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‘Corporate treasurers should have been consulted sooner’

‘Corporate treasurers should have been consulted sooner’

Paul Jennekens

Manager Marketing

18 February 2013

‘Corporate treasurers should have been consulted sooner’

Corporate treasurers are one of the main end users of SEPA. The European Association of Corporate Treasurers (EACT) represents this group on a European level. According to EACT representative Olivier Brissaud treasurers should have been much more involved in the development of SEPA standards.

1. First, what is EACT?

“EACT is a virtual organisation. We have no paid staff and all board members have regular jobs – including myself, as the Managing Director at Volkswagen Group Services. Nevertheless, when we speak, we do have a voice and opinion about the market’s needs. Recently, EACT has been particularly vocal around some financial regulations and we aim to continue these discussions around SEPA and its standards.

2. Is EACT actively involved in providing information about SEPA to its members?

“There is quite a lot of information about SEPA already available. If our members are looking for information, there are several places where they can find it. However, I believe that banks and public administration offices should be much more proactive in informing their customers about SEPA. In many countries, SEPA still is not a hot topic. Customers should put some pressure on banks.”

3. Is the current economic situation in Europe to blame this?

“The economic crisis is partially to blame, because it is difficult for treasurers to receive any budget for IT changes. There is hardly a sense of urgency. Another reason why the implementation is so slow is that our members feel that they have had no influence in the development of SEPA standards at all. Therefore, they are confronted with an unknown situation and have to adapt to a standard that does not fully meet their needs. When the European Payment Council (EPC) and the banking community developed the standards – some four years ago – end users were asked to comment. But actually it was too late to change anything. We have talked with the EPC about fine-tuning SEPA, but the basic features were already in place.”

4. What do you think about the differences between countries, do you support the use of Additional Optional Services (AOS)?

“AOS is actually contrary to the core idea of SEPA, a uniform payment standard. We would have preferred to include fields in SEPA that can be used optionally. This is especially true for SEPA Direct Debits (SDDs), SCT is a no-brainer. For example, BIC codes should not be left to the user to complete – if a mistake is made in the BIC entry, payment will be rejected. It would be better if banks could enter BIC codes themselves. For SDD we expect a big migration boom in 2013, when there is very little time to fix bugs.”

5. What are your thoughts on software vendors being involved in the process?

“We haven’t heard much from software vendors yet. They have to prepare to the very last detail if they want to sell their product – and unfortunately the regulation is not the easiest to understand. The regulation can be quite puzzling.”

6. What do you expect from SEPA in the near future?

“We are pleading for a period of stability. If we can’t guarantee stability in SEPA standards, then there is a risk that no one is willing to invest in new systems. Furthermore, we would have been advocating that SCT would be implemented earlier, in order to have more time to prepare for SDD. Unfortunately, banks did not accept that, because they didn’t want to have to handle two product lines. For banks a payment is a payment, but this is different for users. Although the migration to SEPA is not finished yet, we are already looking at other payment areas that will be standardised in the near future, including electronic payments and mobile commerce. For EACT, we strongly advocate for a more coordinated and better organised approach, with a clear timeline and details about which organisations will be involved.”