The Sepa revolution quietly creeps in
Unprecedented co-operation between European banks has, at last, created a single euro payments area. It will transform the cash management business and possibly the whole banking industry. Laurence Neville reports.
ON JANUARY 28, 2008, the Single Euro Payments Area became a reality. No flags were waved, no confetti was thrown and no Euro-anthems were played. This effort to harmonize national payment systems – seen by some as the culmination of the introduction of the euro and the final stage in the creation of a true single market – debuted without anyone outside the cash management industry even noticing.
Why the deafening silence on such a momentous occasion? To be sure, Sepa has nothing like the popular impact or appeal of the introduction of the euro, which might have contributed to keeping it off the front pages. Perhaps more important, Sepa – although a bank-led initiative – has got bogged down in European Union inertia, resulting in its introduction being staggered, and therefore lessening its impact.
But what about banks, which are at the heart of Sepa? Shouldn’t they be cheerleading its introduction? In truth, an embarrassed hush seems to have descended on some of the leading cash management banks operating in Europe.