Update following LINK’s down selection to final three suppliers

LINK would like to confirm that the Request for Proposal phase has now closed with responses being received from seven of the eight interested organisations that received the Request for Proposal. Evaluation of the responses is now complete and three organisations; Fidelity National Information Services, Inc. (FIS), Visa Inc and Vocalink Limited have been selected to participate in the next phase of the procurement. This phase will include detailed evaluation of each of the supplier’s system and service design, stringent due diligence in order to ensure that LINK’s systemic risk management and operational requirements are met and negotiation of the final contractual terms.  This evaluation is due to complete by end 2018 after which a further down selection will take place and remaining suppliers invited to submit best and final offers.

 

Background

Link Scheme Holdings Ltd (LSHL) and Link Scheme Ltd (LSL, and together with LSHL, LINK) operate the LINK Scheme and include the operator of the LINK Scheme (as set out in the Financial Services (Banking Reform) Act 2013).  The LINK Scheme is recognised as an inter-bank payment system under section 184 of the Banking Act 2009, bringing it into the scope of the Bank of England's supervisory regime and is regulated by the Bank of England and the Payment Systems Regulator (PSR).  This is because of the crucial role that the LINK Scheme plays in the UK economy as the main facilitator of free-to-use cash withdrawals. 

Currently 66,000 ATMs in the UK are connected to the LINK network with 3.1 billion customer transactions being made in 2017. Almost all of the UK’s main debit and ATM card issuers and all the main cash machine operators (including banks, building societies and independent ATM deployers) are Members of and participate in and connect to the LINK network.

The LINK Scheme’s objective is to provide universal access to cash for consumers and financial inclusion is a key common objective for all of the LINK Scheme’s Members.

LINK is conducting a competitive procurement for the provision to its Members and LSL of switching and settlement services and supporting infrastructure. The Payment Systems Regulator has mandated, and actively supports, this competitive procurement process.

The Procurement Process

As outlined on the 24th January 2018, LSHL is conducting a procurement process that is fair, transparent, non-discriminatory and with equality of disclosure.  Please note that neither this process nor LSHL fall within the scope of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 (as may be amended from time-to-time) or any other form of UK or EU procurement legislation.

The procurement process is split into two initial phases:

 Expression of Interest (EOI)

  • The EOI process and submission form was first published on the LINK website on the 24th January 2018
  • Interested parties who wanted to find out more about the process, LSHL requirements and wanted to take the opportunity to participate in a question and answer session were invited to confirm that they wished to participate in an “open bidder webinar” by 5pm (GMT) on the 13th February 2018 by emailing procurement@link.co.uk.
  • The open bidder webinar was held on the 15th February 2018.
  • The deadline for receipt of fully completed EOI forms by interested parties was by 5pm (GMT) on the 2nd March 2018.
  • Subject to the number of EOI’s submitted, LSHL at its sole discretion, reserved the right to contact parties directly to obtain more detailed capability information.

After a review period, interested parties received confirmation of their eligibility/ineligibility to proceed to the following phase.

Request for Proposal (RFP)

  • The parties selected to receive the RFP were required to enter into an appropriate non-disclosure agreement with LSHL before receipt of the RFP.
  • Those selected parties received an RFP questionnaire, which included (amongst other things) a detailed description of LSHL’s requirements for switching and settlement services and supporting infrastructure and a draft of the proposed contract, on the 29th March 2018.
  • The RFP prescribed the information the selected parties were required to provide at that stage. That included details of the relevant party’s proposed transition approach, assumptions, timelines with supporting costs and resource requirements.
  • In order to ensure all interested parties had a thorough understanding of the RFP, LSHL organized individual bidder question and answer meeting on the 12th and 13th April 2018. A summary of all questions raised and responses given was circulated to all parties that received the RFP.
  • The deadline for receipt of bidders' formal response to the RFP was 5pm (GMT) on 29th May 2018.
  • Dependent upon the clarity and quality of RFP responses, LSHL requested individual parties to further discuss their proposals with LSHL to ensure a full understanding of their initial submission.
  • Parties were then asked to make a presentation to the LSHL panel summarizing their initial submission and respond to further questions asked by the LSHL panel.
  • RFP responses and presentation were then reviewed and scored by an LSHL panel applying the same rigour and criteria to all responding parties. The results of this determined which parties were shortlisted for the negotiation phase.

