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SEPA - Is there anything new?

Day 2 of the Swift conference in Boston was filled with meetings about SEPA and the PSD (for those of you outside Europe this is the Payment Services Directive, the new legislation to harmonise the payments environment across Europe).

The good news is that nothing new was said, but perhaps this is also rather sad. Banks have been concentrating on preparing their SEPA credit transfer offerings -- and it was great to see 32 banks of different types and sizes had signed the adherence agreements already -- but many of the practical operational issues still have to be exposed.

Demand is expected to be light after the launch on 28 January.  But surely this is not only disappointing, but also concerning. Do our customers really not want payments that can operate across Europe?  Does the lack of take-up reflect a lack of interest from customers, or a lack of information among corporates and public entities?

Certainly the feedback I have had from corporates shows that they consider SEPA, as it stands today, to be a bank-to-bank change.  It is the additional value-added services that banks provide to their corporate customers that will elicit corporate interest. These value-added services will vary from business to business.

Following my theme for the week, if we listen to our customers we will know whether their demand will be for simple e-reconciliation products or for more complex e-invoicing or supply chain products.

During Day 2 we saw a number of presentations about what coporates might want. These ranged from breakfast presentations by banks to formal seminars.  From everything I hear, I do believe there are lots of financing, risk management and processing services we banks can offer and from which we can gain revenue.  The question is: which banks will recognise the opportunities and will provide the services themselves vs. who will insource.

The key will be to communicate with your customers and be clear about what will excite them and what they will be willing to pay for. The increasing number of corporates at SIBOS are continuing to send us clear messages.  Are we receiving them?  The choice is yours.  Your future may depend on receiving the message clearly.

I'd like to end by wishing success to those banks who have shown their willingness to be at the forefront of the move along the SEPA path.  The world is your oyster.


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