January 31st 2012 was a SEPA day for me. First I had to present to the Misys Banking leadership team on what the news around SEPA migration dates means for the market, I had a new EPC news letter to review, all 51 pages, and then the Financial Service Club
was running an event called Is SEPA happening and does it matter?
It all seemed to re-start just before Christmas when Finextra ran the story ‘SEPA MIGRATION DEADLINE SET AT FEBRUARY 2014’
The European Parliament and Council have finally reached agreement on a deadline of February 2014 for the migration to SEPA credit transfers and direct debits.
The full story is here:
This was the news many had been waiting for, finally dates when it was mandatory for corporates and banks in all Euro countries to use SEPA standards for euro credit transfers and direct debits, and the myriad of domestic schemes would be switched off forever.
But then………silence. Nothing. Not another word. Not a reinvigorated market bristling with ideas to push SEPA forward and make Europe the efficient place to do business that the EU wants. Nothing, until the Financial Services Club pipes up with this typically
slightly controversial event. The title was the question debated by 5 intellectual heavy weights, stereotypically 3 Europeans in the ‘yes’ camp, and 2 British in ‘No’ camp. While it was mildly amusing listening to the age old Anglo / German battle (what
a shame there were no French participants) with the banks saying what a good job they have done, I felt both sides made good points, but also that in a strange way they were also actually agreeing with each other. At the end of the session the audience of
over 100 were asked for a show of hands to the two questions, ‘Does SEPA matter?’ and ‘Is SEPA happening’. Interestingly the show of hands reflected the views I passed onto the Misys management team that very morning, a majority agreed that yes SEPA does
matter, and by a massive majority that it is happening very slowly.
The EU Commission seems determined to see it through; this is clear from the EU documentation. The EPC’s latest news letter also makes interesting reading (http://www.europeanpaymentscouncil.eu/newsletter.cfm?utm_source=em_epc_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=issue13)
as they appear to be distancing themselves from the SEPA process now the EU has taken a more aggressive interest following 10 years of self regulation and painfully slow progress.
So yes, SEPA is important, globally actually not just in Europe, and the EU does need to set these dates in stone this month and push past any further delays.