As of February 1st 2014, existing domestic and international euro credit transfer and direct debit schemes will be replaced by SEPA Credit Transfer (SCT) and SEPA Direct Debit (SDD). Introducing SEPA is the largest payments initiative ever undertaken within Europe and will affect the 28 EU Member States, the three European Economic Area (EEA) countries and Switzerland and Monaco. The SEPA European legal framework requires banks as well as bank clients to use European payment standards.
On a practical level, SEPA means that you will be able to make fast and secure transfers between bank accounts anywhere in the euro area. As such, it will have a positive effect on both domestic and international payments, with consumers benefitting from new rules for transparent pricing and prompt transfer.
Effectiveness of the banking and cash flow management systems is expected to be much higher and relative maintenance costs of these systems will get much lower.
With less than 100 days left to go for euro area countries to migrate to the SEPA Credit Transfer (SCT) and SEPA Direct Debit (SDD) schemes, the changeover process is now entering a critical phase. In terms of the implementation of a solid SEPA-proof ERP solution, there are a number of key points to keep in mind if you are yet to begin.
Reliable Sources of information: When preparing for a SEPA-proof IT environment and the uninterrupted continuation of financial processes, it is important to find reliable and relevant sources of information for all legal provisions, functional requirements and technical guidelines. The payment industry is one of continuing innovation, and it is important to ensure you are fully aware of the latest possibilities. Be sure to discuss the latest developments with both your software vendor and your bank before you embark on SEPA-proofing your IT.
IBAN (International Bank Account Number): All domestic bank numbers will have to be changed to IBAN – a longer, harder to remember code. We recommend that the large volume of information you manage on banks, debtors and creditors is changed at once using one of the specially developed software tools available. Remember to also adopt IBAN information in the layouts of all relevant business documents. In short, it is important to remember that IBAN is not only integrated into electronic payment systems, but needs to be aligned throughout your business software.
Electronic formats: SEPA will go a long way to resolving the current problems surrounding the diversity of electronic payment formats available, as every bank will be required to follow the ISO20022 XML standard. However, don not take it as read that this will create perfect harmonization. The adoption of new technical standards is always open to a degree of interpretation. Some banks will view the guidelines differently than others, and may have small anomalies in the way they will handle the relevant formats. Many banks also continue to support various traditional electronic bank statement formats with SEPA extensions. Despite thick SEPA rulebooks on payment formats, these differences do exist and can potentially cause problems. As such, it is very important that your bank is fully informed of how your system operates, and confirms that it will accept the XML schemas your software will produce for electronic payment documentation.
SEPA is not a technical change: Many people believe that SEPA is simply a technical change – one affecting only the bank account number and the relevant electronically exchanged banking formats. This is not the case. SEPA brings a significant knock on effect across a range of related business processes. Companies, for example, face new choices regarding their payment and collection processes. Which banks should they choose to work with? How will they deal with reconciliation or the establishment of the SDD mandate administration? How does the business stay up to date with and benefit from the continual evolution of payment technology? What are the implications for planning and budgeting next year and beyond?
Exact offers practical services guiding you through the necessary changes in both: your software and business processes. Understanding your business processes, in combination with our solutions, can help ensure you consider the full scope of SEPA related issues and avoid unpleasant surprises next year.
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