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No time to lose on Sepa compliance

With mandatory Single Euro Payment Area compliance due in February 2014, laggard companies have little time to put their payment and remittances systems in order, especially those dealing with direct debits.

If the number of words expended on a subject were any indication of the level of awareness, the Single Euro Payment Area (Sepa) would surely be as popular as Korean rapper Psy’s worldwide hit, Gangnam Style. But despite the best efforts of journalists, transaction banks, regulators and business lobby groups, surveys repeatedly demonstrate that corporates are not only unprepared for Sepa but don’t even know what they need to do to be ready for it.

After a decade of painfully slow decision-making by official bodies, Sepa has been a reality since January 2008 when the Sepa Credit Transfer (SCT) launched, joined in November 2009 by the Sepa Direct Debit (SDD). This reality has been studiously avoided: European Central Bank figures show that just 30.58% of all credit transfers were SCTs in November 2012, while a derisory 2.07% of direct debits were SDDs.

"It’s finally the year of Sepa," says Lesley White, head of EMEA treasury products at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. "As a topic it is far from new, but over the past two years it has frequently been low on many treasurers’ list of priorities, eclipsed initially by funding needs and then the euro crisis.

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