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Irish CFOs 'struggling with SEPA'

30/07/13

As with most acronym-laden headlines, this one points to trouble on the horizon. According to new research from accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), Irish chief financial officers (CFOs) could be struggling with making the changes required by the EU.

The organisation claimed that while 70 per cent of top Irish financial chiefs expect to make the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) deadline, only half of them have a plan in place for the February 2014 deadline.

Over 140 CFOs were surveyed, with one in six of respondents either not confident of making the deadline or unsure whether or not SEPA applied to their organisation.

The SEPA concept is a payment-integration initiative from the EU that it hopes will simplify bank transfers denominated in euros, with the member states expected to develop integrated payment processes and infrastructure to make the system work.

In theory, this would bring the EU countries closer together economically and make cross-border spending on, for instance, ecommerce, far easier - however, PwC's report indicates that there could still be many a slip twixt cup and lip.

Senior consulting manager Andy Bell said that a large proportion of CFOs do not plan to go live with their system until January 2014, "resulting in huge pressure on resources - in-house and within the banking sector - and not leaving sufficient time for the level of testing required".

Only 7.5 per cent of Irish businesses have already made the move to SEPA, which pales in comparison with the average of 40 per cent of companies across Europe already utilising the system.

While I'll thank you to check your xenophobic jokes about Irish builders at the door, this nevertheless represents a major concern for an Irish economy already on shaky terms with the rest of the EU.

"The key concern is that the payment industry may be confronted with a backlog of issues that need fixing. We believe that all companies and stakeholders should have appropriate contingency plans in place," concluded Mr Bell.

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