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SEPA 2008: Home Run or Own Goal?

January 28 2008 marked one of the most important dates in the history of the European Union. No, not your wife/husband’s birthday, your anniversary, or the day you were meant to take the dog to the vet - although of course, it could be these things too. Did you notice? No, nor did I. January 28 was the launch date for SEPA Credit Transfers, the first, long anticipated step towards a single Euro payments area. Actually, that’s not quite true, I did notice, not necessarily on the 28th but certainly on the 29th or 30th as I received first a trickle and then a barrage of press releases from banks announcing that they had made their first SEPA payments, including corporate-to-bank SEPA payments.

Isn't it right that the banks should be pushing their corporate customers to migrate their credit transfers to SEPA Credit Transfers?

So what actually happened on January 28? Who were these eager treasurers ready on day one to make SEPA payments? To be fair, I know of one, and I’m sure there were others, but a couple of banks actually admitted that they had taken a customer’s normal cross-border payments and converted them to SEPA payments, without the customers themselves knowing anything about it. Somewhat questionable you might think, as the basis for a press release, but actually, isn’t it right that the banks should be pushing their corporate customers to migrate their credit transfers to SEPA Credit Transfers (SCTs)? After all, the primary beneficiary of SEPA is the corporate community, so what are we all waiting for?