By John Fulham, Payment Product Manager with AIB
Here at AIB our SEPA Customer Migration Team is just one work stream in a large programme of work running over the last number of years. The wider SEPA programme is responsible for delivering the changes that need to be made for SEPA and building an improved payments system which will place AIB in a strong position as part of a new European electronic payments landscape.
The focus for our Customer Migration Team is to migrate all of AIB’s 11,000 customers who submit payment files over to SEPA in advance of the 1st Feb 2014 deadline. We’ll do this by offering a wide range of support to all our customers to make the switch over as easy as possible.
The team consists of over 35 people dedicated to supporting our customers through their migration and also providing support to our branch and business centre network. This team includes an “On the Road” Team who meet customers and help them with their SEPA migration and a Phone Support Team, offering support from technical and SEPA subject matter experts. The Phone Support Team will also help customers through the key migration steps needed to take as part of their switch over to SEPA.
The benefits of SEPA for businesses in Ireland
By making a single, standardised market for electronic Euro transactions, SEPA aims to do what the introduction of the Euro currency did for cash – create a single market and increase competition. The practical implication of SEPA for businesses is that it will make transferring and collecting Euro across Europe as easy as it is inIrelandtoday. Critically this further opens up access to new markets for Irish companies by making it easier to transfer funds throughout the 32 country SEPA zone.
Additionally SEPA can help companies reduce costs by standardising and centralising their payments processing and increasing competition between payment service providers (banks) in the market for payment services.
What businesses need to do to prepare for SEPA
Preparing for SEPA starts with looking at the types of electronic payments your business makes (e.g. credit transfers, payroll files, direct debits) and understanding how SEPA impacts those payment types. The business will need to decide what is the best course of action to meet its SEPA requirements.
As part of this businesses will need to:
- Talk to their payment software provider(s) to understand what changes they will be making to the software the business uses so it will be SEPA ready and also when this will be available.
- Contact their bank to understand what changes the bank is making to become SEPA ready, what those changes mean on how the payment files are submitted and when this will happen.
For example AIB has made changes to its iBB Online Business Banking Portal. From the end of May 2013 iBB will be able to accept SEPA compliant payment files, as well as this AIB is also providing a free credit transfer file conversion service. The credit file conversion offers a practical and easy SEPA solution for many businesses; however it is limited to payments to accounts in the Republic of Ireland. So in following this option you may not reap the full benefits of SEPA. In addition the same type of conversion cannot be offered for Direct Debits so if you process both credit transfers and Direct Debits it would make more sense to make the full switch to SEPA, especially if your software provider(s) will be making SEPA ready products available soon.
What AIB are doing to prepare for SEPA
AIB is making numerous changes to our systems and processes so that we are ready for SEPA, we are actively communicating these changes to our customers through letters, phone calls and our website www.aib.ie/sepa.
To date some of these changes have been in the background but between May and November 2013 a number of changes impacting customers will be made. In May, for example, AIB will be launching its improved iBB Business Banking Portal. AIB took the opportunity to improve iBB not just to accept SEPA files but also to add new features that will give iBB users the ability to manage, view and analyse their payment files as well as improving the overall site security.
How AIB is working with Sage for SEPA
AIB and Sage have been working together on SEPA since November 2012. We engage primarily on how we are both progressing with our SEPA development and also on the testing of the new SEPA XML formats. It’s important we know each other’s SEPA development timelines so that when AIB is talking to our customers that use Sage, and vice versa, we can give our customers the best information to help them with their migration to SEPA. Payment file testing is another key area; as part of SEPA, all countries in the SEPA zone will use the same format for payment files – XML. AIB will be testing with Sage to ensure that payment files from Sage products pass through AIB’s systems seamlessly.
What software companies (like Sage) need to do to prepare for SEPA
The first key task for any software provider is to communicate with their customers to let them know SEPA is coming, what they are doing to be able to provide a SEPA ready product and when it will be available. This will help customers plan their own migration, ideally well in advance of the 1st February 2014 deadline. The second key task is the development of their software so that it can handle new SEPA information such as BIC (Bank Identifer Code) and IBAN (International Bank Account Number), produce a SEPA compliant payment file and accept the new return files that customers will now receive. AIB has its SEPA file specifications on www.aib.ie/sepa and have a testing team in place to work with software providers to test their payment files.
You can contact the AIB SEPA Customer Migration Support Team on the following number – 0818 720 000 (or +353 1 6414889 from outside the ROI). More information on AIB and SEPA is available at www.aib.ie/sepa. For information of Sage software and SEPA see www.sage.ie/sepa.