VocaLink ditches Sepa services

VocaLink ditches Sepa services

UK payments processor VocaLink is abandoning its single euro payments area (Sepa) services, blaming "comparatively low" volumes for the project's instruments.

VocaLink has enthusiastically sought to take advantage of Sepa as a means of expanding its European presence, signing up some of the world's biggest banks - including ABN Amro, Bank of America, Citi, RBS and Santander - for its Euro CSM offering as early as 2007.

In 2009 the company secured £60 million equity capital investment from its bank and building society shareholders to accelerate the expansion before putting Fred Bär in charge of a new Euro services business.

However, uptake of both Sepa direct debits and credit transfers has been sluggish, prompting long and tortuous negotiations towards the setting of migration deadlines.

Despite the fact that these deadlines now seem on the verge of being set, VocaLink says it will make a "phased withdrawal of its Euro CSM and Sepa value added services".

"Whilst Sepa has been a positive development for Europe, volumes remain comparatively low. As a result, we have decided to realign our global products to reflect our customers' current priorities around immediate payments," says Marion King, CEO, VocaLink.

As part of the latest organisational restructuring, it is creating a 'global transaction services' team that under Marc Terry will "deliver a wide range of services to global customers and partners through its unique immediate payments expertise and leading presence in clearing and switching".

Comments: (4)

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 22 August, 2011, 23:28Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Given the public ownership of many of Vocalinks shareholders, I imagine UK politicans will want to know just how much public money was invested in this failed service, and who will be held to account?

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 23 August, 2011, 10:29Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

With the end-date coming, SEPA transactions for the EEA are inevitable. This move by VOCALINK seems a definate break with their previous strategy and widen the gap between their product offering and non-UK (potential) customers...which may have been the aim of its owners.

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 23 August, 2011, 11:42Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Martin Wilson, then Head of Vocalink Ventures and now CEO of Luup, and Paul Taylor, now an SVP at Bank of America in London, were the main internal sponsors of this initiative, so it is unfair to mention Fred Bar and not to mention these others, since Fred inherited a situation that was already unpromising.

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 24 August, 2011, 16:19Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

It's pretty easy to be wise after the event.

In light of a major regulatory change, it was entirely appropriate for one of Europe's largest processors to develop a strategy and service line for SEPA. 

The thing I can't understand is why now? The business committed serious funding and horsepower to growing its European business, and appears to have pulled the plug just when things could be about to take a turn for the better.

Sunk costs aside, the potential margins in exploiting real-time payments (and derived retail/mobile payments) should be much better than SEPA clearing operation could ever be. Ironically, success in this space (and therefore future growth) will be dictated by the organisations ability to convince it's UK shareholders to take the innovative services it develops.

Faster Payments has real gamechanging potential - but UK bank self interest may mean it is never realised.