“SEPA RON” – the new fuss in the Romanian banking industry, but for us just a step towards greater things

What is everybody talking about these days in the Romanian financial environment? Well, “SEPA RON” – the informal abbreviation for settlement for RON using the SEPA scheme, that’s what’s on everybody’s lips. With it going live on November 2, it was expected to soon have its official launch. And it did, as the Romanian Banking Association (ARB) organized the event last week, on November 15. But guess what? The fuss is that big that one official launch was not enough and yesterday we witness the second one, this time organized by Finmedia with the support of the National Bank of Romania.

All the major players were present in the opening panel: the National Bank – represented by Vice Governor Mr. Bogdan Olteanu, the Romanian Banking Association – with its President Mr. Radu Gratian Ghetea, the Ministry of Public Finance – through Mr. Laurentiu Andrei, Deputy General Director, TransFonD – Mr. Sabin Carantina, General Director. And among these giants, Allevo was there, the only “non-financial” partner of the event, and even more, to speak to the audience about agility and financial inclusion, two topics that should create at least as much fuss as SEPA RON does. Our representative was Corina Mihalache, Business Analysis Director, whose lively presentation I embedded at the end of this post.

Cause if you have an entire second part of the event dedicated to challenges, opportunities and perspectives, let’s then talk about real opportunities and more innovative perspectives. Ok, we agree that SEPA is aiming to exploit the savings reserves at European Union level and the major beneficiaries of this capitalization are the customers, the end users, but what do you do when half the adult population of this world is unbanked, as a McKinsey study stated in 2009? What do you do with this large number of people who can’t access all the services you aim to improve? And of course, the initiatives and dedication to standardize common instruments, to make the existing system and channels more efficient, simpler and easier to use are commendable, but shouldn’t we also be concerned about developing new distribution/interaction channels? Shouldn’t we (and when I say we I mean financial institutions) be able to redesign our products and services offerings in order to accommodate both the continuously evolving needs and technological requirements of existing customers as well as the demand to reach also the individuals who currently don’t have access to these services, due to lack of the right interaction channels? Shouldn’t we be, in two words, more agile and open? To aim also towards financial inclusion?

And why not? Cause being agile means being nimble, quick, lively, alert, responsive, active, adaptable and all these translate into efficiency. And what does financially included mean? Accessible financial services, financing, bankarization… and all these lead to performance. And also, why not on SEPA, because this brings interoperability, common practices, technology which all mean accessibility and that could lead again to financial inclusion. They are all connected and the successful approach is not to leave any behind or unattended. And on top of all this, why not share? Why not act as a true financial community, join our efforts and create a vivid collaborative environment where ideas are born, refined and brought to life? Why not use an open payments processing tool that is already business proven and thus be able to shift our focus from commodities, from instruments that will never act again as business differentiators, towards the creation of new and improved financial services, who can really have an impact on customers and improve the coverage of the commercial distribution chain?

A lot of why not’s So why don’t we? Let’s be agile, let’s financially include others and let’s be open.

By: Ioana Moldovan

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