SEPA in the international media: a round up | equensWorldline

SEPA in the international media: a round up

Marcel Woutersen

Senior Communications Consultant

5 July 2013

SEPA in the international media: a round up


In April 2013, 41,79 per cent of the total volume of credit transfers (CT) were SEPA credit transfers (SCT). The European Central Bank recently published the national SDD and SCT migration indicators. These numbers show that there’s a big difference between the various euro countries when it comes to migration to SEPA.

To monitor the usage of the new SEPA payment instruments, the Eurosystem compiles quantitative SEPA indicators. In order to complement the quantitative indicators and to assess SEPA’s preparedness across the transaction chain at national level, the Eurosystem has also developed a set of qualitative indicators. The Eurosystem does so because it acts as a catalyst for the SEPA project and closely monitors its implementation, including the migration towards the new SEPA payment instruments.

SEPA Credit Transfers

The bars in the chart above indicate the total number of SCT transactions processed by the infrastructures located in the euro area. The results are monthly figures. In April there were 264.28 million SEPA Credit Transfers on a total of 632.40 million Credit Transfers. As can be seen in the chart, the overall percentage of SCT-transfers is increasing steadily. Although the percentage is increasing, there are a lot differences between the various countries.

The indicators show the share of SCT transactions as a percentage of the total volume of all credit transfer (CT) transactions initiated in a country. This chart shows that Belgium (64% in Q1 2013), Greece (90.49% in Q1 2013), Cyprus (71.28% in Q1 2013), Luxembourg (94,21% in Q1 2103), Slovenia (98,81 in Q1 2013), Slovakia (100% in Q1 2013) and Finland (100% in Q1 2013) are doing very well. On the other hand, Germany (8,72%), Ireland (7,28%), Italy (15,47%), Malta (18,83%), The Netherlands (3,36%) and Estonia (1,11%) are behind schedule and need to catch up. The reason why The Netherlands is slow in adapting can be found in the fact that the well-organised country already had a rich and efficient payment structure. Due to this leading role, there was no urge to adapt very rapidly. As for the other countries, they all have their own structure and pace to migrate.

Non-euro area countries provided numbers too. These indicators refer to euro transactions only and are compiled by the NCBs either on a quarterly or a semi-annual basis.


SEPA Direct Debit

The same research was done for the SEPA Direct Debits.

In April 2013 677,55 million direct debit transactions were processed, of which 16.6 million were SDD’s. That’s 2,45 per cent of the total amount of direct debits. The low number can be explained by the moment of adaptation of SDD across Europe. As agreed, SDD will follow after the implementation of SCT.


Belgium (19,17%), Greece (91,67%), Austria (11,15%) and Slovenia (86,81%) started to use SDD. Estonia and Finland are not in the chart, because the legacy direct debits will be replaced by STC-based e-invoicing solutions. The other countries haven’t started yet or the percentage isn’t more than 1 per cent, and with the approaching deadline, this means that there is a lot of work to do.

The risks of late migration

Various institutions have been warned on the dangers of not being ready for SEPA in the past few months. The European Central Bank warned on the risks of late migration on March 21th. “Late migration is highly undesirable in projects like SEPA, where many technical details need to be reflected in end-users’ back-office systems and internal processes. In some cases, companies could even face the risk of some level of disruption when handling payment orders.”

On May 15th Finextra published an article stating that the council of the European Union demanded a SEPA migration push. “The body ‘regrets’ the slow pace of preparation in most countries and cites. A recent ECB report highlighting the particular problems with small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and local public administrations, whose awareness of the programme is still ‘fragmented and the level of preparedness is rather poor’.” For their part, member states should “significantly intensify communication measures” to deal with “public awareness gaps” about SEPA. According to the council, banks and other payment service providers also need to step up their efforts to familiarise end-users on technical, business and contractual issues related to SEPA and provide assistance for the migration.

The message is clear: work hard to get ready for SEPA. The charts in this blog post show that the numbers of SCT and SDD are increasing steadily. Countries are migrating to SCT and SDD, but that’s not all they do. Organisational changes are also necessary to accelerate smooth migration.

Organisational changes

An article on Finextra shows that the United Kingdom is working hard ‘to draw up a roadmap for UK payments overhaul’. In a previous blog post on the Equens blog it was made clear that the UK wasn’t prepared for SEPA yet. According to the article on Finextra the UK is making a plan ‘to address more pressing interim needs, including, the adoption of the international ISO 20022 format as a common standard across the entire payments landscape. Thus providing the capability to include additional reference information when a payment is made which might benefit businesses, charities or government; and a cost benefit analysis of account number portability’.

Another development within SEPA is the establishment of the European Retail Payments Board to improve SEPA governance, according to an article published on Finextra. The EU wants to replace the informal SEPA Council that was established in the spring of 2010 for a period of three years. There was strong criticism of the SEPA governance structure and the lack of consultation with end-users. Its objective centers on ensuring a level playing field for all market players in the retail payments business in Europe.

The images that are used on this blog are made by the European Central Bank. More information and statistics can be found here.