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Ready or Not, Here Comes SEPA!

by John Gibbons, EMEA Regional Executive, J.P. Morgan

Those of you who have read my previous columns may have noticed my subtle reminders that the clock is counting down towards the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) deadline.  Over the past few months, it is of no surprise (to me) that SEPA has rapidly increased on many client meeting agendas.  In essence, time may no longer be on everyone’s side.  

One of the greatest opportunities facing corporate treasury is the switch from a fragmented payments landscape to SEPA’s pan-regional model. Understandably though, when it was announced around five years ago following the Lisbon Treaty, the excitement appeared to only come from one source - the banks.  And even then, not all of them were thrilled with the prospect. 

Most, if not all of the financial industry has at some point promoted its introduction, advice on preparation and the benefits.  Curiously though, and depending on where you live, if you search ’SEPA’ on the internet, there are varying and interesting top results.  The Scottish Environment Protection Agency appears top of the pile in the UK and US engines, and in many European countries it is not usually the expected ‘normal’ industry sources that come up first. One could surmise from search engine analytics, that none of the industry, and that includes banks wholesale and retail, industry publications, conference organisers, consultants, etc. provide a robust source of information that is proving to be more popular than any other.

For at least four years, the message from the industry has been the introduction of SEPA.  Yes, the financial crisis, the global recession and concerns over the Eurozone have distracted us, but SEPA has been the one constant.  But while Scotland’s environment continues to show up first on searches, something is amiss.  Now I’m not suggesting the protection of Scotland’s natural beauty is not an important issue, but did the industry as a whole unite to give corporate treasury the right information at the right time?