Following a period of negotiation, final offers received will be evaluated by LSHL and the preferred supplier selected. LSHL also anticipates selecting a “preferred” reserve supplier. All parties will be notified of their outcome and unsuccessful parties will have the opportunity to have feedback on the rationale for non-selection.

LSHL anticipates that this will be followed by a short period of contract finalization with the preferred supplier, before contracts are formally approved and signed.

As part of this process, visits to the parties' site / data centre locations by the LSHL panel may be carried out.  

The process and timelines outlined above are indicative only. LSHL reserves the right not to award any contract, to make whatever changes it sees fit to the structure and timing of the procurement or to cancel the procurement at any time.  

 Further questions

Questions and communications should be routed via the dedicated mailbox using the same address used for submission of the EOI. No direct contact should be made with teams or individuals within LSHL or their advisers. Any communications regarding the procurement directly addressed to individuals within LSHL (or their advisers) will be deleted and will not receive a response. 

Frequently asked questions

  • What is LSHL procuring?

    The procurement being led by LSHL is for the real-time, highly resilient 24x7 ATM switching and settlement services (including Network Members real time transaction data enquiry, real time Acquirer and Issuer liability positions, overnight reconciliation file positions and overnight settlement via SWIFT to the Bank of England Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) system).

  • Please could you confirm whether you are looking for a company to host the already existing systems (set up by Vocalink), or are you looking for new systems to deploy?

    LSHL is looking for a strategic partner to design, build, test and deploy a replacement new system that provides the services that LSHL receives from Vocalink currently, manage the transition from the old system to the new system and to manage the subsequent business as usual service and associated infrastructure. As part of this process we will also be looking for innovative new service ideas to help the future development of the ATM service offering to consumers.

  • When do potential vendors for one or more element of the procurement need to advise LSHL who they are partnering up with?

    This would only become relevant to LSHL at the RFP stage.  At EOI stage there is no requirement to have any arrangements in place with other solution suppliers.   Where any arrangements are already in place, these can be declared at EOI stage, but at RFP stage LSHL will request confirmation of any changes in partnerships as part of a consortium.

  • What will LSHL be disclosing at any open bidder webinar as part of the EOI phase?

    LSHL will make a presentation to interested parties that describes the current and desired future environment including, but not limited to: overview of what the ATM switching and settlement services are, IT architecture, key service elements, service and support model, commercial model. A question and answer session will then follow.

  • Do you have any geographic location requirements for Data Centre or service support / helpdesk centres?

    For political stability and quality of telecom connectivity reasons, we have a requirement for the location of your service locations to be in Western Europe or North America only. We have no requirement to stipulate that this must be solely in the U.K. but for any location outside the UK we will naturally be seeking safeguards to ensure that UK Regulatory requirements will be adhered to.

  • Q: What is the proposed duration of any new contract?

    LSHL is considering both a 5 year or a 10 year term. Currently no firm decision has been made on this point.

General provisions

This request for EOI and request for proposal is not a recommendation by LSHL or any other person to enter into any agreement or to make any decision. In considering any participation in this procurement, each potential bidder should make its own independent assessment and seek its own legal and financial advice.

LSHL is not bound to accept any offer resulting from this procurement. Nothing in this request for EOI or any other document is to be construed as implying commitment by LSHL or any other person that a contract will be awarded. LSHL, its officers and employees, its agents and advisers are not and shall not be liable for any costs incurred by those expressing an interest or tendering for this procurement, their associated entities or any other person.

This request for EOI and request for proposal does not purport to contain all the information that an interested party may require. None of LSHL, its officers and employees, its agents or advisers make any representations or warranties (express or implied) or accept any liability or responsibility (other than in respect of fraudulent misrepresentation) in relation to the adequacy, accuracy, reasonableness or completeness of the information provided as part of this procurement or any part of it.

Parties are responsible for ensuring that there are no conflicts of interest either between their own advisers or those of LSHL. Parties must notify LSHL as soon as reasonably practicable if they become aware of any conflict of interest or potential conflict of interest.

The information provided to interested parties is made available on the condition that interested parties shall not:

  • disclose, copy, reproduce, distribute or pass the information to any other person at any time or allow any of these things to happen; and
  • use the information for any purpose other than for the purposes of preparing their responses.

Any party who, in LSHL’s opinion, breaches any of the requirements of this section may at LSHL’s sole discretion be disqualified (without prejudice to any other civil remedies available to LSHL and without prejudice to any criminal liability which such conduct may attract).

LSHL reserves the right to exclude responses and proposals that may risk LSHL failing to comply with its regulatory obligations.

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