An upbeat EBAday conference in Madrid this week saw hundreds of payments professionals from banks across Europe finally prepare to put the Sepa saga to bed and look forward to new opportunities and challenges.
Despite not featuring as heavily as at previous EBAday events, the push to create a Single Euro Payments Area was still a major subject of debate. The end-game is finally in sight with the EC's Michael Thom confident that migration deadline(s) will be agreed on with the European Parliament by the autumn. However, whether there will be a single date for Sepa Credit Transfers and Direct Debits, or separate timelines is still a matter of contention.
In her keynote speech, Soledad Núñez, general director of the treasury and financial policy at the Treasury of Spain cheered delegates with wholehearted support for Sepa. The Spanish central government has adopted Sepa for all credit transfers as it seeks to - in her words - set an example to others in the country.
With - as RBS Global Transaction Services' Kevin Brown put it - one journey ending and new paths opening up, minds are now turning to non-Sepa matters. EBA Clearing used this week's event to unveil its plans for a pan-European electronic payments service for online shopping that will let buyers and sellers complete transactions through their e-banking portals. Despite some recent high-profile scares, customers still have huge faith in their banks, a fact that EBA Clearing hopes will help its new project take on long-established competitors such as PayPal.
The conference theme this year has been 'advancing thought leadership' and innovation has been a key word in several of the debates. Delegates were provided with a useful and encouraging insight from outside of Europe by Mahadevan Balakrishnan, COO of National Payments Corporation of India, who gave two examples of productive cooperation from banks in the emerging superpower: the creation of an interbank mobile payments service and development of a new card scheme to take on Visa and MasterCard - an issue currently on the minds of Europeans.
Collaboration of this nature was a theme running through the two days. Alexander Caviezel from JP Morgan told the room that banks can no longer be all things to all men and need to think about their core competencies while several speakers stressed the need to team up with other financial institutions and technology partners to pool resources and spread the risk inevitably associated with innovative ideas. Collaboration is also needed to effectively cope with new regulatory burdens as issues such as Basel III come in to view.
This emerging brotherly spirit suffused an upbeat conference although it was all a bit too much for JP Morgan's James Barclay, who delivered perhaps the event's best line: "Collaboration has driven me to a shrink - the last stage of 'collaboration' is an EBADay panel."
Catch up with all the event-related news, blogs and videos at EBAday Online