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Banking Circle CEO Appointed as Inaugural Chair of new EPA EU – An Interview with Anders la Cour

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What exactly is the Emerging Payments Association (EPA)? What is its aim and who are its members?

The EPA is a commercial membership association that brings together over 150 influencers from across the payments industry – and it is growing all the time. The EPA aims to make the UK a global hotspot for payments innovation and works towards this by running more than 70 annual events, with eight project groups working on separate topics on an on-going basis to drive change and helping connect the Payments-ecosystem to encourage innovation and profitable business growth.

Why was an EU branch of the EPA needed?

The London-based EPA is seeking to grow its international network. Following the result of the referendum in June 2016 signalling the UK's departure from the EU, the board decided to launch the EPA EU – a new, separate legal structure. The new branch promotes and defends the interests of the payments industry across the EU. The EPA EU, which is based in Luxembourg, is ideally located to serve the European payments industry and also work closely with the UK branch.

What interesting projects does EPA EU have under way?

Two projects have already been started. The first aims to produce a white paper explaining the evolution of the payments industry in the EU. Everybody knows new technologies and regulations are transforming our industry, but the changes effectively observed are quite different from one European country to another. We will explain why those changes occur at different paces and how this leads to better forecasts for the mid-term’s evolution of the industry.

The second project will focus on the tools being developed by some of the industry players, helping to fight financial crime. Finally, once the coronavirus crisis is over, we will be holding a series of public events in Luxembourg, Brussels, Paris and Amsterdam.

What is Banking Circle's involvement in the EPA?

Banking Circle is one of three founding members of the EPA EU, alongside the UK-based EPA and Luxembourg for Finance (LFF), which is the Agency for the Development of the Financial Centre. I have been appointed the inaugural chair of the EPA EU, working alongside vice-chairman and general manager Thibault de Barsy, who is ex-CEO of Keytrade Bank Luxembourg.

What is your main goal as chair of EPA EU?

As I take on this exciting and important new role, I look forward to helping businesses as they negotiate their way through this rapidly changing landscape. Now, more than ever, payments businesses can play a vital role both in society and across the global economy. The EPA EU is in a great position to facilitate debate between industry players, to share insights and resources, to support each other and work together in an international ecosystem of financial provision.

In the longer term, I hope to see payments businesses come together to support each other and consumers globally to deliver the best payment solutions possible, removing barriers and improving financial inclusion.

How do you see the payments industry evolving over the coming years? And what do you see as the biggest hurdle to this happening?

The traditional payments offering is not currently serving small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) well, leaving many financially excluded and unable to reach their full potential. Indeed, the past decade or so has seen dramatic changes to the economy, marketplace and the entire trading landscape, yet payments have changed very little.

If the same rate of change continues, smaller businesses will suffer even greater exclusion because they will be unable to compete with larger merchants. The industry must begin to work more closely together, building solutions that meet the specific needs of SMEs, and delivering these solutions in partnership with other financial institutions.

Providers are beginning to recognise the value SMEs bring to the global economy and they are looking at working with them to deliver better solutions.

If you could pick just one payments development that treasurers should pay attention to, what would you choose and why?

I believe the most important change coming to the industry is instant payments. Businesses should not have to wait five days for card payments to clear or three months for marketplace settlement cycles. This puts smaller enterprises and start-ups at an unfair disadvantage and does not recognise their true value within the global economy.

Financial institutions are coming together to make this a reality, through financial infrastructure providers such as Banking Circle. Instant payments have been available for consumers for some time now, so the development within business-to-business payments is long overdue.