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Delay the Yacht, Get on Board with SEPA

by Helen Sanders, Editor

Sharp-eyed readers, or those suffering from some obsessive compulsive disorder, may remember an article that I wrote last year entitled ‘SEPA: Are we nearly there?’. The year before that, I wrote something similar – and indeed the year before that, and so on. Indeed, I remember writing a SEPA piece in 2006 entitled ‘The road to 2008’. Well, 2008 (the year in which SEPA Credit Transfers were introduced) is certainly memorable, but not because we all saw the SEPA flag waving over our nearest European city. So for at least the past five years, articles about SEPA have, not surprisingly, been read by perspicacious readers whilst in some sort of déjà vu haze. Constant entreaties to get on with migration to SEPA and to use the opportunity to enhance payments and collections processes appear, however, to have fallen on almost deaf ears. With an overall Eurozone volume of around 10% SEPA credit transfers and a staggering 0.07% of SEPA direct debits, progress has been fairly pitiful. So five years on from the industry’s original exhortations  to start planning for SEPA, many of us are still happy to pop it on a ‘to do’ list next to ‘sort out cash flow forecasting’ and ‘find yacht for retirement’ without any great expectation that we will ever get around to it.

Quick Guide to SEPA (click to enlarge)

Waking up to SEPA

Unfortunately for the dreamers and prevaricators, which I think comprises most of us, we probably have to leave our yacht-finding for another year, and start looking at SEPA. Really, I mean it, I don’t want to have to write yet another article on this next year, and definitely not the year after. With defined deadlines now set for the retirement of domestic payment instruments, to be replaced by SEPA payments, treasurers cannot reasonably expect to delay their migration to SEPA beyond late 2012 for credit transfers and 2013 for direct debits. “Why”, I hear you chortle, “that’s still 18 months away, hand over the yachting magazine!” Well, no.

To take full advantage of SEPA typically requires centralisation of financial processes.