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United We Stand
An Interview with Gerard Hartsink, Chairman of the European Payments Council
by Helen Sanders, Editor
In this edition of TMI, in which we focus on the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA), Helen Sanders, Editor, talks to Gerard Hartsink, Chairman of the European Payments Council (EPC) as he comes to the end of his tenure. In addition to his EPC role, Mr Hartsink is also Executive Chairman of CLS, following an extensive career at ABN AMRO, and is a Board Member for SWIFT. At the end of June 2012, Mr Hartsink will be replaced in his EPC role by Javier Santamaria.
As you come to the end of your Chairmanship of the EPC, what would you highlight as your greatest personal achievement during your period of office?
It is difficult to know how to measure achievement, particularly for oneself! I was privileged recently to be awarded ’Officer in the Order of Orange Nassau’ by the Queen of the Netherlands, so it is reassuring to think that my contribution to the work of the EPC has been valued. On a more personal level, I believe my greatest contribution has been to bring together a variety of different stakeholders, all of which have different concerns and objectives, represent different communities, and speak different languages, and work towards SEPA as a team exercise. Being the eldest of 11 children, I am very aware of the importance – and the challenges - of aligning people with different interests and skills! For example, it has been a pleasure to work with Olivier Brissaud and Gianfranco Tabasso from the EACT. I believe that we have co-operated in a very positive way, despite differences in outlook and priorities, but we have continued to maintain an open dialogue and found ways to move forward very constructively.
Not only have we worked together to create the SEPA Rulebooks for SEPA Credit Transfers (SCT) and SEPA Direct Debits (SDD) but we have also created the EPC Customer Stakeholders Forum (CSF). The CSF specifically addresses the requirements of payment service users with regard to the SCT and SDD Schemes and related standards. CSF members represent a wide cross-section of interest groups acting at a European level including consumers, corporate and small and medium-sized enterprises. In 2009, the EPC also promoted a Cards Stakeholders Group (CSG) bringing together representatives from four other sectors (retailers, vendors, processors, card schemes). I hope further progress can be made in the Customer Stakeholders Forum: currently, there is insufficient corporate representation, as well as too few representatives of some other user groups, such as the public sector. Collaboration and co-ordination of ideas is vital to the successful rollout of an initiative that will affect everyone making or receiving payments in Euros.
However, the model for cross-industry co-operation has been established, which is very valuable in extending the value of SEPA. For example, we are using the same approach to progress a decision on how to use the mobile chips channel for payment initiation. The risk with such initiatives, as with all other SEPA-related projects, is that people are not always willing to engage, but the value of doing so can be enormous.
With the end date for migration to SEPA CT and SDD now set, what would you expect (or perhaps hope!) to see now in terms of corporate and institutional attitudes and adoption?
The European legislator finally managed to agree end dates for national payment schemes, so the clock is now ticking. In February 2012, the European Parliament and the Council representing European Union Member States adopted the ‘Regulation (EU) No 260/2012 establishing technical and business requirements for credit transfers and direct debits in euro and amending Regulation (EC) No 924/2009’ (the SEPA Regulation), which defines 1 February 2014 as the deadline in the euro area for compliance with the core provisions of this Regulation. In non-euro countries, the deadline will be 31 October 2016. Effectively, this means that as of these dates, existing national euro credit transfer and direct debit schemes will be replaced by SCT and SDD. From what I can see, some corporates have already made significant progress towards SEPA migration, but there is another group that have not yet started. Migration does not only affect treasury: departments such as procurement, sales and human resources also need to be engaged to manage the change for suppliers, customers and employees.
There are also national differences in ‘SEPA-readiness’. Luxembourg and Finland are both well-prepared for SEPA, largely due to motivation at the highest level, which is a similar situation in France and Belgium. In countries such as the Netherlands, it has taken longer to develop momentum for SEPA migration, but this will undoubtedly happen. What is important is that migration is now a certainty.