Introduction to Small Payment Institutions

Small Payment Institutions, or SPIs, are financial entities that facilitate the transfer of funds in a quick and efficient manner, especially for small businesses and individual users. These institutions do not engage in full banking activities such as loans or investments, but they do focus on payment services such as electronic transfers, issuance of prepaid cards, and currency exchange.

SPIs play a fundamental role in democratizing financial services by offering accessible and flexible alternatives to users who may not have access to traditional banking services. However, due to the sensitive nature of financial transactions, these institutions are subject to strict regulation to ensure the safety and integrity of the financial system.

 Authorizations and Legal Procedures for Small Payment Institutions

1. Regulatory Authorization

The first step in establishing a Small Payment Institution is to obtain the appropriate regulatory authorization. Depending on the country in which they operate, SPIs may be subject to the oversight of different regulatory bodies, such as the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) in the UK, the National Securities Market Commission (CNMV) in Spain, or the National Banking and Securities Commission (CNBV) in Mexico.

To obtain authorization, SPIs must comply with a series of requirements established by the relevant regulator. These requirements typically include the submission of a detailed business plan, demonstrating the financial viability and suitability of the institution’s executives. Additionally, SPIs must establish robust policies and procedures to prevent money laundering and terrorism financing, as well as to protect the security of customer funds.

2. Regulatory Compliance

Once regulatory authorization is obtained, SPIs must comply with a series of specific regulations governing their operation. This includes compliance with the Payment Services Directive (PSD) in the European Union, the Payment Services Law (PSLA) in the United States, or similar regulations in other countries.

Regulatory compliance covers a wide range of areas, including consumer protection, data privacy, fraud prevention, and anti-money laundering, as well as transparency in fees and disclosure of information. SPIs must establish robust compliance programs to ensure adherence to all these regulations, often involving the hiring of specialized personnel in financial regulation and the implementation of advanced compliance technologies.

3. Consumer Protection

Consumer protection is a central concern for Small Payment Institutions, as they handle their customers’ funds. This involves providing quality customer service, ensuring the security of transactions, and protecting user funds in case of insolvency of the institution.

To meet these requirements, SPIs are often required to participate in compensation schemes and deposit guarantee schemes, which provide an additional level of protection to customers in case the financial institution fails to meet its obligations. Additionally, SPIs must establish clear claims resolution policies and compensation mechanisms to address any disputes with customers in a fair and equitable manner.

Specific Licenses and Accreditations

In addition to general regulatory authorizations, Small Payment Institutions may require specific licenses and accreditations depending on the services they offer and the markets in which they operate. Some of these licenses may include:

1. Electronic Money Issuance License

SPIs that issue prepaid cards or facilitate electronic payments may need to obtain a specific license for the issuance of electronic money. This license is usually subject to additional capital requirements, as well as periodic controls and audits to ensure the security and solvency of the institution.

2. Currency Exchange License

SPIs that offer currency exchange services may need to obtain a specific currency exchange license, allowing them to buy and sell foreign currency on behalf of their customers. This license may be subject to additional capital requirements and strict controls to prevent money laundering and terrorism financing.

3. Payment Service Provider Accreditation

In some cases, SPIs may choose to obtain accreditation as a Payment Service Provider (PSP) instead of a full license. This accreditation allows them to operate within the regulatory framework of payment services without having to comply with all the capital and supervision requirements applicable to fully licensed financial institutions.


In summary, Small Payment Institutions play a crucial role in facilitating financial transactions for small businesses and individual users. However, to operate legally and ensure the security of these transactions, SPIs must comply with a series of authorizations, legal procedures, and licenses. From obtaining initial regulatory authorization to complying with specific regulations and obtaining specialized licenses, SPIs face a series of legal and regulatory challenges on their path to success. However, with careful planning and a focus on compliance, they can navigate these challenges effectively.

Scroll to Top