Early Adopters Share SEPA Challenges And Rewards

Electrabel GDF Suez is Belgium’s biggest creditor – it generates 18 million direct debit payments every year. In 2012, Electrabel successfully completed a step-by-step process to migrate to SEPA. They now provide SEPA credit transfer and SEPA direct debits.

Electrabel is one of the companies the European Payments Council is using as an example for SEPA migration. The EPC is hoping to inspire European companies to step up their migration towards SEPA with a blog series on early adopters.

Early adopters can actually change the whole country’s attitude towards SEPA, the Belgian company and other early adopters have proven. When Electrabel GDF Suez and other early movers started collecting SDDs in December 2011, the Belgian SDD migration rate spiked from 2.6 to 19 percent.

Luc Waterlot, Financial Systems and Interfaces Manager at Electrabel GDF Suez Market & Sales, commented on the move: “The transfer of data took place via a central mandate migration database held at the National Bank of Belgium. Obtaining accurate information with regard to ‘historical’ mandates held by banks throughout 20 or more years of mergers and acquisitions in the Belgian banking landscape proved particularly complex. The fact that Electrabel GDF Suez was the first major Belgian creditor to manage this exercise also meant that we could not take advantage of any experience by others.”

He added, “Having mastered the mandate migration, I really would like to share this advice with every organisation that currently collects direct debits based on the DMF model and which has yet to implement SDD: they must plan for the extra effort of transferring mandate data from customers’ banks and storing these. Billers in SEPA migrating to SDD who have traditionally stored the mandates issued by their customers will be spared this effort.”

The fact that we are now managing mandates ourselves allows us to implement collection of payments based on new mandates faster. We have also received a very positive response from our customers who reside in Belgium but hold bank accounts in their country of origin. These customers are often affiliated with the many international organisations including the EU institutions headquartered in Brussels. We specifically approached these customers to alert them of the opportunity now provided with SDD to have their payments debited from their ‘home’ accounts. Likewise, Belgians residing abroad for a great part of the year such as retirees, for example, are able to make payments in Belgium from the bank account they hold abroad. Many of these customers actually make use of this option. We are therefore delighted to offer them SDD services,” he concluded.

The series highlight both the challenges and the rewards involved with SEPA migration. More importantly, they highlight the steps towards migration, which are sometimes unclear in the regulation. With many businesses still lagging behind could this series inspire them to step it up?

For the original blog posts click here, and here.

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