Responding to gripes from technology firms about limited consultation in the development of the rulebooks and schemas for new pan-European payment types, the Euro Banking Association (EBA) is reviewing how it works with the IT community to progress the vision of the Single Euro Payments Area (Sepa).
Vendors have called for greater involvement and better access to information. This comes after many were denied access to details that would enable them to get a head start on building solutions they can provide to banks to help them meet the 1 January, 2008, deadline for Sepa.
Companies such as SAP, Accenture and IBM requested access to the rulebooks and data models being used to define business rules and message structures for the new pan-European credit transfer and direct debit transaction types. These were published on 8 March, but many vendors were told that as they were not members of the EBA they would not be given them. So vendors had to call around their banking customers and ask for copies of the documents. In one case, a large IT vendor spent about two weeks trying to track down the documents they needed.
According to Ashley Dowson, chairman, the Sepa Consultancy (pictured), no banks have actually yet reached a detailed design phase for how they will deal with Sepa, although many have developed business cases and allocated budgets. Depending on the scope of their business and state of their existing systems, many will be turning to vendors of standard software to help them deal with the realities of Sepa.
For this reason, many in the vendor community feel they should be more closely involved, and that the recent difficulties in accessing key documents are illustrative of a problem that needs to be addressed.
"In principle they should at least make those documents available to all those who want to have them," says Rein Geerdes, director business development, Unisys. "I believe that information should be available far earlier than it is now, as the vendors can contribute so much."
At the session at EBAday where SAP and Accenture outlined their solutions for SEPA and potential models for IT-banking industry cooperation, Jens Hanker, managing director, Accenture, suggested that an even deeper working relationship would be beneficial in many ways, for both the vendors and the banks they serve. In response to this, a member of the audience proposed that the SPARCS Working Group, a SWIFT-facilitated vendor working group for cash reporting solutions, might be a good model to follow, and this received a positive response from many in the audience.
EBA says it is aware of the need to develop a better working relationship with the IT industry in areas where it can directly help move the banking industry to the single payment area. Hansjõrg Nymphius, chairman of the EBA says: "We have a community under the associate membership, which is supposed to be the mechanism to provide exactly that kind of close community and share information that is needed by IT from an infrastructure or forum perspective. We want to widen the discussion that is happening, and provide the required level of detail in a stakeholder forum so we can inform them early on from a position as an infrastructure provider. Anything beyond that has to come from the innovative banks and the IT community itself.
"Earlier in the year we set up a working group that looks at stakeholder forums and the needs of the communities beyond the banks, and this will be a topic we investigate further at the annual general meeting tomorrow."