JPMorgan Chase calls for top banks to take lead role in Sepa debate

JPMorgan Chase calls for top banks to take lead role in Sepa debate

Mark Garvin, chairman of the supervisory board at JPMorgan Chase AG has called for a renewed banking industry effort to meet the challenges laid down by the move to a Single Euro Payments Area (Sepa).

Speaking at the first annual EBAday payments convention in Frankfurt today, Garvin harked back to the example of the Heathrow Group of banks who came together to resolve practical issues surrounding the introduction of euro notes and coins.

"There must be an industry body sufficiently representative, well-governed and most importantly adequately funded and staffed, to decide the priorities and the new common ground - whether it be rules, interoperability, or the dimensions of the co-operative space," Garvin told a packed plenary session of payments experts drawn from banks across Europe. "This could be built on the work already done by the EPC (European Payments Council), but we all recognise that some change is necessary to make that group more effective."

Garvin described the vision of the European Commission and the European Central Bank to create a harmonised payments area as a "once in a generation" opportunity for the banking industry.

Looking beyond the immediate Sepa deadlines of 2008 and 2010, he shared with his audience some of JPMorgan's research into the future of the payments industry 10 years down the line in 2016. The response from the bank's immediate constituency of finance directors, technologists, and regulators suggest that 2016 will be a time of "transparency, standardisation, safety, partnership and efficiency".

But when the research was broadened to incorporate the views of younger European consumers, a new vision of the future emerged, characterised by convenience, simplicity and speed.

"They just can't understand why making a payment is so complicated," said Garvin. "All they want is a completely online, fully automated banking experience....They want to use their mobiles to conduct all their banking - everything has to be totally electronic. Having a smart card payment chip in their mobile that eliminates the need for any other form of payment would be fine with them. They are not interested in infrastructure or security issues because, in their view, that's something for the bank to worry about."

The research has convinced JPMorgan that the banking industry needs to act urgently if it is to maintain and protect its franchise from new and emerging competitors. "Achieving the required amount of change - and properly balancing what is required in the co-operative space versus the competitive dimension - requires a change in thinking about how the European payments industry is governed."

The larger banks would inevitably have a leading role in driving the overall vision, noted Garvin, who took the opportunity represented by EBAday to call for the creation of a new coalition.

"Why not now? In this historic city? At this critical time? The members of the EBA have demonstrated a commitment to delivering workable solutions, but I'm not sure our vision has been broad enough. And if not now and in this place, then where? We risk losing time, money and clients if we do not begin to move faster."

Speaking at the closing panel session, Björn Flismark, senior vice president, Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken, welcomed the initiative.

Such a group, he said, could operate as an open forum with a complementary agenda to the EPC. "It would alllow large banks who have massive projects to exchange views and take decisions. I think we should test this idea."

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