Implementing SWIFTRef for Data Integrity
by Guy Puttemans, Financial Controller EMEA and Didier Goelens, Finance Manager EU, Nu Skin
Premium personal care and nutritional supplements corporation Nu Skin was experiencing considerable challenges in maintaining counterparty bank account information in a timely, accurate way, leading to considerable manual intervention, risk and cost. Prompted by its SEPA migration project, Nu Skin has implemented SWIFTRef to automate the maintenance of this data, providing considerable referential integrity and automation.
As a direct selling organisation, most of our revenue is derived from home demonstrations and online sales. Customers therefore use a wide variety of payment methods, including cards, direct debits, cash, cheques (in some markets) and electronic transfers. As all payments are made in advance or on delivery, we avoid the need to manage customer credit. However, a significant issue for a company of our size and geographic reach is the diverse range of payment instruments and cultures that exists across each European market.
Payments and collections processing
Around 80% of our customers in EMEA use card payments. To manage these collections efficiently, we work with Digital River World Payments for secure transaction processing and Barclaycard for merchant account services and customised tools for collections management. We work with European banking partner BNP Paribas for collection via other payment methods and use the bank’s electronic banking Connexis to achieve visibility over our bank accounts across the region. We currently reconcile accounts and post collections to customer accounts manually, but we are working to integrate our account statements into our accounting system in due course to automate these activities.
The SEPA challenge
Although the majority of collections are made using cards at a regional level, this is not the case in all countries. In Austria and Germany, for example, the proportion of SEPA collections is high (42% and 53% respectively) which includes a high concentration of SEPA Direct Debits (SDD). Consequently, it was essential that we converted our systems, formats and processes to accommodate the new SEPA instruments by the end of the mandatory conversion period (1 August 2014). One challenge we had experienced in the past was inconsistency and omission in the way bank account information was kept up-to-date in our systems. This led to a large number of manual entries to keep this information constantly accurate. This process was time-consuming and cumbersome, and led to significant operational risk and cost.