Hi Sylvie, what do you work on at Worldline?
I tackle the development of our non-card solutions. In a company whose culture and DNA revolve around payment cards, I work on offers centered on transfers and direct debits for online payments.
When did you join us and what were you doing before?
I joined Worldline two and half years ago as the SEPA project was getting started. I had been a banker for fifteen years and Worldline wanted to integrate this type of profile in its teams, the goal being to bring the banking culture to engineers and, therefore, work on an offer catering to a new segment of customers for the company.
The term SEPA appeared on our banking websites last year, what is it?
SEPA is the follow-up to the Euro, the single currency project for the 28 countries part of the European Union (ed: to this day, 19 EU countries have adopted the Euro). The next logical step was to create a shared zone with shared payment methods. SEPA is that zone and includes all EU countries as well as countries members of other ecosystems, such as Switzerland and Norway. The end result is a zone, comprising 34 countries, in which there is only one payment format for transfers and direct debits.
How are the consumers impacted by SEPA?
In practical terms, consumers can transfer money to any merchant in the SEPA zone because banks can now handle this type of cross-country payment. In the past, the associated fees were different when the beneficiary was located in another country than the payer. From now on, the fees are the same regardless of the country of origin and the country of arrival of the payment. This is clearly the most important benefit of SEPA for consumers.
And the impacts for merchants?
SEPA is a real revolution for merchants and companies. They can now bill their customers in any EU country as if they were located in their home country. Furthermore, their geographical expansion plans are now easier as they can have a unique set of terms and conditions throughout Europe. This last fact is even more important when it comes to e-Commerce as it is, fundamentally, an industry without borders.
And what about the banks?
Banks are a bit judge and jury. The major European banks did identify the benefits of SEPA early on. They are able to accompany their customers in their international expansions with offers such as Cash Management. But SEPA did bring a downward standardization of the fees associated with transfers and direct debits. For example, in France, banks could charge merchants up to 12 cents per direct debit until September 2013. A year later, this fee fell to zero and that represents a shortfall of millions of Euros on an annual basis for French banks. SEPA was a necessary but difficult change.
We have been hearing about e-SEPA and SEPAmail, what are these and how do they differ from SEPA?
Technology uses the terms 2.0 and 3.0 and these can also be applied to the payment industry. The first stage having been, in 2014, to set up this common SEPA standard, the natural next stage was to introduce these new formats in all channels in which consumers can be found. One of these channels being the Internet and e-Commerce, e-SEPA was born to promote transfers and direct debits online.
In 2008, French banks launched SEPAmail, an initiative around a messaging service for payments. This messaging service can be used to transport payment inquiries, such the verification of an IBAN (ed: International Bank Account Number).
Can you elaborate on MyBank and our partnership with this company?
MyBank is an initiative led by European banks, grouped in ABE CLEARING. These banks realized the potential benefits of SEPA early on and wanted to promote these payment methods online.
We identified in MyBank a potential symbiotic partner as their solution was at the crossroad of our core strengths. Indeed, three key aspects caught our attention: the SEPA base, the Internet environment and the platform approach. The fact is that, for the past two years, we have been deeply engaged in an industrial platform strategy. For example, we launched Sips which is a platform that allows the acquiring of card payment online. The logical idea was to then build platform solutions for online payments with transfers and direct debits. As of today, we offer three solutions based on this non-card multi-service platform, iDEAL, MyBank and SEPAmail. iDEAL, our transfer solution for the Netherlands which has been available for ten years now, generated more than 200 million transfers last year alone.
You were at the UniverSwiftNet conference recently where you participated in a workshop focused on e-invoicing and one-click invoices with SEPAmail, can you elaborate on these?
I am a strong advocate of the European Union as it represents, in my opinion, a magnificent creativity pool for Worldline. One of the European goals is to standardize our companies in order to introduce innovation and dynamism without being closed off. Europe is a big market made up of 500 million consumers across 28 countries. Last year, the European Union released a directive on e-invoicing which will need to be implemented in all 28 countries by 2018. We already have a B2B e-invoicing solution available and we anticipate new opportunities to arise because of this directive. Parallel to the B2B market, there is a concrete want to introduce e-invoicing in the B2C market and our SEPAmail solution addresses this need.
What did strike you the most during this workshop?
The crowd, I was quite surprised by the sheer number of people in attendance. Since SEPAmail started in 2008, one could think that this specific subject would not be as trendy as others covered at the same time in other workshops but I was pleasantly surprised by the curiosity of the participants. That said, numerous merchants still think that banks are not yet SEPAmail-ready and, while this may be the case for some, merchants are realizing what SEPAmail can do for them and they should force the issue with their banks which will have to follow them in its implementation.
Any anecdotes to share with us?
Rather than anecdotes, I want to point out the great complicity between the participants. The bankers, the merchants and the IT services companies are all gathered for one day in the old Parisian stock exchange and are driven by the same desire to always do more and do it better. It is quite motivating.
Thank you for your time today, Sylvie. I will leave you with one final question: we live in a hyper connected digital world and, suddenly, you find yourself stranded on a desert island, which electronic product do you have to have with you?
My connected kettle. With it, I can listen to music and it also has a small screen on which I can watch the latest news and short movies. I love these objects related to the friendliness around tea time and that pair digital with it. I personally think that it is essential to share around this type of connected products and I find smartphones and tablets to be too cold in this manner.