The SEPA payment products will become the only standard for paying within Europe. SEPA, which stands for Single Euro Payments Area, offers opportunities for organizations to further optimize their cash management structure.
The European Union strives to create one uniform European payments area to fuel competition between European banks and thereby increase the pan-European trading. Within this payments area it is possible to make payments in all European countries with just one account and one set of payment products. Thereby all legal and technical barrier are removed for pan-European cash transactions.
By means of the SEPA regulation the European Union seeks to end the disorder of various payment standards used in Europe. These different standards substantially increase the costs for conducting pan-European business and thereby function as a limiting factor. The SEPA rules are uniform rules complemented by technical standards that are used for payment products used for Euro payments within Europe. These standards are drafted by the European Payment Council in which European banks are united.
The necessity for this new regulation may not always be clear to all corporate, even though the migration deadline is set for the 1st of February 2014. SEPA will have many consequences corporate. Current procedures and workflows will have to be amended in order to continue incoming cash flows. Also direct debit mandate management requirements will lead to additional workflows.
We see that in practices a SEPA project will require between 6 months for simple corporate to 2,5 years for heavy direct debit dependant corporate.
SEPA will also offer opportunities to optimize your corporate cash management. In the future your organization can suffice with less bank accounts and bank relations. Cash can also be centralized to one location for optimal use. Payments will require less time to arrive from client to creditor and the visibility of cash and working capital is improved. All of these will lead to a cost reduction.
In order to continue the ability to make and receive payments a large number of adjustments have to be made to the existing processes and systems.
SEPA requires that you use IBAN and BIC to initiate payments instead of local bank numbers. Your clients will need to use your IBAN and BIC to initiate payments to you. Therefore you will need to administer these details for your payables but also inform your debtors. If you are not able to use BIC and IBAN you will encounter many issues from the 1st of February 2014, one of which will be liquidity issues.
Do you use direct debits to initiate receipts? Then you should take into account that you will need to store Direct Debit mandate data of all your clients. You are also expected to demonstrate the paper version of the mandate upon request. Furthermore you will need to send the mandate data to the bank for every direct debit. All of which will require substantial adjustments to your workflows.
It is clear that organizations should prepare for SEPA timely. Dependant of the size of the organization and its (international) activities the SEPA migration could take from 6 months up to 2,5 years to complete. Starting on time is therefore important.
SEPA is a European standard which allows cross border payments against domestic transfer fees. This offers the opportunity to optimize your cash management internationally, for example by centralizing your outgoing and incoming cash flows. This will lower the cash management costs such as maintaining bank relations but also the number of bank accounts and electronic banking facilities.
Outgoing payments to all SEPA countries can be initiated via one central bank account in the Netherlands. This allows payments to be sent in later from less bank accounts and with less bank systems to maintain. Because the cash flows are centralized they are better manageable and predicable. This will allow better cash flow forecasting.
The advantage of centralizing your incoming cash flows to an account in the Netherlands is that you will quickly gain insight in your liquidity position and have the ability to use the liquidity in the most favorable method. By centralizing your liquidity you may gain better results because of the lower debit balances in your accounts.
By centralizing your outgoing and incoming cash flows you may also profit from the economies of scale at banks, lowering your transaction fees and increase the yield on your surplus cash.
SEPA has opened the European payments market for competition between payment services providers. Other than the low fees it has also made the costs structure more transparent. This will allow easier comparing between the banks and thereby lower your transaction costs. We can assist you in benchmarking your current cash management bank fees and aid in lowering these costs by selecting the right bank(s) for your organization.
PwC research has shown that SEPA has not yet led to the desired transaction costs transparency in all countries. Much is still to gain from expending your tender across borders and possibly select a foreign bank.
The cut-off times that banks use to send in your payments have changed significantly due to SEPA. The situation changed where you used to be able to send in your payments before 16.00h, you now need to send the payments at the start of the day. This will have an effect on your payment processes and cash position. Because the cut-off times differ between banks you may not only have to adjust your workflows but also take the cut-off times into your negotiations with your bank. We can advise how to set-up your workflows.
Practice shows that banks use the SEPA standards as a minimum. Banks are already taking slack into their conditions by quoting cut-off times extremely wide.
SEPA will also influence your communication methods with the banks because other payment message types are used. Quite often, your current systems do not support these yet.
The optimal solution is dependent on your workflows. In general we can make up three types:
How can PwC help your organization? We can help you to optimize your cash management infrastructure to fully benefit from the SEPA opportunities for receiving and initiating payments.
At the annual PwC Treasury Hot Topics seminar there was much interest in the workshop on SEPA. We indentified the opportunities and pointed out some potential issues.
PwC Sepa bij essent - pwc workshop [885 Kb]
On September the 19th we organized the SEPA Hot Topics Autumn event. The presentation is available here.
PwC Treasury Hot Topics DNB [424Kb]
In november the DACT congress took place.
SEPA does not only cover adapting processes and workflows but will directly influence the cash management infrastructure. It will allow organizations to organize their cash management more efficient. This may result in large cost savings. To work as efficient as possible it is essential to take all aspects into account such as treasury management (optimize cash management), technology (adapting IT systems), payments (optimal use of payment methods), legal (adjustment of contracts and regulations) and tax.
PwC has helped many clients with their SEPA project. We can help you in roles such as project manager, subject matter expert, implementation team or for quality assurance. Our knowledge and experience covers more than just cash management. PwC has experts on the field of tax, treasury, technology and legal which can assist in any SEPA project to cover the full scope for your organization.
U will find more background in our brochure. Should you wish to discuss SEPA and the possibilities that SEPA can offer you, please contact us