SEPA – What Should You Be Thinking About?

The Single Euro Payments Area – you’re steadily seeing talk of it everywhere. The new financial structure for banking in the Eurozone will mean changes for every business based there.

Here we present the practical information you need to get a grip on things, and take the right steps to make sure European businesses are ready for the new banking system.

Update all contacts stored in your systems with IBAN and BIC data
Having updated your own details, you then need to begin adding IBAN (International Bank Account Number) and BIC (Bank Identification Code) information for all suppliers, debtors and employees in your systems. In most cases, this is enriching their information by adding the new data, rather than replacing their old bank account number. If you don’t already have fields to enter the information, contact your software supplier to discuss an update.

Handy tool
The Dutch banking industry has created a helpful tool to assist with this – Thanks to the tool’s bulk upload functionality, you can use the site to generate IBAN and BIC codes for all your current bank account numbers in one go.

Most software solutions will offer you the possibility to export all bank account numbers in one bulk file. This can be uploaded to the tool and used to create a new file that can be uploaded to your system to automatically update all your contact’s data. Alternatively, you can also use the tool to create individual IBAN and BIC codes as necessary and enter them into your system manually.

Watch out!
The bulk export functionality works in most cases by combining each of your existing bank account numbers with a unique identifier code for that contact. When the file is then re uploaded, the original bank number and identifier are joined by the IBAN and BIC codes. Your system then uses the combination of identifier code and bank account to place the new data back in the right contact card.

Don’t edit master data between export and import
In order for this to work correctly, it’s essential that no changes are made in your master data in the time between exporting and importing the bulk file. If changes are made to your contacts it’s likely you’ll see error messages telling you the account can’t be found. Also take care to make sure you import your files back into the right database.

Your original data may be out of date
In addition, you may discover that on importing the new data, you see a message that the original bank account no longer exists. If you have old contact data from customers you’ve haven’t sold to in a while, it may be that their bank account has been closed or moved since you last did businesses. The import will highlight these cases as having invalid accounts – your flag to update your administration with the right data.

Don’t forget – new accounts also need IBAN and BIC!
Furthermore, remember that once you’ve run a bulk update, any new accounts that are added need to have IBAN and BIC data included. If this isn’t done, you’ll need to run the bulk update again to ensure all your contacts have the necessary data for after 01.02.2014.

Multiple software systems need careful attention
Keep in mind that multiple systems involved in master data need to all be SEPA proof, and also be capable of sharing SEPA data. If your leading customer information system is updated, but doesn’t feed into your other software involved in making payments, you will run into problems after February 1st next year. Ensure that all integration can also handle SEPA information. If you’re unsure of what systems do what, or whether they can interact as necessary, contact your suppliers directly.

Next time, information regarding the sending of the new payment files to European banks.

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